from the doesn't-the-4th-amendment-matter dept
As the debate continues over the renewal of some Patriot Act provisions for NSA surveillance techniques, the House now has a chance to correct a failure by the Senate, by one measly vote, to require a warrant for the FBI to go sifting through your internet histories that the NSA scooped up along the way. The intelligence community refuses to reveal how often this is done, but Senator Wyden is indicating that it’s a lot more than you think — and he’s been right pretty much every time he’s made those suggestions.
It’s now up to the House, and while Rep. Lofgren had a version of the warrant requirement amendment, some petty political squabbling from Democratic leadership threatened to quash it — mainly by Rep. Adam Schiff inserting a massive loophole to allow for more warrantless surveillance. Earlier on Tuesday it was reported that, after a long weekend of haggling, it appeared that a vote will be allowed on Lofgren’s Amendment and that the language had been cleared up to the point that even Senator Wyden backed it:
?After extensive bicameral, bipartisan deliberations, there will be a vote to include a final significant reform to Section 215 [of the USA Patriot Act] that protects Americans? civil liberties,? Lofgren, a Democrat of California, said. ?Without this prohibition, intelligence officials can potentially have access to information such as our personal health, religious practices, and political views without a warrant,? she added.
The Lofgren-Davidson amendment will require the FBI to obtain a warrant even if there?s only a possibility that the data it seeks is tied to a U.S. person. If the government wishes to access the IP addresses of everyone who has visited a particular website, it could not do so without a warrant unless it can ?guarantee? that no U.S. persons will be identified.
Wyden’s support was seen as critical, because if he felt that Schiff had torpedoed the Amendment he wouldn’t support the amendment. So the original reports saying that he was on board, was a good sign. He even put out a detailed statement in support.
But in his own statement, Mr. Schiff put forward a narrower emphasis. Stressing the continued need to investigate foreign threats, he described the compromise as banning the use of such orders “to seek to obtain” an American’s internet information.
Soon after Wyden pulled his support of the bill, realizing that Schiff was making a ridiculous interpretation to allow for more spying on American’s internet browsing habits:
?The House Intelligence Committee chairman?s assertion that the Lofgren-Davidson amendment does not fully protect Americans from warrantless collection flatly contradicts the intent of Wyden-Daines, and my understanding of the amendment agreed to earlier today. It is now clear that there is no agreement with the House Intelligence Committee to enact true protections for Americans? rights against dragnet collection of online activity, which is why I must oppose this amendment, along with the underlying bill, and urge the House to vote on the original Wyden-Daines amendment,? Wyden said.
Again, however, I remain perplexed about Schiff trying to water this down. Remember, Schiff was literally the House manager of the Trump impeachment campaign, and more than anyone, Schiff has a front row seat to how this President has politicized all aspects of government at his disposal. You would think that’s a good enough reason to pass a bill that would protect American citizens from being spied on by the FBI without a warrant (as, I should mention, the Constitution requires). Why would that be at all controversial? I get that Schiff comes from a background where he has traditionally had a kneejerk support for greater law enforcement and intelligence powers — but given what he knows about this administration, it’s crazy that he wouldn’t want to restrict those powers in the hands of someone who still regularly seems to threaten his political opponents, including Schiff.
Of course, as all of this was happening, the President himself urged his supporters in Congress to vote against the bill anyway, so who the hell knows what’s going on any more anyway. What is clear is that Congress had a real chance to make sure the FBI had to live under the 4th Amendment, and it appears that it has failed to do so, so far.