The U.S. Senate voted Thursday to pass a new bill that would allow the FBI and other security agencies to access the internet history of U.S. citizens without a search warrant,media reported. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) tried to add privacy protections to the Patriot Act, but the amendment failed to pass.
The Patriot Act (the Provision of Appropriate Tools to Stop and Obstruct Terrorism Act) was a controversial piece of legislation that became law in the wake of the September 11 attacks. It gives law enforcement additional surveillance powers, including recording and searching individuals and private property without notifying them.
A supplementto-section of the Patriot Act, to be updated this week, would allow agencies to collect people’s browsing records without a search warrant, The Register reported.
Wyden and Daines led efforts to block changes to the Patriot Act by setting a search warrant, but the bipartisan amendment failed to reach the 60-vote threshold by one vote, and many likely voters, including former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, were absent.
“Is it right to do this at a unique time when millions of law-abiding citizens are at home and the government can spy on their web searches and web browsing without a warrant?” Wyden said. “Should law-abiding Americans worry about their government watching them from the moment they wake up in the morning and turn on their computers until they go to bed at night?” I believe the answer is no. But that is exactly what the Government has the right to do without our amendment. “
The additions to the Patriot Act were drafted by Senate leader Mitch McConnell. Not only does it allow for the collection of search and browsing data from Section 215 of the Act without justification, but it may also be stored and made available to multiple U.S. agencies.
With the Covid-19 pandemic leading to millions of Americans using the Internet more than ever before, the vote is a blow to privacy advocates. “The Patriot Act should be repealed, ignited and buried underground,” Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, told Motherboard. “It was one of the worst laws passed in the last century, and there is no evidence that the massive surveillance program it carried out saved a single person’s life. “