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. It is only the criminals who need to worry about privacy. They live in the shadows of the law and want us good people to cower and not bring them to justice. The more the government knows about me, the more they will have to admit that I am a good person.

    1. You’ll love the day the public gets to see you in the restroom, the bedroom, the workplace and every hidey-hole you can imagine. Any data about you can be twisted to bribe, extort or stomp you by crooks who see you in their way of a national, or any level, take over. You either seem to have no insight of the power available to crooks with this bill, or just want to be gullible.

      1. I guess that I live in a Utopia here in Vancouver Canada. We have a different attitude from the US and consequently live more freely than our American cousins. True freedom is achieved by being obedient to the laws of the country and especially the laws of God.

        I have been lucky enough to choose to live among law abiding people. Good luck to those of you who want to hide crime and live in fear of everything.

        1. You live in Vancouver! That explains a lot.

          A Bible Thumper from The Left Coast. Vancouver, a city so liberal there is a crack seller on almost every downtown street corner.

          Paradise, Lotus Land, who needs a job, this city invented social assistance.

          1. Interesting perspective for someone who has never been in Vancouver nor lived there. I am also not a Bible thumper and not even a Christian so that shows you that you don’t have the measure of me yet.

    2. I’m glad to hear you’re so delusional about the value of privacy! Your suspiciously vocal denial of having anything to shows that you DO have something deep about yourself that you think needs to remain hidden. It’s fortunate that your breed of ignorance is too self-centered and self-destructive to be a serious threat to my rights.

    3. I believe it was the East German Stasi who famously said “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”. These were the same people that tortured political dissenters and shot people trying to leave the country without official permission.

      Government is there to serve the people, not to rule us.

  2. Revised Senate bill lets feds read your e-mail Without Warrants

    Sen. Patrick Leahy’s has reworked his privacy bill H.R. 2471 touted to protect Americans’ e-mail privacy (into a surveillance bill) that will allow the FBI, police and more than 22 federal agencies without probable cause or warrant to access Americans’ private email and other communications –-using only a subpoena. Alleged seized evidence may be introduced in court against Americans in U.S. Civil; Criminal and Administrative prosecutions. Police and federal agencies can take out of context any innocent—hastily written email, fax or phone call record to allege a crime or violation was committed to cause a person’s arrest, fines and or civil asset forfeiture of their property. There are more than 350 laws/violations that can subject property to Government forfeiture that require only a civil preponderance of evidence.

    Some idiot might send you an email that appears to include you as a participant in a crime or conspiracy: the Feds can without a warrant introduce that email as evidence in court against you or your business. A Senate vote on Sen. Patrick Leahy’s warrant-less access bill is scheduled before November 30, 2012.

    A corrupt U.S. Government Administration or agency may without a warrant or probable cause search the email of any American or corporation politically at odds with the U.S. Government. Hitler used his Gestapo to target for blackmail, arrest and asset forfeiture, German Citizens and Corporations that opposed the Nazi party.

    The U.S. “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000” (effectively eliminated) the “five year statue of limitations” for Government Civil Asset Forfeiture: the statute now runs five years (from the date) government or a police agency allege they “learned” an asset became subject to forfeiture. It is foreseeable should (no warrant) government electronic surveillance be allowed; police will relentlessly sift through business and Citizens’ (government retained Internet data), emails and phone communications to discover possible criminal or civil violations.

    Under U.S. federal civil asset forfeiture laws, a person or business need not be charged with a crime for government to forfeit their property. Most U.S. Citizens, property and business owners that defend their assets against Government Civil Asset Forfeiture claim an “innocent owner defense.” This defense can become a criminal prosecution trap for both guilty and innocent property owners. Any fresh denial of guilt made to government when questioned about committing a crime “even when you did not do the crime” may (involuntarily waive) a defendant’s right to assert in their defense—the “Criminal Statute of Limitations” past for prosecution; any fresh denial of guilt even 30 years after a crime was committed may allow U.S. Government prosecutors to use old and new evidence, including information discovered during Civil Asset Forfeiture Proceedings to launch a criminal prosecution. For that reason: many innocent Americans, property and business owners are reluctant to defend their property and businesses against Government Civil Asset Forfeiture.

    Annually U.S. Government seizes Billions in assets without filing criminal charges. Increasingly local police are turning their criminal investigations over to Federal Agencies to receive an 80% rebate of forfeited assets. Federal Government is not required to charge anyone with a crime to forfeit property.

    Re: waiving Criminal Statute of Limitations: see USC18, Sec.1001, James Brogan V. United States.

    N0.96-1579. U.S. See paragraph (6) at:

    Can Canadians Hold Out Against Their Government’s Forceful Efforts to Wiretap Their Lives?

    It was recently reported: the Canadian Government intends to resurrect (Commons Bill C-30) that Canadians earlier this year rejected. Canadians discovered that (Commons Bill C-30) touted to protect children on the Internet—would also give any Canadian police officer—without a warrant—the power to request Internet service providers turn over customers’ information (see section 17 of C-30); allow Canadian police to seek into Canadians’ private computers. C-30 was strongly opposed by Canadians in April 2012. Canadians further discovered Canada had signed with the United States an array of (Asset Forfeiture Sharing Agreements) for Canada to share Canadian and Americans’ assets civilly or criminally confiscated using Asset Forfeiture laws that result from U.S. and Canada sharing information gleaned from electronic surveillance of Canadian / American Citizens’ communications, e.g., emails, faxes, Internet actively, phone records.

    You may read more about Sen. Patrick Leahy’s reworked his privacy bill H.R. 2471 at CNET:


    1. Yep, and a supine, ass-licking British government, led by Princess Blair, saw a law passed that allows the US to extradite any UK citizen based on the merest hint of wrong-doing, and the above, posted by Rwolf, would pretty much allow them to invent anything they want, just to get a suitable patsy.

  3. The Constitution is a dead letter. Give up on it. Nobody in the official world cares anymore. It is routine to simply ignore the Constitution and do whatever you feel like, knowing full well that odds are great that nothing will ever happen to you.

    The mechanism is for the Supreme Court to say over and over that whatever you read there doesn’t mean what you think it does. It may as well be written in a dead language. Everything is being reinterpreted to allow fascism and dictatorship.

    There will be a lot of noise right up until martial law takes over and they out all the “constitutionals” and imprison them indefinitely. Get ready for it.

    1. Yep, those who expected the Constitution to hang by a thread got to see it. Whether the thread broke or not, I dont know.

      The ironic thing, those from the “love” or “Woodstock” generation that wanted to be left alone to do what they wanted are now the ones in charge controlling everybody else.

  4. “It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”

    – Joseph Stalin

  5. For what it’s worth, Sen Leahy’s office says the CNET report is completely wrong and that the bill will indeed require warrants to access email. Before we proclaim the republic and our rights dead perhaps we should entertain the idea that CNET got it wrong. The truth will come when the final bill markup is complete and submitted for a vote. If warranties access does end up in the bill, then there is cause for huge concern. Either way, contacting our senators now is probably the best option rather than just ranting and raving here. Despite our cynicism, that does make a difference.


  6. Fourth Amendment Of the US Constitution:

    “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, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”


    No email is public. It never will be.

    IOW: Our Senators are IDIOT LOUT TRAITORS.

    IOW: Our Corporate Oligarchy, who PUPPET our US government, are IDIOT LOUT TRAITORS.

    1. For anyone who doesn’t like the government puppets of Big Money to take away all your rights, please email your senators to vote against the Electronics Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2011. If you don’t write to your senators, then I guess I’ll see you at the US forced labor camps in a few years, over webcam preferably for me.

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