Sen. Patrick Leahy

ECPA Amendments and Privacy in a Post Petraeus World

One of the issues making the rounds like wildfire today was a report from Declan McCullagh at CNET regarding certain proposed amendments to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). The article is entitled “Senate Bill Rewrite Lets Feds Read Your E-mail Without Warrants” and relates:

A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans’ e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law.

CNET has learned that Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans’ e-mail, is scheduled for next week.

Leahy’s rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies — including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission — to access Americans’ e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge. (CNET obtained the revised draft from a source involved in the negotiations with Leahy.)

This sounds like the predictably craven treachery that regularly comes out of Senate, indeed Congressional, legislation on privacy issues. And exactly what many had hoped would cease coming out of Washington after the public scrutiny brought on by the Petraeus/Broadwell/Kelley scandal. And, should these amendments make it into law, they may yet prove detrimental.

But there are a couple of problems here. First, as Julian Sanchez noted, those abilities by the government already substantially exist.

Lots of people RTing CNET’s story today seem outraged Congress might allow access to e-mail w/o warrant—but that’s the law ALREADY!

Well, yes. Secondly, and even more problematic, is Pat Leahy vehemently denies the CNET report. In fact, Senator Leahy does not support broad exemptions for warrantless searches for email content. A source within the Judiciary Committee described the situation as follows: Continue reading

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bmaz @ryanlcooper @Atrios I have one whippersnapper. Of course, it is full of cactus.....
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emptywheel @daveweigel Yes and its awful.
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emptywheel So apparently the Producer on this reality show kicked out the girl to make room for the blowhard to come back.
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bmaz @maxicat12 @jayrosen_nyu Never on Facebook, can't stand it. And not crazy about most changes to Twitter, but its still quite usable for now
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emptywheel @Atrios And you figured that out bc of your analytical genius? Or spent just enough time in London and Spain?
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emptywheel @Atrios I know. But what cured your neoliberalism? Getting out of grad school, or getting out of Econ altogether?
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emptywheel And because Rick Snyder handpicked EM made a fuckup that has cost MI ~$40M + $30M more, he blames Barack Obama. https://t.co/GecPIQhxmN
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bmaz @maxicat12 @jayrosen_nyu I assume it would be a preference, similar to location on or off. But who knows?
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emptywheel According to Snyder he has had to spend $67.35M (tho $30M hasn't been approved) to make up for his fuckup in Flint. https://t.co/ZjpFLQrMn3
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emptywheel @Atrios What cured you?
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emptywheel This is hearing where Clapper usu tells a lie (where he said USG doesn't wittingly collect on millions of USPs) https://t.co/UWCQYlDb0H
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emptywheel @RossleRed Pretty sure I was told by admin people at UM those two buildings were built to deter protestors, assume 3rd is the same.
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