Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Mitch McConnell Moves to Explicitly Permit Warrantless Collection of Americans’ Web Browsing Activities

Spencer Ackerman, the Daily Beast:

Under cover of redressing what President Donald Trump and his allies call the FBI’s “witch hunt” over collusion with the Kremlin, McConnell, via an amendment to the PATRIOT Act, will expressly permit the FBI to warrantlessly collect records on Americans’ web browsing and search histories. In a different amendment, McConnell also proposes giving the attorney general visibility into the “accuracy and completeness” of FBI surveillance submissions to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court. Versions of the amendments circulating Monday were shared with The Daily Beast.

Taken together, privacy advocates consider McConnell’s moves an alarming expansion of Attorney General Bill Barr’s powers under FISA, a four-decade-old process that already places the attorney general at the center of national-security surveillance. It also doesn’t escape their notice that McConnell is increasing Barr’s oversight of surveillance on political candidates while expanding surveillance authorities on every other American. One privacy activist called McConnell’s efforts “two of the most cynical attempts to undermine surveillance reform I’ve ever seen.”

Martin Matishak, Politico:

The Senate on Wednesday blocked a bipartisan effort to shield Americans’ internet browsing and search histories from warrantless surveillance.

Lawmakers voted 59-37 on an amendment by Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to a House-approved bill that would reauthorize domestic surveillance authorities. It was the first in a series of at least three amendment votes that senators agreed to in March.

Jeremy Scahill:

Great job to the 10 Democrats who voted *against* the Wyden-Daines amendment that would have prohibited FBI warrantless surveillance of web browser history. Special shout out to Bernie Sanders who didn’t show up to vote. It was defeated by *one* vote.

To be clear, McConnell’s amendment would expressly permit the warrantless collection of browsing and search history; the Wyden-Daines amendment that did not pass today would prohibit that.