PPSA today filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for FBI records related to a government admission that at least one Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court order involved the collection of web browsing data of an identified U.S. web page.
PPSA first got involved in this issue after Charlie Savage of The New York Times reported on a Nov. 25 letter from John Ratcliffe, former director of National Intelligence, to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), correcting an earlier letter denying that any of the 61 orders issued by the FISA court in the past year involved tracking web browsing. In his revision, Ratcliffe said that one of the orders did involve collection of visits from foreign IP addresses to a U.S. web page.
At the time of the report of the correction, we noted that as usual with the surveillance bureaucracy, we are left with more questions than answers.
Did the FBI collect web browsing data before that time?
With the expiration of Section 215, is the FBI collecting web browsing data now under a different authority?
With an agency tracking visits from foreign IP addresses to a U.S. website, how does it treat the incidental collection of data on U.S. persons that would inevitably be revealed during such tracking?
With these questions in mind, PPSA is asking for all FBI records mentioning or responding to the correspondence between Sen. Wyden and Richard Grenell and John Ratcliffe, both former heads of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
“Our request is targeted and highly specific,” said Gene Schaerr, general counsel of PPSA. “Given the high level of this correspondence, there is no reason why the FBI should not be able to produce these documents. We hope that when they do, it will shed light on why the government felt the need to undertake warrantless surveillance of web browsing in the United States.”
PPSA will report the FBI’s response as soon as it is delivered.