The US Senate just voted to let the FBI access your browsing history without a warrant

The United States Senate has cast their votes to hand law enforcement agencies the right to access people’s web browsing data without the need for a warrant, substantially expanding the government’s powers of surveillance at the height of the coronavirus crisis.

The power grab was led by Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, as part of a reintroduction of the Patriot Act, which hands federal agencies an extension of surveillance powers in the domestic area. Senators Steve Daines and Ron Wyden tried to fight the expansion of power with the help of a bipartisan amendment.

Unfortunately, however, the privacy-preserving amendment did not get the one vote it needed after a number of senators who would have cast a “Yes” vote did not attend the session.

This includes Bernie Sanders.

Nine Democratic senators cast a “No” vote, causing the amendment to fall short of the 60 votes it needed to top.

“The Patriot Act should be repealed in its entirety, set on fire and buried in the ground,” Deputy director of Fight For The Future, Evan Greer, told Vice’s Motherboard magazine. “It’s one of the worst laws passed in the last century, and there is zero evidence that the mass surveillance programs it enables have ever saved a single human life.”

The new law comes at a moment of extremely high internet usage, with millions of Americans self-isolating at home during the coronavirus crisis.

Champions of the right to privacy have been warning for many years that permitting unlimited access to internet searches allows law enforcement to crack-down on activists, protest organizers, and anyone else the government sees as a threat.

“Today the Senate made clear that the purpose of the PATRIOT Act is to spy on Americans, no warrants or due process necessary,” Director of product at Fight For the Future, Dayton Young, told Motherboard. “Any lawmaker who votes to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act is voting against our constitutionally-protected freedoms, and there’s nothing patriotic about that.”

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