June 28, 2016

Heinrich blocks intelligence authorization bill over privacy concerns

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich. Official photo.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich put a hold on an intelligence bill over what his office calls a “massive expansion of government surveillance.”

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich. Official photo.

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich. Official photo.

Heinrich’s office announced the hold on the Intelligence Authorization Act, which essentially blocks the legislation, on Tuesday morning. Heinrich said that he is doing so because of concerns over the constitutionality of the expanded authorization for domestic surveillance.

At issue are National Security Letters, which the federal government can use to get information without approval from a judge.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center says the letters give “the FBI the power to compel the disclosure of customer records held by banks, telephone companies, Internet Service Providers, and others.”

The proposal would expand the list of information the FBI could get using these letters.

“This represents a massive expansion of government surveillance and gives the FBI access to law-abiding Americans’ email and browser histories without judicial approval or independent oversight,” Heinrich said in a statement. “There is no question that our Intelligence Community needs the ability to collect critical information to guard against terrorist threats. However, the government shouldn’t have access to every Google search you’ve ever made and emails you’ve ever sent or received without a court order. Obtaining this warrant is straightforward and the FBI simply needs to establish a reasonable connection to terrorism or national security.”

This isn’t the first time that Heinrich opposed a bill out of the Senate Intelligence Committee on concerns over data collection by the federal government.

In 2013, Heinrich was one of four Senators to vote against a bill designed to “fix” the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. Heinrich argued that it did not go far enough.