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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JimWhiteGNV RT @Bipartisanism: This brave activist had a "Scott Walker for president" sign he flipped over at the last second to reveal this: http://t.…
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emptywheel Scott Walker's followers are also Ellen Degeneres followers? http://t.co/5pOiDqYtRp Huh.
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emptywheel @gregorylent Somewhere in the Snowden releases they have numbers. @MicahZenko
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emptywheel @LiveFromGround Absolutely and thanks for doing so. Just want to note limits of application of this. @joshwolf
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emptywheel @LiveFromGround Note the bit about it not working in criminal case bc DOJ will just immunize, but thanks for reminder of @joshwolf case.
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emptywheel @DanaHoule Alternately GOP just wants whole new slot of losers this time, untainted by previous loserdom* *Special loser exception for Bush
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emptywheel @Popehat (Yeah, I noted that in the piece)
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emptywheel .@Popehat If anyone wants to leak to me in a potentially CIVIL matter, I'm good!
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emptywheel Anyone wants to leak to me I'm in MI and I can invoke the Fifth (tho not the First)... https://t.co/UqNe1mPff8
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emptywheel The Sixth Circuit Upholds Journalist’s Right to Invoke the Fifth Amendment https://t.co/UqNe1mPff8
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emptywheel @onekade "Our nation was founded on the genius idea that if we justified slavery using religion we could claim to be 'exceptional' nation."
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emptywheel @joanneleon ANd you know who the mole was he placed outside Oval to accomplish that? Cheney's future defense atty Terry O'Donnell.
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