Perdue Ditches Constitution on Warrantless Data Collection Amendment

Georgia’s U.S. Senators were on opposite sides of the aisle last week when an amendment, which would have forced the government to get a warrant before obtaining the internet search history of Americans under the FISA Act, failed to get enough votes for passage.

Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler split on the bipartisan Wyden-Daines Amendment by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democrat, and Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, a Republican, which would have expressly prohibited the collection of this information in the secret courts that all too often come under fire. 

[A more lengthy explanation of the Wyden-Daines Amendment, the PATRIOT Act, the USA Freedom Act, and more in this link]

“[T]he question is not whether you did anything wrong. The question is whether a government agent believes they have the right to look at your web searches. In other words, it’s open season on anyone’s most personal information.” – Senator Ron Wyden.

The amendment failed in a vote of 59-37. The measure needed 60 votes to pass.

Four Senators were absent, Alexander (R-TN), Murray (D-WA), Sanders (I-VT), and Sasse (R-NE), though it was reported that Alexander was in self-quarantine due to a staffer testing positive for COVID-19. 

Due to the absence of at least two Senators who later said they would have supported the measure, a number of civil liberties organizations, including the ACLU, FreedomWorks, Constitutional Alliance, and Freedom of the Press Foundation, requested Monday that the Senate either add the Wyden-Daines Amendment language to the final bill or put the Amendment back on the floor for an additional vote, citing that “support for the underlying policy is now abundantly clear, both within Congress and among the public.” 

In the joint letter by the groups said, they asserted the following:

The FBI should not be allowed to use the PATRIOT Act to surveil Americans’ online activity without a warrant. Internet search and browsing history is extremely revealing in nature and the Fourth Amendment requires a warrant to obtain this information. As the Supreme Court in Riley noted, “An Internet search and browsing history, for example, can be found on an Internet-enabled phone and could reveal an individual’s private interests or concerns…Section 215 was never intended to allow the government to collect such information, and the Wyden-Daines amendment would make this prohibition crystal clear. Given the government’s failure to disclose whether it believes it can collect this information under Section 215 already, the bright-line rule reflected in the Wyden-Daines amendment is sorely needed.

27 Republicans voted NO

Barrasso, John (R-WY)
Blackburn, Marsha (R-TN)
Blunt, Roy (R-MO)
Boozman, John (R-AR)
Burr, Richard (R-NC)
Capito, Shelley Moore (R-WV)
Collins, Susan M. (R-ME)
Cornyn, John (R-TX)
Cotton, Tom (R-AR)
Fischer, Deb (R-NE)
Graham, Lindsey (R-SC)
Hyde-Smith, Cindy (R-MS)
Inhofe, James M. (R-OK)
Johnson, Ron (R-WI)
Lankford, James (R-OK)
McConnell, Mitch (R-KY)
Perdue, David (R-GA)
Portman, Rob (R-OH)
Roberts, Pat (R-KS)
Romney, Mitt (R-UT)
Rubio, Marco (R-FL)
Shelby, Richard C. (R-AL)
Thune, John (R-SD)
Tillis, Thom (R-NC)
Toomey, Patrick J. (R-PA)
Wicker, Roger F. (R-MS)
Young, Todd (R-IN)

10 Democrats voted NO

Carper, Thomas R. (D-DE)
Casey, Robert P., Jr. (D-PA)
Feinstein, Dianne (D-CA)
Hassan, Margaret Wood (D-NH)
Jones, Doug (D-AL)
Kaine, Tim (D-VA)
Manchin, Joe, III (D-WV)
Shaheen, Jeanne (D-NH)
Warner, Mark R. (D-VA)
Whitehouse, Sheldon (D-RI)

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1 month ago

I truly don’t understand the No votes. Please help me fill in any missing gap, because my only understanding of why to vote No is based upon the fact that these Senators are essentially trusting every intelligence agent to only surveil this information when there is some sort of reasonable suspicion of terrorism. That means they may be hawkish on terrorism, but also believe that the reasonable suspicion of terrorism would not always rise to the level of probable cause sufficient to obtain a warrant, or that obtaining a warrant is just too much effort? As far as trusting the… Read more »

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