back to article US Senator Wyden: Why I had to halt FBI's latest internet spying push

US Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has placed a hold on the 2017 Intelligence Authorization Bill – because it would allow the FBI to snoop on people's browser histories without a court order, and weakens oversight of the intelligence community. The bill as it stands would allow the Feds to use National Security Letters (NSLs) – which …

  1. gerdesj Silver badge

    "but if you buy that one I have a bunch of bridges to sell you"

    It seems the London Bridge == Tower Bridge thing has passed into US memedom, unless there is another equally daft explanation.

    Anyone closer to the US care to explain the origin of the unwise bridge purchasing quote?

    1. Palpy

      Mais oui, bien sûr

      Apocryphally, US hucksters offer to sell the Brooklyn Bridge -- which they "happen to own" -- to just-off-the-boat Irishmen. The Irishmen are at first taken in, but later establish major business concerns and, when meeting their former tormentors on the street, graciously hand them a dollar and admonish them to "lift ye self up, laddie, and git off the dole".

      Oh, and I cannot help but mention that I get to vote for Mr. Wyden. And I do.

    2. Jeffrey Nonken

      Honestly, I can't tell you its actual origin, but it is doubtless based on the idea of a con man selling property that doesn't belong to him to unwitting victims. The result is a common theme, where one might say "If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you" or "I have some land [in Florida] to sell you". Whether we imported the saying from England, somewhere else, or it's home grown, I couldn't say. Could be as old as confidence tricks.

      By offering to sell you multiple bridges Senator Wyden is suggesting the lie is particularly egregious.

      1. Jeffrey Nonken

        Palpy doubtless has the right of it.

        1. gerdesj Silver badge

          Thanks all for the real explanation. A genuine question gets one DV and a fair few decent replies - I'll take that as a win.

          @Jeffery W: "Whether we imported the saying from England, somewhere else, or it's home grown, I couldn't say."

          Looks home grown to me judging by the responses. The London Bridge cobblers is probably bollocks anyway and I've never heard of anyone in Britain managing to flog (sell) a bridge like that, so 1:0 to the US there for sheer con audacity.

          1. ricardian

            But the Brits did sell London Bridge - to Arizona.


    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bridge to Sell

      the "...i've got a bridge to sell you" joke goes back to the late 1800s when a famous con man and series of successors actually did sell the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.

  2. Mark 85 Silver badge

    I do believe he really understands it. Sadly, he's probably the only one who does. The rest are just knee-jerks. It's a sad state of affairs when the Chair and Vice Chair of the Intelligence Committee have no clue but just bow to the bidding by the requesting agency.

  3. Ole Juul

    Fed up

    I applaud Wyden's efforts, but in the end the FBI will never give up attacking the public. The only way to deal with this is to cut their budget or develop better security for the people. Hopefully both.

    1. energystar

      Re: Fed up

      The Bureau is all what Citizens have in between all and nothing. And Citizens will never have all.

      [Also thinking Senator Ron is right at this one...]

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      "The only way to deal with this is to cut their budget or develop better security for the people. "

      Didn't you realize, this is always about "protecting" the public, never about letting lazy investigators go on fishing trips.

      It's all for your benefit.


    3. Huns n Hoses

      Re: Fed up

      Agreed. Call me a cynic but the quote "It failed by just one honest vote" tells me after a few "informeetings" it'll be back and through the posts within a month.

    4. Baldy50

      Re: Fed up

      Get the Israeli's to do for them.

  4. Oengus

    Law enforcement nowadays...

    "I think it's clear that this isn't really about giving law enforcement new powers, it's all about the fact that they don't want are too frikking lazy to do some paperwork,"


    They might have to do some work and have some evidence to show a judge "probable cause". They would rather avoid having to do that step at all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Law enforcement nowadays...

      Right - I think it's more the "probable cause" part that's motivating them to push for this than the paperwork. It's so much easier to just go on a fishing expedition (or worse) than it is to risk perjuring yourself in front of a judge. Kind of the point of having the judge in the equation, isn't it?

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "National Security Letters"

    So how many of those cases where an NSL was issued really related to National Security?

    1. Oengus

      Re: "National Security Letters"

      With all of the paranoia of the TLAs wouldn't the be more appropriately called "National Insecurity Letters"?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    5 eyes countries

    "Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice is attempting to grant the Feds fresh surveillance and hacking powers without a vote by politicians, using a procedural change to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. "

    Notice the same pattern happening in all of the 5 eyes countries. People close to the spooks are expanding the powers of spook'dom. i.e. they're building an empire of their power base.

    Here its bad actors in the DOJ, in the UK its Farrs lot and his puppets.

    It's very caveman like:

    We right. You wrong. Judges side with you wrong, ECJ wrong, ECHR wrong, ug! ug! We save country from self by giving self secret super powers! Ug Ug!

    Yet their "truths" are so weak they can't face challenge in the court system? Why is that? Perhaps its simply because they're not true at all.

  7. Aodhhan

    A democrat stepping against the president. Amazing!

    Look, it takes 15 minutes or less to get a warrant as long as you have what's required or have MI6 do it; they don't have to worry about warrants in the USA.

    1. energystar

      "... it takes 15 minutes or less to get a warrant..."

      That amounts to a 86% filter...

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. DanceMan

    Find it interesting that the Orlando killings were used to justify this. The FBI already had the perp in their sights. They didn't need more snooping powers. Not selling him a handgun and a semi-auto rifle might have helped.

    Do the other senators actually have a functioning brain?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      "Find it interesting that the Orlando killings were used to justify this. "

      Don't be.

      A data fetishist will use any crime to call for more snooping powers and less oversight regardless of the human tragedy or any signs it would not have made a blind bit of difference.

      The real drivers for this are twofold.

      1) Because we can. The cost of data storage and voice and text analysis is low enough the hard ware can do it and we (the data fetishists) want to. More data is always better data because of

      2) In the words of Cardinal Richelieu "Give me 6 lines from an honest man and I'll find something with which to hang him."

      These powers give those who want them so many more lines to read, and hence "crimes" to charge people with.

  10. John 104

    I'm a righty by nature, but I applaud Mr Wyden and his continuing efforts.

  11. Kurt Meyer

    Do the other senators actually have a functioning brain?

    For well over 90% of the currently serving Senators, the correct only answer is "hell no".

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tipping Off

    Or maybe they're worried about criminal elements (especially terrorists) having insiders in the judiciary, meaning applying for a warrant could tip them off.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021