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:

Wyden, unsurprisingly, was politely unimpressed by his Senate colleagues:

This is, as they say, why we can’t have nice things.

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Comments on “One Vote Short: FISA Amendment Requiring Warrants For Browser & Search Data Fails”

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23 Comments
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That One Guy (profile) says:

Wrong framing

The amendment wasn’t adding a warrant requirement, it was making clear that the warrant requirement for a search that already exists in that pesky ‘bill of rights’ was to be followed.

Voting against a warrant requirement is and should be treated as voting against constitutional rights of the public, with those voting against it dragged through the coals and called out for doing so, especially if they’ve tried to portray themselves as pro-constitution and/or constitutional rights in the past.

AC says:

Re: Wrong framing

Excellet point.

The different between me and you is this:

You live in a world where there is some reason or need to point out what you have pointed out.

I live in a world where it is nothing more or less than human nature to lie, cheat, steal, falsify or fabricate information, and exagerate the importance of one’s own actions/opinions while unfairly denegrating the existence/views of others.

You live in a world where equalism is of tantamount priorty to most other things, because that is what you believe is right, based on what you have been taught.

I live in a world where, where I’m from, most mothers choose to cut up their infant sons’ genitals after birth in order to establish sexual subservience, at the cost of that male’s psychological and physical welfare.

Don’t tell me you’re going to argue in favor of infant male circumcision, the operation from which the hospital is profiting from, because of the health benefits to that baby…

Because that is exactly what I would expect you to do, regardless of the fact that a good portion of what you write is somehow corrrrrrrrect! How else would you frequently be in the Techdirt Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week??!!

AC says:

Re: Re: Re: Wrong framing

You’re world sounds like one that does not include a basic knowledge of human psychology or any recognition/memory of an experience of reality. God damn, if there was one place I’d think people would be open-minded to this shit, it would be here. The fact that it isn’t tell me that yes, encryption will be dead very soon, because these people are incredibly stupid.

Masnick: who exactly are you working for? Because if it’s for the public, than you have failed.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

All of the screaming about how this was abused & yet it still was just lets pass the buck.

We need full access to all of the data they can collect on Congress.
They have to spy on us to keep us safe & our freedoms intact, I want to see what our employees are doing when they think we can’t see.

The political theater is out of hand & we need changes. For all of the ZOMG about the FISA for Page they still seem to forget that the damn fusion centers were used to deep drive grandmothers who DARED to protest what a bank was doing. This program was flawed when it was created & it has only gotten worse. We’ve let them take away our alleged rights to be safe, except we’re not safer, they chase imaginary plots while pretending we don’t have domestic terrorists. They are afraid to end it b/c they might be called soft on terrorism (plus pissing off some corporate sponsors who are getting rich from selling us tiger repelling rocks).

We thought we elected adults, its time we treat them like the unruly toddlers they are – screwing the country to "win" a made up war against the other side. Lets send them to their rooms without dessert & lets put adults into office who will care more about the bedrock of our nation than soundbites & pointless feuds with the other side.

Koby (profile) says:

Too Tempting

The power is too tempting for these pro-surveillance Senators. They’re okay with having investigators with near unlimited power, as long as the surveillors go after the proper targets. What they forget is that abuses are always going to occur. The only way to push back on this is through the accountability of getting a warrant, not by the whack-a-mole method of punishing the few abusers who get caught.

Bergman (profile) says:

20 year prison sentences for everyone!

Violating Title 18, Section 1519 of the US Code carries a 20 year prison sentence. The requirement to be guilty under it isn’t destroying evidence that is being investigated, it’s worse than that – what triggers 1519 is the mere potential that a federal investigation might someday be interested in the information.

As a result, if this bill passes, if you ever wipe your browsing history you are a felon. If a company makes a browser that has a button to wipe the browser history, they are guilty of aiding and abetting a felony. And heaven help you if you need to wipe the history to resolve a bug in the browser!

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1519

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 20 year prison sentences for everyone!

This isn’t browser-based though. It’s at the ISP level. This amendment is being added to Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act which allows them to collect and look at your browsing and search history at the ISP level since everything you search for and visit has to go through your internet service provider in order to fetch and query whatever it is you searched for or for whatever site you visited.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: 20 year prison sentences for everyone!

It’s at the ISP level.

Yay, VPNs for everyone then.

Seriously, this needs to be a front running issue in November, and the idiots that voted in favor of more surveillance of Americans need to be shown the door. With a not so kind note of "Hope you enjoy being one of the peons that will be closely monitored from here on out. Unable to wield the power that comes with it."

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