OTI Joins 29 Groups and Trade Associations in Calling for Open Hearings on Proposal to Expand FBI Surveillance Authority

Photo: U.S. Senate

Today, New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) joined 29 other civil society organizations and trade associations in a letter calling on the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees to hold open hearings on the controversial McCain-Burr-Cornyn amendment (Amendment 4787). OTI strongly opposes this amendment, which would expand the FBI’s surveillance authority under the National Security Letter statute.

As the letter describes:

“This proposal, if enacted, would remove necessary judicial oversight of the FBI’s access to these personal records and would threaten Americans’ privacy. It would enable the FBI to unilaterally issue demands for information which, in addition to Americans’ web browsing history, includes sensitive data like logs of who they communicate with online via email, chat, video, and text; what services they subscribe to; what times they sign into and out of their accounts; IP addresses; and much more.”

Despite the significant impact this amendment would have on Americans’ privacy and civil liberties, Senate leadership tried - and failed - to push it through the legislative process without giving members a chance to learn about the amendment, and has not held an open hearing on the proposal.

The following statement can be attributed to Robyn Greene, policy counsel for New America’s Open Technology Institute:

“This amendment would represent a dramatic and wholly unnecessary expansion of the FBI’s surveillance authority, without any oversight mechanism. There have been no open hearings on this amendment; only misrepresentations by its proponents about the FBI’s current authorities, while downplaying how the amendment would significantly expand FBI surveillance and impact Americans’ privacy. The Senate Judiciary Committee must hold an open hearing to debate this issue. Doing anything less would be an abdication of the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees’ responsibility, and would do a grave disservice to the American people.”

The letter can be viewed in its entirety here. For more information on the amendment, you can read OTI’s backgrounder and vote recommendation here.

See OTI’s backgrounder on the FBI’s emergency exception to access ECTRs before obtaining a court order here.

ATTACHMENT:

ECTR Hearing Request Coalition Letter

Author:

Robyn Greene is the policy counsel and government affairs lead for the Open Technology Institute at New America specializing in issues concerning surveillance and cybersecurity.