Saturday, May 11, 2013

Actually, We Think You Do Need a Warrant, Bipartisan Team of Congresscritters Tells Administration

EmailActually, We Think You Do Need a Warrant, Bipartisan Team of Congresscritters Tells Administration:
Usually, when Republicans and
Democrats link hands and sing "Kumbaya," I grab my wallet and look
for someplace to hide. But donkeys and elephants alike — at least,
some of them — have found something truly worthy of agreement: They
think the federal government should get a warrant before it goes
snooping through Americans' email. As noted by Reason 24/7,

Sen. Mo Udall
(D-CO) and a
flock of House members
from both parties are pushing
legislation that would essentially point to the Fourth Amendment
and say, "we really mean it."
According to
CNet's Declan McCullagh:

Now Udall, a Colorado Democrat, is taking aim at the Justice
Department, which has claimed the right to conduct warrantless
searches of Americans' e-mail, Facebook chats, and other private
communications.
"I am extremely concerned that the Justice Department and FBI
are justifying warrantless searches of Americans' electronic
communications based on a loophole in an outdated law that the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled was unconstitutional,"
Udall said in a statement sent to CNET Thursday.
Udall's statement cites a CNET article yesterday that was the
first to disclose the Justice Department and the FBI's electronic
search policies. The article was based on internal government
documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The senator's statement urges Congress to move quickly to update
the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act -- enacted during an
era of dialup modems and the black and white Macintosh Plus -- that
currently does not require search warrants for all e-mail messages.
The 6th Circuit ruled in 2010, however, that the privacy
protections enshrined in the Fourth Amendment require police to
obtain search warrants signed by a judge first.
As the ACLU
notes
, that Sixth Circuit decision, United
States v. Warshak
, technically only applies in four
states, so prosecutors and agents elsewhere have blissfully carried
on, hoping the ruling and its search and seizure restrictions don't
become contagious. In fact, the FBI continues to provide
national guidance to its employees that ignores
Warshak.
Members of the House are also on the case, says
Politico's Alex Byers
:
Four Republican congressmen introduced a pair of bills this week
that would require government investigators to score a warrant
before obtaining someone’s email content. Arizona Reps. Matt Salmon
and Trent Franks are partnering on a House version of ECPA reform;
Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder and Georgia Rep. Tom Graves are teaming up
on the Email Privacy Act.
Both bills are companion measures to legislation from Sens.
Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) that cleared the Senate
Judiciary Committee last month. Leahy has long been pushing to
update the rules. This week’s Republican bills were an exclamation
point after Lee officially signed on to Leahy’s push and Republican
Rep. Ted Poe of Texas joined an ECPA reform measure by California
Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren.
Byers speculates that recent revelations about the Internal
Revenue Service — never a public favorite —
snooping on private communications
may have helped spark
widespread interest in privacy protections that's motivating
general reform. The IRS has since promised that, uh uh, it would
never, ever do that again. But it seems to be game over.
Frankly, it doesn't matter what gets Republicans and Democrats
working together on something that actually limits the government,
so long as they do it.