Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arranged a vote on Monday for the expansion of the FBI’s authority to invoke a secretive surveillance order without needing a warrant. The vote would allow the order to include browsing history information and email metadata.
The initiative comes in the form of an amendment to the criminal justice appropriations bill, and is the Senate’s response to the mass shooting that took place in an Orlando nightclub after rejecting four measures aimed at restricting gun control.
In a statement, Senator John McCain said, “In the wake of the tragic massacre in Orlando, it is important our law enforcement have the tools they need to conduct counterterrorism investigations.”
Critics of the amendment say the effort exploits the mass shooting as a way to expand the government’s spying.
Democrat Senator Ron Wyden expressed criticism of a similar effort last month, stating that it “takes a hatchet to important protections for Americans’ liberty.”
The amendment would allow the FBI greater authority to use National Security Letters (NSL) to include the senders and recipients of emails as well as the time stamps of emails.
NSLs don’t require warrants and are typically accompanied by a gag order that prevents the service provider from alerting the targeted user of the request.