House to consider amendment blocking warrantless web browsing surveillance

Greg Nash

The House will consider an amendment that would block law enforcement from being able to access web browsing data without a warrant when voting on legislation reauthorizing surveillance programs next week.

The amendment will be brought by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), whose office confirmed Friday evening that a deal was struck with leadership to have the amendment considered. Politico first reported on the deal.

“I’m glad that we’ll get to vote on this important measure to protect Americans’ Third and Fourth Amendment rights,” Davidson said in a statement. “This reform — while just the tip of the iceberg — is a major step forward in protecting Americans’ right to privacy.”

The amendment will closely mirror the one brought by Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) during debate in the Senate on reauthorizing the USA Freedom Act.

That effort fell just one vote short of the 60 vote threshold needed to pass. Several senators who were expected to vote in favor, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), were not present for the session.

The version of the Senate bill without the Daines-Wyden amendment was approved 80-16 last week, sending it back to the House.

Pressure on the House to resurrect the failed amendment has been high, with major internet companies and privacy associations sending a letter to House leadership earlier Friday urging for it to be supported.

Demand Progress, one of the groups involved in that letter, praised the agreement to consider the amendment next week.

“This is a critical moment for online privacy. The House should overwhelmingly support the Lofgren-Davidson amendment and bring home this meaningful privacy protection for their constituents,” Sean Vitka, the group’s senior policy counsel, said in a statement to The Hill.

Evan Greer, deputy director of digital rights group Fight for the Future, called the amendment “a crucial step toward reining in mass government surveillance programs that are both invasive and ineffective.”

Supporters of the amendment have pointed to the slim margin of rejection in the Senate as evidence of its potential in the House.

Davidson said Friday that the provision “enjoys broad bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.”

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) told The Hill Friday that he expects the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act package to pass easily if the amendment is attached.

“If that’s included in the House version, that allays a lot of the concern,” he explained. “I know many of us listen carefully to Zoe Lofgren on these issues.”

If approved, the bill would be sent back to the Senate.

— Mike Lillis contributed to this report

Tags Bernie Sanders Dan Kildee Internet privacy Ron Wyden Steve Daines USA Freedom Act Warren Davidson Zoe Lofgren
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