The US Senate has voted down an amendment that would limit surveillance of Americans’ internet records. Apparently, the true divide in Washington is not between Democrat and Republican, but those for or against the police state.
The US Senate met on Wednesday to debate the reauthorization of some provisions of the USA Freedom Act, an expansive domestic surveillance bill that expired in March. As Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brought the Act to the floor, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced an amendment that would explicitly bar law enforcement from snooping on Americans’ internet browsing and search histories without a warrant.
Prior to the vote, McConnell had urged his colleagues to reject the amendment. When votes were cast on Wednesday, ten Democratic senators heeded McConnell’s words, bringing the final vote to 59 Yeas and 37 Nays. One more positive vote would have given the amendment the three-fifths majority it needed to pass.
Yet surveillance is not a partisan issue. As often as Democrats are presented as the party of civil liberties and Republicans as the party of the ‘forever war’, the fault line isn’t between red and blue. While McConnell brought the Freedom Act before the Senate this week, it passed the Democrat-controlled House by 278-136 in March, completely free of any restricting amendments.
Moreover, the reauthorization was sponsored by Reps. Jerry Nadler (New York) and Adam Schiff (California), two Democrats who have disagreed with McConnell on almost everything, except the expansion of the surveillance state.
Among the Democrats who shot down the amendment was Dianne Feinsten (California), who has flip-flopped on surveillance throughout her three decades on Capitol Hill. Feinstein voted to extend the 9/11-era Patriot Act in 2012, and was a staunch defender of the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program, even after it was exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden who she described as a “traitor” in 2013.
With Sanders Missing, Anti-Surveillance Amendment Fails by One Vote in the Senate
The Senate on Thursday took up a key bill to reauthorize domestic surveillance programs while making changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, with several substantial amendments on the line. One of the amendments, introduced by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and Republican Sen. Steve Daines, would have required authorities to obtain a warrant to access internet users’ search histories and browsing information. Uh, yes, pass that??
The US Senate voted to let Trump spy on your search history.
In a shameful vote this week as part of an extension of the dreaded and controversial Patriot Act, the Senate handed William Barr and the Trump administration the ability to spy on Americans’ web browsing and internet search histories without a warrant.
The vote on a bipartisan amendment to protect this information from government surveillance sparked immediate outrage online – and deservedly so. Our web browsing and search histories contain the most intimate personal information. Any administration – let alone the draconian Trump justice department – should be required to comply with the fourth amendment before trawling through it.
Depressingly, the amendment failed to pass the 60-vote threshold by exactly one vote, 59-37, with two Democratic caucus members, including Bernie Sanders, failing to show up. “As far as I can tell we lost because there were some people absent,” Ron Wyden, who co-sponsored the bill with Republication senator Steve Daines, told Politico.
Even worse, 10 Democrats – including Dianne Feinstein, Sheldon Whitehouse and Mark Warner – sided with Mitch McConnell and the Trump administration and voted against the provision. Time and again, when it comes to privacy and civil liberties issues some Democrats have consistently sided with the Trump administration, despite portraying the president as lawless and unaccountable on a variety of subjects. It never ceases to be infuriating.
Drain the swamp.