White House seeks to monitor internet activity

The Washington Post reports:

The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual’s Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation. . .

The administration wants to add just four words — “electronic communication transactional records” — to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge’s approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user’s browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the “content” of e-mail or other Internet communication.

Of course, the government can already demand to know who you are talking to on the phone. That’s troubling, to be sure, but at least there is a limit to what they can learn from that, because there is a sharp distinction between the phone number and the content of the call. For electronic communications, such a distinction is very hard to maintain. For many communications (e.g., web browsing, or friend requests), the recipient of the message is the entire substance of the message.

Will those on the left who condemned the Bush administration’s policy on phone records step up to condemn this far-worse overreach? We will see who was honest, and who was just scoring political points.

(Via Hot Air.)

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