Technology

Key Senate Democrat withdraws support from House measure on web browsing data

Greg Nash

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has pulled his support from an amendment aimed at blocking law enforcement from collecting web browsing history without a warrant after comments made by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) about its scope.

The amendment from Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) would be attached to a bill reauthorizing three expired surveillance programs under the USA Freedom Act. The measure had been put forward as a House version of one from Wyden and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) that narrowly missed approval in the Senate.

The Senate amendment would have broadly blocked law enforcement from gathering web browsing history without a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant, but the amendment submitted to the House Rules Committee for consideration on Tuesday following days of negotiations applies that protection more narrowly.

Under the House amendment, warrants would be required before gathering internet activity from a U.S. person or in cases where the government is not sure if the subject is a U.S. person but might be.

It would also compel the government to guarantee that no U.S. person’s IP addresses or identifiers would be disclosed before ordering a service provider to provide a list of everyone who has visited a particular website.

Wyden, who sponsored the Senate amendment, initially released a statement praising the Lofgren-Davidson measure, but pulled his support following comments from Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee who was involved in developing the House amendment text.

In a statement backing the amendment to reporters, Schiff seemed to suggest that the measure allowed room for law enforcement to continue collection of Americans’ records as long as they are relevant to a foreign intelligence investigation.

Wyden is now pulling his support from the amendment and urging House members to vote down the whole package.

“The House Intelligence Committee chairman’s assertion that the Lofgren-Davidson amendment does not fully protect Americans from warrantless collection flatly contradicts the intent of Wyden-Daines, and my understanding of the amendment agreed to earlier today,” the Oregon lawmaker said in a statement.

“It is now clear that there is no agreement with the House Intelligence Committee to enact true protections for Americans’ rights against dragnet collection of online activity, which is why I must oppose this amendment, along with the underlying bill, and urge the House to vote on the original Wyden-Daines amendment.”

Davidson slammed Schiff in a statement, implying that he and “intelligence hawks” are trying to derail the amendment to “protect the surveillance state status quo.”

“Hopefully everyone will wake up and defend the Constitution,” he told The Hill. “It’s time for the House to protect one of Americans’ most basic freedoms—the right to privacy.”

The Hill has reached out to Schiff’s office for comment.

Tags Adam Schiff Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Ron Wyden Steve Daines USA Freedom Act Warren Davidson Zoe Lofgren
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