Demands to ban using Section 215 for library records gradually faded — it appeared that in practice, the F.B.I. was not using it to monitor what books people had checked out — and Congress ended the use of Section 215 for bulk collection of calling data in 2015. But new tensions have emerged over the extent to which the F.B.I. could use that law to gather logs of people’s web browsing activities, as opposed to using warrants — a tool that requires investigators to first be able to produce evidence that a person probably engaged in wrongdoing.
In May, 59 senators voted to bar the use of Section 215 to collect internet search terms or web browsing activity, but negotiations broke down in the House. During that period, Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and one of the sponsors of the proposal ban, wrote to the director of national intelligence seeking clarity about any such use.Six months later, the Trump administration finally replied — initially, it turned out, in a misleading way.