The Senate rejected an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that would have prevented the government from accessing Americans’ web browsing data without a warrant on Wednesday.
The amendment had already passed in the House with bipartisan support, but it needed 60 senators to approve it in order for it to pass in the Senate, Fox News reported.
Only 59 senators voted in favor of the amendment.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana had proposed the amendment to limit the government’s surveillance powers in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Now that Americans have been asked to stay home and not move around … they are more vulnerable to abusive surveillance than ever before,” Wyden said.
“Now more than ever … during this pandemic, Americans deserve assurances that the government isn’t spying on them … as they move around the internet.”
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
Prior to the vote, Daines tweeted that the government “shouldn’t have access to Americans’ extremely personal browser data & internet search history w/o a warrant.”
“We need to get the government out of our phones & out of our lives.”
“Common sense tells us this crisis demands more vigilance on other fronts of national security not less,” the Kentucky Republican said in a statement.
The failed amendment brings the ability for the Department of Justice to view web browsing history without a warrant one step closer to becoming a law.
“When you talk about web browsing and searches, you’re talking about some of the most sensitive, most personal, and most private details of Americans’ lives,” Wyden said in a statement to Business Insider.
“Every thought that can come into people’s heads can be revealed in an internet search or a visit to a website.”
Many activists and labor organizers have spoken out against the expansion and the renewal of the PATRIOT Act.
“Today the Senate made clear that the purpose of the PATRIOT Act is to spy on Americans, no warrants or due process necessary,” activist Dayton Young told Vice.
“Any lawmaker who votes to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act is voting against our constitutionally-protected freedoms, and there’s nothing patriotic about that.”
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