Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing forward with an amendment that would let the FBI collect records on Americans’ web-browsing and search histories without a warrant this week.
McConnell proposed the amendment as part of the renewal of the 2001 Patriot Act, The Daily Beast first reported. The Senate is voting on amendments this week.
The McConnell amendment would let Department of Justice officials — overseen by Attorney General Bill Barr — look through anyone’s browsing history without the approval of a judge if they deem the browsing history is relevant to an investigation. It blocks the FBI from accessing the “content” of people’s web-browsing history but would let the FBI access records detailing which sites and search terms people entered.
The proposal has drawn backlash from a bipartisan group of senators, as well as from both liberal and conservative civil-liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans for Prosperity.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and Republican Sen. Steve Daines jointly proposed an amendment that would require the FBI to obtain a warrant before accessing people’s web-browsing history — but their amendment failed by just one vote Wednesday, bringing warrantless searches of web-browsing history one step closer to becoming law.
“When you talk about web browsing and searches, you’re talking about some of the most sensitive, most personal, and most private details of Americans’ lives. Every thought that can come into people’s heads can be revealed in an internet search or a visit to a website,” Wyden said in a statement to Business Insider.
McConnell’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a joint op-ed, ACLU counsel Neema Singh Guliani and Americans for Prosperity analyst Billy Easley decried warrantless web-browsing searches as “secret spying” and “unjust.”
As it weighs the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, the Senate is also considering amendments that would give the attorney general more oversight of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court, which handles investigations into political candidates.
The Senate is voting on the amendments Wednesday and Thursday.