Bill to boost FBI spying powers fails in Senate

A proposal to expand the FBI’s spying powers fell two votes shy in a Senate vote Wednesday, but the door is open for another vote soon.

The Republican proposal, offered as an amendment to a spending bill, would allow the FBI to use “national security letters” under the Patriot Act to obtain people’s internet browsing history and other communications information without a warrant during a terrorism investigation.

The Senate voted 58-38 for the measure, but the Hill notes that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell changed his vote from yes to no, a procedural move that clears the way for him to bring it up again.

Civil liberties groups and tech companies had opposed the amendment, which was introduced by Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Richard Burr, R-North Carolina. Earlier this month, companies such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo, and groups such as the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation signed a letter to lawmakers that read, in part: “The new categories of information that could be collected using an NSL — and thus without any oversight from a judge — would paint an incredibly intimate picture of an individual’s life.”

Democrats have accused Republicans of exploiting last week’s Orlando mass shooting to push through unrelated legislation. The shooter had been investigated for terrorist ties.

Republicans are “pushing fake, knee-jerk solutions,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon reportedly said.

The spending bill, called the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, is scheduled for a final vote in the Senate later this week, the EFF notes.

 

Photo: A protester with the organization Code Pink wears giant glasses with the message “Stop Spying” in 2013. (AFP/Getty Images)

 

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