By Brooke Crothers
Published May 22, 2020
Legislation that would let the FBI access American’s browsing and search histories is getting attacked but some experts see it differently.
Earlier this month, the Senate passed a reauthorization of the Patriot Act with language allowing the FBI to see your browser data without a warrant. But before the final passage, an amendment, which would have limited access to browser and search histories, was defeated.
Just this week, more than 50 groups wrote a letter to lawmakers in the House urging them to block the bill, including the ACLU, NAACP, Muslim Justice League, and Progress America.
“Internet search and browsing history is extremely revealing in nature and the Fourth Amendment requires a warrant to obtain this information,” the letter said.
It also drew fire from Libertarian groups, such as Being Libertarian, which said in a Facebook post that the senators “sold out your freedoms. They all voted for federal agencies to have access to your internet history without obtaining a warrant.”
But fact-checking has revealed that this legislation isn’t new and simply maintains the status quo.
“This authority is nothing new,” Politifact said. “It’s been allowed for 20 years in foreign intelligence investigations, and is also allowed in basic criminal investigations -- all without a warrant.
“The vote referenced here applied only to Americans ‘relevant’ to counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigation. Though a warrant isn’t needed, investigators still must get a court to sign off on the internet data access," Politifact said, alluding to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).
The experts that Fox News contacted agreed about the overreaction.
“It’s not new. Law enforcement has been able to get that data without a warrant for at least since the 1980s. National security investigations got similar authority no later than 2001 (USA PATRIOT),” Stewart Baker, former general counsel of the National Security Agency, told Fox News in an email.
“This is a misrepresentation,” Baker added. “It is the people trying to jam yet another amendment into the Senate and original FISA bills who are trying to change the law,” he said, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
James Lewis, senior vice president and director of the Technology Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Fox News that “It's a long-standing practice (Section 215 of the Patriot Act)."
He added that it's the reactions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that are too extreme: “Concerns about the FISC are misplaced if not hysterical."