July 30, 2010

Police Need More Access To Email

The Obama administration wants to give the Federal Bureau of Investigators (FBI) easier access to the Internet activity of suspects without a court order, according to a report by the Washington Post on Thursday.

The FBI would only seek access in cases related to possible terrorism or intelligence investigations, and would not include the content of email messages, reported the Post, citing unnamed lawyers and senior administration officials as sources.

Under the newly proposed rules, FBI agents could find who sends an email message, the time and date it is sent and received, and possibly a user's Internet surfing history. They would not, however, be able to check their Internet search queries.

Advocates of the plan say the information is the modern equivalent of toll billing records for telephones, which the FBI can get without court authorization. Finding electronic addresses to which the Internet user sends e-mails is similar to getting a list of phone numbers a caller uses, supporters said.

Obtaining those records with approval by a judge "allows us to intercede in plots earlier than we would if our hands were tied and we were unable to get this data in a way that was quick and efficient," the senior administration official told the Post.

The new measure, if passed, would broaden the FBI's authority in the fight against terrorism. The proposal is an extension of the Patriot Act -- a series of security-related measures approved after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States.


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