Senator Ron Wyden late Tuesday withdrew his support for a House amendment aimed at curbing the FBI’s ability to collect the internet search and browsing records of Americans without a warrant.
A Wyden spokesperson told Gizmodo the Oregon senator’s decision came shortly after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff provided a statement to the New York Times that downplayed the amendment’s impact on the FBI’s ability to acquire the records.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who cosponsored the amendment with Rep. Warren Davidson, had characterized the privacy provisions as prohibiting the FBI from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to acquire “a list of everyone who has visited a particular website, watched a particular video or made a particular search query” without a warrant unless it could guarantee records of Americans web browsing activities were not included.
In a statement to the Times, however, Schiff appeared to dismiss that interpretation, saying the amendment’s language allowed room for the FBI to obtain records on a website’s visitors whether they are American or not, so long as the records are relevant to a foreign intelligence investigation.
Wyden, who cosponsored his own amendment with Sen. Steve Daines in the Senate aimed at prohibiting such monitoring, immediately withdrew his support after seeing the statement and said Schiff was trying to protect the FBI’s ability to conduct “dragnet” surveillance of U.S. citizens.
“The House Intelligence Committee chairman’s assertion that the Lofgren-Davidson amendment does not fully protect Americans from warrantless collection flatly contradicts the intent of Wyden-Daines, and my understanding of the amendment agreed to earlier today,” Wyden said in a statement to Gizmodo.
“It is now clear that there is no agreement with the House Intelligence Committee to enact true protections for Americans’ rights against dragnet collection of online activity, which is why I must oppose this amendment, along with the underlying bill, and urge the House to vote on the original Wyden-Daines amendment,” Wyden said.
A spokesperson for Schiff did not immediately respond for comment
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.