An amendment to curb warrantless surveillance of the internet browsing history of American citizens failed to pass the Senate.
The amendment sought to make it necessary for law enforcement to get a warrant to put the internet history of American citizens under surveillance. Senators from both parties voted for and against the amendment.
The amendment needed 60 votes to pass the Senate. It only got 59.
For privacy hawks, the amendment’s failure would perhaps be more frustrating than normal because four senators were absent. Amongst those four senators was Bernie Sanders.
Sanders hasn’t given an explanation regarding his absence. The senator from Vermont was most likely to vote in favour of the amendment. Now that the amendment is dead in the water, law enforcement can use surveillance to track the browsing history of American citizens.
Browsing History Surveillance – Why People Should be Worried?
It is wise to get a little context on the amendment that failed in the Senate on Wednesday.
The amendment sought to rein in the highly divisive Patriot Act passed in the aftermath of 9/11. If passed, the amendment would make law enforcement seek a warrant to deploy surveillance of internet browsing history of American citizens.
While presenting the amendment in the Senate, Senator Wyden said it’s not right for the chamber to allow warrantless spying of the internet browsing history of law-abiding Americans. Wyden had earlier said that surveillance of internet browsing history was like spying on someone’s thoughts and that such an intrusion ought to come with a warrant.
However, surveillance isn’t a new topic for most Americans. In 2013, Edward Snowden leaked classified documents which showed how the NSA spied on American citizens.
The question is how far are lawmakers willing to go to spy on people? Warrantless surveillance of browsing history, as Senator Wyden said, is a massive breach of privacy.
Senate Majority Leader McConnell was planning on proposing an amendment of his own to counter the one brought by Wyden. McConnell continues to be a firm supporter of the Patriot Act.
However, the opposition of lawmakers like McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and even Democrats like Tim Kaine and Diane Feinstein to such types of legislation is well-known. The absence of Senators Sanders and Murray, two lawmakers who’d most likely have voted for the amendment, is most distressing.
For now, law enforcement agencies have the power to continue warrantless surveillance of American citizens’ browsing history.
(Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons)