Privacy-minded senators on Wednesday blocked an amendment that would give the FBI power to take internet records, including browser histories and email metadata, without a court order. But the victory may be fleeting.
Just one vote kept the measure from clearing a 60-vote procedural hurdle, and political arm-twisting may soon result in a second vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., switched his vote to “no” to allow reconsideration in the near future. That made the final tally 58-38, with four senators not voting.
Critics of the propsed expasion of the FBI’s ability to demand records with national security letters, or NSLs, are urging opponents to flood their senators with calls. There were some unexpected “yes” votes, such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who they hope to flip as some of the four senators who did not vote are viewed as tougher sells.
“It’s obviously a good thing that this didn’t move forward in the Senate,” says Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “This would be an expansion of the Patriot Act and a very substantial one that would allow the FBI to get what many people consider their most sensitive information.”
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