Surveillance

Amendment Revived to Protect Americans' Internet Search Records From Warrantless Collection

The House will consider a surveillance reform proposal that failed in the Senate by just one vote.

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Good news today for fans of internet privacy. Several members of the House of Representatives have arranged to resurrect a plan to stop the federal government from collecting or accessing Americans' web browsing and online search histories without a warrant.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D–Calif.) announced this afternoon that she and Rep. Warren Davidson (R–Ohio) have succeeded in weekend negotiations to get the House to consider an important surveillance reform amendment that died by a single vote in the Senate.

As the House and Senate have been hammering out legislation to renew expired provisions of the USA Freedom Act (which itself reformed the surveillance authorities of the PATRIOT Act), lawmakers unhappy with the extent that these laws have been used to secretly collect Americans' data have been pushing for stronger protections.

One proposed Senate amendment by Sen. Ron Wyden (D–Ore.) and Sen. Steve Daines (R–Mont.) would prohibit using surveillance authorities to secretly (and without a warrant) collect Americans' browser and search histories through third-party record collections, such as those of internet service providers.

When the amendment came to the Senate floor on May 13, the final vote was 59-37, one vote shy of the 60-vote threshold to amend the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2020. Four senators were absent from that vote, including Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), and it would have likely reached the 60-vote threshold had they been there.

Fortunately, complicated bicameral legislative processes sometimes save the day. The USA Freedom Reauthorization Act had already passed the House with some modest reforms (the records collection program revealed by Edward Snowden is officially dead, though it unofficially died last year). The Senate added an additional amendment by Sen. Mike Lee (R–Utah) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D–Vt.) to bolster the process that allows the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to name independent advisers to represent the interests of American citizens and advocate on behalf of those targeted by these secretive surveillance processes.

Because that amendment passed, the bill then heads back to the House for another vote. This gives Lofgren and Davidson the opportunity to amend it again, thereby restoring the Wyden-Daines proposal.

"Without this prohibition, intelligence officials can potentially have access to information such as our personal health, religious practices, and political views without a warrant," Lofgren noted in a statement today. "As such, I urge my colleagues to support the Lofgren-Davidson amendment and Americans' Fourth Amendment rights."

The amendment is expected before the House Rules Committee Wednesday morning and, assuming it passes, could be voted on Wednesday evening on the House floor. If it passes, it will head back to the Senate again for yet another vote.

Watch ReasonTV's recent interview with Wyden about surveillance reforms:

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  1. Uncle Sam already knows I lust for Lexi “Taco” Belle.

    1. More likely you lust after what is leaking out of her.

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      2. Oaxaca?

  2. That’s nice.
    I’m sure Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, Facebook, and Google will totes demand to see a warrant before handing that data over.
    And I wonder what kind of access those 400+ employees who bounced back and forth between the Obama administration and Google have…

    1. So, this was basically already illegal because of the 4th amendment and they did it anyway and covered it up so the public would be none the wiser that each and everyone of them was under surveillance. No one in the government was punished for doing it including James Clapper who explicitly and feloniously lied about it to congresses’ collective face.
      Does anyone believe for even one second that even if this passes, it will even so much as slow down whatever mass surveillance program their running now? Right, we’ll tell them that we really mean it this time and they’ll get such a finger wagging if they don’t listen. For realsies.

      1. Does anyone believe for even one second that even if this passes, it will even so much as slow down whatever mass surveillance program their running now?

        B-b-but… this time they pinky swore!

  3. Sen. Mike Lee (R–Utah) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D–Vt.) to bolster the process that allows the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to name independent advisers to represent the interests of American citizens and advocate on behalf of those targeted by these secretive surveillance processes.

    How will this even work (seems really stupid to me)? The IC will need to give security clearance to the advocate so they will be hand picked by the same people trying to get the warrant. 10-20 years from now we will get a story of how the advocates got nice cushy jobs from Northrop Grumman because they played ball and the IC recommended them to their buddies in the “private” sector. Meanwhile business as usual at FISA and they will point to the advocate for why more reforms aren’t needed.

