Senate Votes to Let Feds Surveil People’s Internet Browsing History Without a Warrant

The Senate failed to approve an amendment to the Patriot Act that would have barred the government from collecting internet browsing history without a warrant after not enough senators showed up for the vote, Recode reports.

The amendment needed 60 votes to pass but got only 59.

Several senators did not attend the vote.

Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander missed the vote because he is self-quarantining. Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse and Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders also did not attend. An aide to Washington Democrat Patty Murray said that she would have voted in favor of the amendment had she been there.

The Patriot Act was implemented after the 9/11 attacks. In 2013, a leak by Edward Snowden revealed that the law was used to secretly spy on Americans. Congress implemented several reforms after the revelations but the amdendment would have explicitly barred the feds from collecting “internet website browsing” and “internet search history” through a FISA application.

Vote lets feds keep collecting:

“There is little information that is more personal than your web browsing history,” Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, who introduced the amendment, told Recode. “If you know that a person is visiting the website of a mental health professional, or a substance abuse support group, or a particular political organization, or a particular dating site, you know a tremendous amount of private and personal information about that individual.”

“Getting access to somebody’s web browsing history is almost like spying on their thoughts,” he added. “This level of surveillance absolutely ought to require a warrant.”

ACLU decries privacy concerns:

The ACLU had called for the amendments and said that more reforms were needed.

“There’s much more that needs to be done to fix our nation’s broken surveillance system beyond what’s accomplished in these amendments. Among other things, protections are needed to ensure that First Amendment activity is not a basis for surveillance, that the government purges data that is not foreign intelligence, and that intelligence agencies comply with their constitutional obligation to fully notify individuals when information obtained as a result of intelligence surveillance is used against them,” ACLU attorney Neema Singh Guliani and Billy Easley of Americans for Prosperity said in an op-ed.

“We all want to keep Americans safe. And we can ensure that safety while also making our government accountable to its citizens’ representatives,” they added. “Undertaking these reforms will help give the American people the transparency and due process protections they are guaranteed under the Constitution.”


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