Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron today vowed the party would "kill" proposals for increased monitoring of emails and internet use if they were not watered down.
Mr Farron said he was "prepared" to look at draft legislation, dubbed a "snoopers charter", when it is published but warned he was "in no mood" to back "authoritarian" laws.
Many Lib Dems were "horrified" by the plans, which would allow Government listening post GCHQ to monitor internet traffic - times, dates, numbers and addresses - in real time.
Mr Farron told BBC 1's Andrew Marr Show:
I am prepared to recognise that there is obviously a need in modern society with new technology to have a look at what needs to be given to the security services but only if it is absolutely clear there is no universal access.
But we are prepared to kill them, be absolutely clear about that, if it comes down to it.
If we think this is a threat to a free and liberal society then there would be no question of unpicking them or compromising, this just simply must not happen.
The Government has faced an intense backlash over the plans, with senior Conservatives joining Lib Dems and civil rights campaigners in warning they would cause a gross intrusion into freedom and privacy.
ITV News political correspondent Libby Weiner describes the potential clash as "the next faultline in the coalition government."
Mr Farron said he would be "surprised" if the Bill ended up looking "anything like the press reports we have had this week".
He said: "My conversations with the Deputy Prime Minister and others reveal that there has been significant movement this week."
Mr Farron added:
It is important to be reasonable and look at the draft legislation, as it now will be, and see what it says and look at it on its own merit.
But I have to say I'm in no mood whatsoever to apologise for, or to amend or unpick authoritarian legislation.
It strikes me that a Government that includes Liberal Democrats should ensure that Britain ends up a more liberal place, not less.
Nick Clegg insisted earlier this week the Government was simply "updating the rules" to allow the police and security services "to go after terrorists and serious criminals" who are using the internet to communicate.