- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday rejected a proposed amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that would block the government from spying on Americans’ internet browsing and search history without a warrant.

The 59-to-37 vote failed to advance the amendment because it needed 60 votes to pass.

Sens. Steve Daines, Montana Republican, and Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat had proposed the amendment aimed at curbing government surveillance powers.

“The warrantless collection of Americans’ web browsing history offers endless opportunities for abuse,” Mr. Wyden said on the Senate floor. “All it would take is some innocent American’s web browsing history to be deemed relevant to an investigation and the government’s off to the races collecting all of that personal information.”

“For any number of reasons the web browsing history of that American could reveal such embarrassing information that the person would be humiliated for years to come, and of course, be used against him or her,” he continued.

The Patriot Act currently allows the warrantless collection of Americans’ internet search and web browsing history if deemed relevant to an intelligence probe.

Mr. Daines said the provision grants too much power to the intelligence community that could be easily abused.

“We need to get government out of our private lives and prioritize freedom and privacy,” he said. “We can’t compromise on an issue that is so vile to our basic foundations of government.”

The amendment approved Wednesday is one of three amendments to a House bill that aims to limit the government’s surveillance powers.

A separate amendment proposed by Sens. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, and Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, would add a third-party advocate to present exculpatory evidence challenging the government’s allegations.

Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, offered an amendment prohibiting the FISA court from approving surveillance on a U.S. citizen. Instead, the government would have to seek approval from a federal court.

The Senate is expected to take up the Lee-Leahy amendment later Wednesday.

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