A new Senate bill would let the FBI and other law enforcement agencies access the contents of any US citizen’s email without a court order during investigations. Instead, the FBI would need just a National Security Letter, which would force companies to provide email access to the agency without alerting the person who’s being investigated. The FBI can already access phone records without a court order, but that law doesn’t apply to email conversations.
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The Senate Intelligence Committee approved the 2017 Intelligence Authorization Act on Tuesday, CNET reports. The bill will head to the full Senate now that it has passed the committee.
“The threats facing our nation continue to grow and this year’s legislation provides the Intelligence Community the resourcing and authorities it needs to keep America safe,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said in a statement.
Vice Chairman Dianne Feinstein added, “The threat of terrorism remains high, so it’s vital that we provide intelligence agencies with all the resources they need to prevent attacks both at home and abroad.”
Burr and Feinstein recently proposed an encryption backdoor law that received plenty of criticism.
Fortunately, not all the senators on the committee agree. “This bill takes a hatchet to important protections for Americans’ liberty,” Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement. “This bill would mean more government surveillance of Americans, less due process and less independent oversight of US intelligence agencies. Worse, neither the intelligence agencies, nor the bill’s sponsors have shown any evidence that these changes would do anything to make Americans more secure.”