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.Agents could compel companies to disclose the information if they believe it will assist anti-terrorism or intelligence investigations.
Naturally, privacy advocates vehemently disapprove of the White House proposal. Critics also argue that President Obama is betraying his promise to back away from President Bush's policies that expanded government authority over civil liberties. These critics have a pretty solid argument.