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So, recently I came across an article which appears to be discussing the Wyden Amendment to H. R. 6172 . The article makes it sound like this will allow enforcement agencies access to browsing data without a warrant:

The US Senate has voted to give law enforcement agencies access to web browsing data without a warrant, dramatically expanding the government’s surveillance powers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Doing some more research, I found this language on the amendment:

S.Amdt. 1583 (Wyden) to H.R. 6172: To remove internet website browsing information and search history from scope of authority to access certain business records for foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations.

To me, remove "from scope of authority" sounds like it is not allowed. So what is right, does it allow access to this information without a warrant, or does it not?

Piquing my interest further, the U.S. Senate has been getting increasingly polarized along party lines in recent years, this vote seems to not be as polarized. 24 Republicans and 34 Democrats seemed to vote for it, while 27 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted against it. Is there something in this amendment that makes it less polarizing than other votes?

  • With surveillance, the horseshoe theory might be applicable: extreme left wingers and extreme right wingers may be more opposed to surveillance, and centrists may be more likely to support it. Unfortunately I can't find any references from a quick google search. – Andrew Grimm May 16 at 22:47
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The amendment would have changed the language of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to exclude browser data and search history from the expanded authority that FISA provides. However, in order for the amendment to be added to its parent bill it needed 60 affirmative votes, but it lost the vote 59-37.

Basically, it's not that the Senate voted to allow browser history to be searched under FISA, but rather they didn't vote to explicitly disallow it.

The full result of the vote can be found on the Senate's website here, and the text can be found in this transcript of the Congressional record, on page S2397 (page 10 of the PDF):

Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the reading of the amendment be dispensed with.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. The amendment is as follows:

(Purpose: To remove internet website browsing information and search history from scope of authority to access certain business records for foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations)

On page 7, strike lines 13 and 14 and insert the following:

cell site location or global positioning system information. ‘‘(C) An application under paragraph (1) may not seek an order authorizing or requiring the production of internet website browsing information or internet search history information.’’.

The bill this is all referring to is H.R.6172, which was itself an amendment to FISA, and the purpose of it was to extend FISA provisions until Dec. 1 2023, as well as restrict some other, non-browser related provisions.

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  • "Basically, it's not that the Senate voted to allow browser history to be searched under FISA, but rather they didn't vote to explicitly disallow it." Ah, that makes more sense. Thank you. – Chipster May 16 at 4:30

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