One Vote Short: FISA Amendment Requiring Warrants For Browser & Search Data Fails
from the this-is-why-we-can't-have-nice-things dept
As noted yesterday, Congress this week is considering a new bill (the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020) that would not only renew already widely abused and heavily criticized FISA (Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act) powers, but extend the law to include warrantless access to American browsing and search data, a longstanding goal of the “there’s no such thing as too much domestic surveillance” set. Given the well documented problems with the existing system, there’s a large bipartisan coalition that believes this is, well, idiotic.
Enter Senators Ron Wyden and Steve Daines, who introduced one of three amendments today aimed at making a fleeting effort to rein in FISA authority and abuse. Their amendment would have required a warrant before law enforcement and government could peruse your browsing and search data, which seems like a good idea in normal times, but even more so in the Bill Barr era. Wyden had this to say today about the threat posed by the expansion:
“Back in 2001 when Congress passed the Patriot Act, Americans were rightly concerned about the government collecting their library borrowing records without a warrant. What we’re talking about here today, looking at web history browsing history, it is thousands of times more invasive of privacy.”
Despite significant support for the Wyden/Daines amendment, it failed with a vote of 59-37, just missing the 60 vote threshold needed to pass. You can find a total roll call here.
Ironically, many of the same GOP Senators you’ll routinely see going on at length about the perils of the “deep state” voted to give said deep state more power than ever. 10 Democratic Senators quick to lament Trump’s abuse of government institutions (like Tim Kaine) similarly somehow voted to give him more capability to do so. Four other Senators didn’t vote on the Wyden/Daines amendment, including Bernie Sanders (who hasn’t yet explained his absence) and Senator Patty Murray, whose staffers say she would have voted for it if she had, you know, bothered to vote for it:
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, who missed vote on limiting government surveillance of Internet history, would have supported amendment, per aide. That would have given it 60 votes, had she been here.
59-37 roll call: https://t.co/R2LejzBnRN
— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) May 13, 2020
Wyden, unsurprisingly, was politely unimpressed by his Senate colleagues:
Fifty-nine members of the Senate just voted in favor of my amendment to block warrantless government surveillance of Americans' browser history. It failed by just one vote. McConnell is that much closer to giving Bill Barr the green light to spy on Americans' private information. https://t.co/IV5ERbte48
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) May 13, 2020
This is, as they say, why we can’t have nice things.