The Wyden-Daines Amendment would’ve prohibited warrantless monitoring of web activity, but it lost by one vote in the Senate. Will Nancy Pelosi bring it back in the House?
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“We’ve reached kind of an inflection point in the privacy debate,” says Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). With Americans spending more time online than ever before during the COVID-19 pandemic, he worries that government surveillance of the internet matters more than over before.
Before the Senate’s May 14th vote to reauthorize the USA Freedom Act, formerly known as the Patriot Act, Wyden fought a losing battle to rein in the broad authority that it gives U.S. intelligence agencies to spy on the web activities of American citizens.
“Americans shouldn’t have their most intimate information…snooped over by the federal government without a warrant,” says Wyden. “That [information] is private and personal. It might be your dating history. It might be religious beliefs. It might be your fears…It’s like data mining of somebody’s thoughts.”
The Democrat Wyden, along with his Republican colleague Steve Daines (Mont.), tried attaching an amendment to the bill that would’ve explicitly banned government agents from collecting Americans’ web search histories without a warrant from a non-FISA court. It was defeated by a single vote.
Now an anti-surveillance activist group called Fight for the Future is trying to convince Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and congressional Democrats to add the same amendment to the House version of the bill.
But in a political world where Democrats regularly call the president a power-abusing authoritarian in the making, and Republicans bemoan a Deep State plot to take down Trump, there’s still only weak support for concrete measures to rein in the post-9/11 surveillance state.
Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Opening graphics by Lex Villena.
Music credits: “Europa” by Yehezkel Raz licensed from Artlist; “Ganymede” by Yehezkel Raz licensed from Artlist; “Hang Drum Traveler” by Max H. licensed from Artlist; “The End” by Max H. licensed from Artlist.
Photo credits: “Rand Paul in Congress,” Win McNamee/CNP/AdMedia/SIPA; “Rand Paul Listening,” Toni L. Sandys/CNP/AdMedi/SIPA; “Mitch McConnell Leaving Senate Chamber,” Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom; “James Clapper Testifying,” Zhan Jun Xinhua News Agency/Newscom; “Ron Wyden with Colleagues in Capitol,” SIPA/Newscom; “Bill Barr Looks at Camera,” Sipa USA/Newscom; “Mitch McConnell in Halls of Capitol,” SIPA/Newscom; “Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff at Podium,” Aurora Samperio/ZUMA Press/Newscom; “J. Edgar Hoover Building,” Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/Newscom; “Nancy Pelosi at Press Conferece,”Stefani Reynolds/picture alliance/Consolidated/Newscom; “Nancy Pelosi Talking to Press,” Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom; “Trump Holds up Fist at White House,” Andrew Harrer/UPI/Newscom; “Web Search in a Dark Room,” Yui Mok/ZUMA Press/Newscom; “Steve Daines Talks with Farmers,” Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom; “Ron Wyden Talks to Reporters,” Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call/Newscom; “Zoe Lofgren in Congress,” US Senate Television via CNP/MEGA/Newscom