    1. JUDGE: OK, privacy advocate, what have you to say?

      PRIVACY ADVOCATE: Oh, uh, like live free or die, man, lol

      JUDGE: Heh, heh, good one, any *serious* objections to this warrant?

      PRIVACY ADVOCATE: I’m sure I have some objections, but I must have left them in my other pants, ha ha.

      JUDGE: Ha, ha, you’re a hoot. Hand me the rubber stamp, will you?

      PRIVACY ADVOCATE: Sure thing.

  4. This will be useful only if it includes ways for victims to find out and sue, and if the snoops are personally held accountable by going to prison for years and years.

    In other words, not at all.

    1. It’s funny how they never run short on ideas for things you shouldn’t be allowed to and the punishments if you do them. I honestly can’t remember ever once hearing a politician say “We propose a new massive bureaucracy that could possibly be a threat to American’s freedoms and their way of life. The temptation to misuse, abuse or weaponize their powers will be great and in fact they may even be heavily incentivized to do so. Because of this we propose the following punishments for the legislators and enforcers who do not act responsibly with the enormous powers and trust we are giving them.”

      1. One of my many fantasy improvements to the Constitution was that inconsistent enforcement voided laws,where “inconsistent” included non-existent. I specifically meant it for both traffic tickets where 1 in a thousand gets a ticket, if that, and all the limits on the State and State agents which by law have no penalties for violating. The rationale is simple: laws which are seldom enforced are there only to provide an excuse for harassing unfavored people.

  5. hopes not high.

  6. Man, it sucks that we’re at the point where they don’t even feel like it’s necessary to pretend to give a shit any more. I mean, sure, we all knew they never gave a shit but it was nice to think they thought it was necessary to pretend. Now we’re just like a cheap date they don’t even have to take to dinner and a movie before we’ll put out.

    1. They don’t even ask you to put out. They just wait until the rest of the staffers have gone home, pin you up against a wall and finger bang away. Then they look Mika Brzezinski square in the eye and say it never happened no matter how many documents are revealed making the story seam plausible. Wait, what are we talking about again?

  7. I thought they were proposing a real amendment:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized, and this time we mean it!!!

  8. war·​rant | \ ˈwȯr-ənt

    A document often rubber stamped by lazy, ineffectual, and casually disinterested judges to provide carte blanche qualified immunity to law enforcement. Generally used in order to shore up sagging state budgets and forward the political careers of aspiring prosecuting attorneys.

    This changes little, but kudos for the virtue-signaling.. It’s better than nothing..

  9. “We need leadership, because the city of New York is dying, and it has to open now, or we’re not going to be able to save it.”—David Marcus

    Good. Let it die, and let the good citizens of flyover country dance on its lousy grave.

    https://youtu.be/Gvy0hdeOVDM

  10. Better to have the prohibition on the books than not. Don’t we need a means to hold people to account when they violate our rights?

  11. OT – a prisoner released under First Step Act (crack dealer with prior felonies to his credit) has been charged with murder.

  12. OT – a prisoner released under First Step Act (crack dealer with prior felonies to his credit) has been charged with murder.

  13. Makes one wonder why it’s a 60 vote threshold instead of a 60% threshold. Even abstentions shouldn’t count against hitting 60%, but in this case the 4 missing votes weren’t even in the room. 59-37 > 60% margin.

    (I know the answer is because that’s what the senate chose for its rules. It’s still weird that they basically count abstentions and absentees *against* the motion rather than as indifferent to it).

    1. Its an anti machinations tactic. If it was 60% instead of 60 votes. Then how long do you think it would take the Dems to push through a rule that due to the dangers of Covid all their rep counterparts must social distance from home while a hand picked few pass all legislation?

      1. They can’t hold any votes unless they have quorum, so that problem seems mostly solved in other ways.

  14. I hope that no one would figured out that I was asking for do my accounting homework help. This would be a total disaster.

  15. Roll Call: Four senators were absent from that vote, including Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), and it would have likely reached the 60-vote threshold had they been there. electrician northern virginia

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