The pending review of the ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act) Amendments Act of 2015 should allow the FBI to gain access to a target’s “electronic communication transactional records” without a court order, using just a National Security Letter (NSL).
While the amendment introduced by Senator John Cornyn would allow the FBI to obtain information such as visited domains and IP addresses, the FBI has come under fire for abusing NSLs in the past. While an NSL is meant to expedite the FBI’s ability to investigate possible terrorist activities, some say the buearu has overstepped the bounds.
“We would oppose any version of these bills that included such a proposal expanding the government’s ability to access private data without a court order,” reads the open letter boycotting the legislation. “Given the sensitive nature of the information that could be swept up under the proposed expansion, and the documented past abuses of the underlying NSL statute, we urge the Senate to remove this provision from the Intelligence Authorization bill and oppose efforts to include such language in the ECPA reform bill, which has never included the proposed NSL expansion.”
Senator Ron Wyden has expressed concern about expanding the FBI’s ability to request personal and private information about US citizens, just by filing a NSLs with no court oversight. Stating that privacy will take a hard beating, the Senator plans to fight these new provisions as there’s no proof they will actually make American citizens more secure.
“This bill takes a hatchet to important protections for Americans’ liberty,” said Wyden. “This bill would mean more government surveillance of Americans, less due process and less independent oversight of U.S. intelligence agencies.”