Senator stalls intelligence funding bill over surveillance concerns

Wyden objects to the bill over an expansion of the FBI's ability to obtain email and Internet records

A U.S. senator has stalled an intelligence budget bill over concerns that it would expand surveillance while limiting oversight of it.

Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, has placed a hold on the 2017 Intelligence Authorization Act, saying the bill would allow the FBI, without a court order, to demand U.S. residents' email and Internet records from ISPs and other communications providers.

The bill would allow the FBI to obtain new records through the controversial National Security Letter program, which allows the FBI to collect phone and financial records through administrative subpoenas.

The FBI has said it would be "convenient" if the NSL program could be expanded to include email and Internet records, Wyden said on the Senate floor Monday. "But convenience alone does not justify such a dramatic erosion of Americans' constitutional rights," he added.

The FBI can go to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to get orders for Internet records, noted Wyden, a long-time critic of U.S. government surveillance efforts.

"I certainly appreciate the FBI’s interest in obtaining records about potential suspects quickly," he said. "But Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges are very capable of reviewing and approving requests for court orders in a timely fashion."

Representatives of the FBI and Senator Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican and chief sponsor of the intelligence bill, didn't immediately respond requests for comments on Wyden's hold.

Senate rules allow senators to use parliamentary procedure to place a hold on bills and prevent them from coming up for a vote.

In addition to the concerns about the NSL program, Wyden objected to provisions in the intelligence bill that would "erode" the power of the independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) to investigate U.S. surveillance practices.

Provisions in the bill would end the PCLOB's oversight of the privacy impact of surveillance programs to people living outside the U.S. Right now, the board has jurisdiction to investigate the privacy impact of surveillance on both U.S. residents and people living outside the country.

The limit on the PCLOB's jurisdiction is "concerning because in the digital domain individuals’ U.S. or non-U.S. status is not always readily apparent, and restricting the board in this way could discourage or even prevent the board from examining programs whose impact on U.S. persons is not clear at first glance," Wyden said. 

The PCLOB was created after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's revelations of widespread surveillance practices.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Skywatcher Dobsonian 8″ Collapsible Telescope

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Whodunnit™ Duo-Scope MFL-007 Microscope Kit

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Logitech Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?