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Senate Vote One Short To Ban Warrant-less Fed Cyber Searches

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Senate Vote One Short To Ban Warrant-less Fed Cyber Searches

Senate Vote One Short To Ban Warrant-less Fed Cyber Searches
May 21
20:57 2020

Just when you thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse, just when you thought daily life could not possibly look even more like a dystopian futuristic fiction plot, the Senate narrowly approved allowing access to web browsing data without a warrant to the FBI and CIA.

Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) co-authored an amendment and won a solid majority of votes – 59 to 37 – but 60 votes are required to pass the law. Both Republicans and Democrats voted for and against the proposal to reinforce U.S. constitutional rights that prevent search and seizure without a warrant signed by a judge.

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Several senators who would have supported the bipartisan amendment were no-show at the important session, including Bernie Sanders. An aide to Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said the senator would have supported the amendment had she been present rather than in her home state. That single vote would have passed the amendment, bringing the count to the needed 60 minimum.

As Wyden put it, U.S. internet users now face nonstop spying from Big Brother, thanks to the senatorial vote:

“Should law-abiding Americans have to worry about their government looking over their shoulders from the moment they wake up in the morning and turn on their computers to when they go to bed at night? I believe the answer is no. But that’s exactly what the government has the power to do without our amendment.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warned about the dire consequences for all Americans under the post-9/11 Patriot Act:

“Just six weeks after the September 11 attacks, a panicked Congress passed the ‘USA/Patriot Act,’ an overnight revision of the nation’s surveillance laws that vastly expanded the government’s authority to spy on its own citizens, while simultaneously reducing checks and balances on those powers like judicial oversight, public accountability, and the ability to challenge government searches in court.”

Many Patriots agree with Evan Greer, Deputy Director of Fight For The Future, who would like to see the backside of the sweeping law that purports to fight terrorists at the expense of national freedoms:

“The Patriot Act should be repealed in its entirety, set on fire and buried in the ground. It’s one of the worst laws passed in the last century, and there is zero evidence that the mass surveillance programs it enables have ever saved a single human life.”

Dayton Young, Fight For The Future’s Director of Product called out the federal leadership that supports sacrificing the legal principle of “innocent until proven guilty” by authorizing warrantless FBI access to everyone’s internet communications:

“Today the Senate made clear that the purpose of the PATRIOT Act is to spy on Americans, no warrants or due process necessary. Any lawmaker who votes to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act is voting against our constitutionally-protected freedoms, and there’s nothing patriotic about that.”

With more Americans idling at home, internet usage has shot up, giving federal law enforcement agencies even more opportunities to snoop on everybody’s business.

Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the think tank Cato Institute, said that, five years ago, it was “inconceivable” that 59 Senators would vote for an anti-surveillance amendment. Americans are now suspicious of federal spy programs and want to stop the continuing erosion of their civil rights in the name of national security:

“It suggests a sea change in attitudes. It goes to the sort of collapse in trust in the intelligence community to deploy these authorities in a restrained way.”

The Senate is weighing renewing three surveillance provisions that expired in March before Congress recessed from COVID-19. The bipartisan legislation is a compromise that would renew the Patriot Act provisions and impose new restrictions to fetter federal overreach.

The expired provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) permit FBI agents to:

  • Obtain a court order for business records in national security investigations
  • Conduct surveillance on an individual without establishing that the subject is acting on behalf of an international terrorism organization
  • More easily continue eavesdropping on an individual who has switched cell phone providers to evade detection

The House of Representatives passed the bill before members left town in mid-March. President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) all support the law. McConnell failed to muster enough support to approve the renewals in the Senate and passed a simple extension of the surveillance laws instead. Pelosi didn’t take up that legislation so McConnell is try, try, trying again to get the votes to pass the keep-spying-on-Americans House bill this week.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a career critic of the rising surveillance state, has introduced a third amendment that is expected to be considered on March 14 before a final vote. Paul’s amendment would require any government official seeking a FISA warrant to appear in a standard federal court rather than the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Without having to show probable cause, a federal criminal investigator can eavesdrop on anyone deemed a threat to national security. Does that include home-schoolers, Libertarians, and preppers – all “suspected terrorists” on the Department of Homeland Security’s list?

Speak up and let your elected representatives know you oppose being presumed guilty of a crime without having done anything wrong – and Election Day is coming.

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