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: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz @KellyFlood3 I have come to accept that my dog will be more important in internet life, despite a decade or more, than I will. Oh well!
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bmaz @jilliancyork Woof!! Yikes is missed http://t.co/ujHOwJ0EQs
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JimWhiteGNV Three Americans Are Killed in a Shooting at Kabul Airport , via @nytimes http://t.co/5CLD6I2i50
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bmaz @emptywheel A sterling, though not quite gold, point you make.
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JimWhiteGNV @LeslieMolony Yeah. Pretty sure that was yesterday's rat that she let age a while.
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bmaz RT @ColMorrisDavis: @bmaz I agree.
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bmaz RT @Sunshine2015K: @bmaz Recall Petition filed against Snohomish County Prosecutor 4 misappropriation of public funds; residents fed up w/c…
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bmaz If there is a dumber show about law on popular TV than "How to Get Away With Murder", it is hard to imagine what it could possibly be.
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emptywheel @HinaShamsi In retrospect, writing GWOT Finding to permit CIA to do whatever they want w/detainees, including torture might not @Krhawkins5
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emptywheel @bmaz Well, he'll be sure to use those same steak secrets against me if he ever tries to prosecute. There's precedent, you know.
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emptywheel RT @MikeScarcella: Chicago prosecutors drop drug conspiracy charges against more than two dozen defendants in ATF stash-house stings http:/…
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bmaz @emptywheel There is no accounting for taste. Anywhoo, you cannot inquire into "steak secrets" according to my friend the Clap.
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