News Release

Schiff and McConnell Fail to Increase Barr’s Surveillance Powers

SEAN VITKA, sean at demandprogress.org, @demandprogress
Vitka is senior policy counsel at Demand Progress, which just released a statement: “Senate adopts key privacy protection measure for the USA PATRIOT Act.”

The group states: “The Senate just adopted the Lee-Leahy amendment to the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act (H.R. 6172). The amendment creates critical safeguards that help address well-documented problems with FISA surveillance, for instance by ensuring independent review of applications targeting religious groups and the media.

“The deeply flawed underlying legislation would revive Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, as well as the ‘lone wolf’ and ‘roving wiretap’ authorities, which expired on March 15, 2020, until December 1, 2023.

“Senators Daines, Leahy, Lee, Paul, Udall, Wyden, and others were able to guarantee two other votes on amendments. All amendments require 60 votes to be adopted. Earlier today, Senators Daines and Wyden’s amendment failed — 59 to 37 — after ten Democrats sided with Mitch McConnell and Bill Barr and voted against protecting internet browsing and search histories with a warrant. Votes on Senator Paul’s amendment and final passage are expected in the near future.”

Vitka said: “No committee of jurisdiction marked up or passed the underlying legislation. Instead, through a backroom deal between Adam Schiff and Jim Jordan, leadership rammed the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act through the House without any chance to fix the glaring problems in the underlying bill. Majority Leader McConnell tried to do the same thing, but thanks to the courage of reformers in both chambers of Congress, as well as an outpouring of support from constituents, we were able to stop him.

“With today’s vote on the Daines-Wyden amendment, most Senators, and the vast majority of Democrats, voted to protect Americans’ internet activity with a warrant. It is unconscionable that ten Democrats instead voted against that amendment, siding with Bill Barr and Mitch McConnell.

“Nevertheless, adoption of the Lee-Leahy amendment is a major victory for Americans’ civil liberties. The Lee-Leahy amendment ensures an independent voice has access to and can raise issues with FISA surveillance targeting religious groups, political groups, and the media. The underlying bill remains broken, but adoption of the Lee-Leahy amendment represents a privacy victory well beyond what many believed to be possible.”