U.S. Used Patriot Act to Gather Logs of Website Visitors

In a Nov. 6 letter to Mr. Wyden, John Ratcliffe, the intelligence director, wrote that Section 215 was not used to collect web search phrases, and that not one of the 61 orders issued final yr underneath that regulation by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court concerned assortment of “web browsing” information.

Mr. Wyden’s workplace supplied that letter to The New York Times, arguing that it meant Mr. Wyden’s proposal in May — which he sponsored with Senator Steve Daines, Republican of Montana — may very well be enacted into regulation with none operational prices.

But The Times pressed Mr. Ratcliffe’s workplace and the F.B.I. to make clear whether or not it was defining “web browsing” exercise to embody logging all guests to a selected web site, along with a selected individual’s searching amongst completely different websites. The subsequent day, the Justice Department despatched a clarification to Mr. Ratcliffe’s workplace, in accordance with a follow-up letter he despatched to Mr. Wyden on Nov. 25.

In reality, “one of those 61 orders resulted in the production of information that could be characterized as information regarding browsing,” Mr. Ratcliffe wrote within the second letter. Specifically, one order had authorized assortment of logs revealing which computer systems “in a specified foreign country” had visited “a single, identified U.S. web page.”

Mr. Ratcliffe expressed remorse “that this additional information was not included in my earlier letter” to the senator, and steered his employees may take additional “corrective action.”

In an announcement, Mr. Wyden mentioned the letters elevate “all kinds of new questions, including whether, in this particular case, the government has taken steps to avoid collecting Americans’ web browsing information.”

“More generally,” Mr. Wyden continued, “the D.N.I. has provided no guarantee that the government wouldn’t use the Patriot Act to intentionally collect Americans’ web browsing information in the future, which is why Congress must pass the warrant requirement that has already received support from a bipartisan majority in the Senate.”

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