Sen. Leahy Drops Controversial Warrantless E-mail Surveillance Bill
by Raven Clabough
Wednesday, 21 November 2012
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has announced that he will not be supporting the controversial Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) Amendments Act, which he wrote, after fierce criticism arose from a variety of groups over his revision to the bill allowing federal agencies warrantless access to Americans’ e-mail accounts. The revised version of the legislation was antithetical to the original measure, which included a requirement for a search warrant.
CNET News had reported of the revised bill,
Leahy’s rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies — including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission — to access Americans’ email, 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.
Agencies that would be granted civil subpoena authority for electronic communications through the revised legislation include the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Maritime Commission, the Postal Regulatory Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Mine Enforcement Safety and Health Review Commission.
Leahy’s revisions were significant, as the previous version of his bill required police to obtain a search warrant as a result of probable cause before they were permitted to access e-mail or other methods of communication.
But the outcry against the revisions forced Leahy to announce on Twitter Tuesday evening that he would “not support such an exception” for warrantless access. His remarks came just hours after CNET News published the article that exposed the revisions.