U.S. Senate bill rewrite lets feds read your e-mail, online files without warrants

“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,” Declan McCullagh reports for CNET. “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.”

McCullagh reports, “Christopher Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said requiring warrantless access to Americans’ data ‘undercuts’ the purpose of Leahy’s original proposal. ‘We believe a warrant is the appropriate standard for any contents,’ he said… This is a bitter setback for Internet companies and a liberal-conservative-libertarian coalition, which had hoped to convince Congress to update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act to protect documents stored in the cloud. Leahy glued those changes onto an unrelated privacy-related bill supported by Netflix… Members of the so-called Digital Due Process coalition include Apple, Amazon.com, Americans for Tax Reform, AT&T, the Center for Democracy and Technology, eBay, Google, Facebook, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, TechFreedom, and Twitter.”

“Leahy, a former prosecutor, has a mixed record on privacy. He criticized the FBI’s efforts to require Internet providers to build in backdoors for law enforcement access, and introduced a bill in the 1990s protecting Americans’ right to use whatever encryption products they wanted,” McCullagh reports. “An excerpt from Leahy’s revised legislation authorizing over 22 federal agencies to obtain Americans’ e-mail without a search warrant signed by a judge. Click for larger image.”

“But he also authored the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which is now looming over Web companies, as well as the reviled Protect IP Act. An article in The New Republic concluded Leahy’s work on the Patriot Act “appears to have made the bill less protective of civil liberties.” Leahy had introduced significant portions of the Patriot Act under the name Enhancement of Privacy and Public Safety in Cyberspace Act a year earlier,” McCullagh reports. “One obvious option for the Digital Due Process coalition is the simplest: if Leahy’s committee proves to be an insurmountable roadblock in the Senate, try the courts instead.”

More info in the full article here.

UPDATE: 5:08pm EDT: U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy hits back at report that legislation would decrease Americans’ privacy.

MacDailyNews Take: How much liberty are you willing to squander? When is enough finally enough?

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause…” — Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety – Benjamin Franklin, February 1775

We’d tell you to contact Leahy, but, come on, would it really make any difference? A Democrat in Vermont is slightly less endangered than the cockroach in Queens.

The bill is referred to as “Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2011“. U.S. citizens, contact your U.S. Senators via email here (have at it anyway concerned Vermonters) and let them know how you feel about this revised bill.

UPDATE: 5:08pm EDT: U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy hits back at report that legislation would decrease Americans’ privacy.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “trevor7578” for the heads up.]


  1. In the beginning a patriot is a scarce man, hated and feared and scorned. But in time when his cause succeeds, the timid join him, because then it costs nothing to be patriot.
    -Mark Twain

  2. The Constitution was such a quaint document. Full of all those rights, freedoms, and concepts of liberty. We don’t need that shit anymore because the government will take care of everything for us.

    Time to start stocking up on Guy Fawkes masks.

    1. It is always good to remember that the writers of our constitution owned slaves and never intended women to have the vote. They were not a group of Jesus clones who had no selfish interests. They certainly could not have envisioned the world as it exists today. We tend to believe these were all noble and brilliant men. They were not, many were as craven as any politician today. Quoting Reagan is wonderful, but if he were running today he would be left of Obama, he was nothing like the typical good old boy teabagger of today. Study history, turn off FOX news. And wait until you read the bill, CNET gets a lot of things wrong.

      1. Excuse me. I knew Ronald Reagan personally. I have photographs of me with Reagan. Your statement that he would be left of Obama is absurd. Ridiculous. He would be at the forefront of the Tea Party movement today were he still living. I suggest you read Reagan’s letters and speeches as a beginning to your learning history. You’d do we’ll to watch FOX news instead of MSNBC.

    1. Just so you know…

      ‘Psychological projection’ or ‘projection bias’ is a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people. Thus, projection involves imagining or projecting the belief that others originate those feelings

      Projection reduces anxiety by allowing the expression of the unwanted unconscious impulses or desires without letting the conscious mind recognize them.

      An example of this behavior might be blaming another for self failure.

      1. @warbux

        Very good thought. Unfortunately, we are all guilty of this behavior no matter how “smart” we think we are. We spend a lot of time yelling at each other over politics, but maybe we all should spend a little more time yelling at ourselves.

  3. This clearly goes against the Constitution and no American in any political party should support. Let’s not try to force this into the left or right divisive framework.

  4. As a Canadian watching from the sidelines, it seems ironic that as America pushes it’s agenda for freedom and democracy around the world, it at the same time is rescinding the rights of it’s own people.

    It’s happening here too. I guess we’re just to stupid to choose for ourselves. Let the bureaucrats decide for us.

      1. A little sarcasm maybe?

        Of course it’s all about making a buck off the little guy. We’re taxed much higher up here and I’m not willing to give any more so the government can just piss it away. Welcome to the welfare state.

        I should say at this rate…continent.

      1. The difference between 2008 and 2012 is 2012 sealed the death. 2012 confirmed the 47% has become the majority and the fears of the founding fathers have been realized. I sense the hopes and dreams of many have been substituted for birth control and obamaphones..

        Slaves and women did not have the right to vote is because by definition they did not own property (ie have a vested interest). The 47% do not have a vested interest and should not be allowed to vote.

        Criminals are on welfare and they dont have a right to vote. Think about it.

        The Magna Carta and the Constitution were created and brought forth by the rich and educated. The poor and ignorant have taken hostage our freedoms. Unfortunately, our educational system has created many of the poor and ignorant. No more money for education.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.