Senate Dem blocks intelligence authorization over FBI surveillance
© Greg Nash

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Democrats vote to provide 0 unemployment benefits into September Senate holds longest vote in history as Democrats scramble to save relief bill Biden helps broker Senate deal on unemployment benefits MORE (D-Ore.) placed a hold on an annual intelligence community authorization bill on Monday, amid a fight about FBI surveillance. 

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"The American people want policies that protect their security and their liberty," he said from the Senate floor. "After a tragedy, and you can almost set your clock by it, increasingly proposals are being brought up that really don't much of either."

Wyden's move blocks the Senate from passing the Intelligence Authorization bill by unanimous consent. Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell makes failed bid to adjourn Senate after hours-long delay Paul Ryan to host fundraiser for Cheney amid GOP tensions Senate Democrats near deal to reduce jobless boost to 0 MORE (R-Ky.) would need to file cloture on the legislation to force an initial vote on the Senate floor.

The Oregon Democrat, an outspoken privacy advocate in the Senate, said a provision in the legislation "is essentially a redo of the vote that took place last week."

The Senate narrowly rejected a push last week to grant the FBI new surveillance powers in the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. 

The Senate GOP proposal — offered as an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science spending bill — would allow the FBI to use "national security letters" to obtain people's internet browsing history and other information without a warrant during a terrorism or federal intelligence probe. 

Wyden argued that getting access to browser history "is almost like spying on their thoughts."

He noted that under a section of the Patriot Act the federal government can already get access to that information quickly. 

"Under Section 102, there's not going to be any dawdling, there's not going to be any waiting around. The government can move and move immediately to protect the American people," he said.

Wyden said he is also concerned about a provision in the intelligence bill that would "erode the jurisdiction" of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

The board was created to provide oversight and advice on privacy and civil liberties protections included in terrorism-related policy.