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. Continuing my research dump:

    Thomas Jefferson: “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

    Benjamin Franklin: Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

    Your right to privacy: Use it or lose it.

    Clearly our Corporate Oligarchy and their puppets prefer that you LOSE IT.

  2. There are references only to the email accounts of Americans. How would that work ? Would those with authority have first to determine if the account belongs to an American? Or would they have access to any email account on a U.S. server even if it belongs to someone from andliving in another country? I live in the U.K. and my email account may well be hosted on a server in the U.S. Many many other non-U.S. people around the world are in the same position and would be shocked to hear that U.S. authorities could access their emails without a warrant

    1. It is entirely legal to surveil all NON-US citizen accounts within the USA. The US Constitution applies the Fourth Amendment to all US citizens, not foreigners.

      Therefore, this unconstitutional bill is making an EXCEPTION, illegally bypassing the US Constitution, to ALSO allow surveillance of US citizens WITHOUT a Constitutionally guaranteed warrant.

      The result is that EVERYONE gets surveilled, US citizen or not.

  3. This is all nothing compared to what is going on here, with full cooperation of the Obambi.

    “As Americans focused on the U.S. presidential election, the United Nations and a wide swath of its autocratic member regimes were drafting a plan to give a little-known UN agency control over the online world. Among the most contentious schemes: a plot to hand the International Telecommunications Union a so-called “kill switch” for the Internet that critics say would be used to smash free speech.

    The ITU’s proposals to “reform” the Internet, drafted in secret and quietly published online last week, revealed a broad plan to rein in what, up until now, has been a largely unregulated tool allowing people all over the world to freely express their views at little to no cost financially. Unlike dictatorships such as the communist regime ruling over mainland China and the governments of Muslim-dominated countries, most Western-style governments have been unable or unwilling to regulate the Web apart from minor restrictions on subjects such as child pornography and the like.

    However, that could all change soon — at least if the UN and its tyrannical member states get their way, with a broad coalition of Islamist autocrats and communist despots joining forces to quash freedom of expression for everyone. Representatives from almost 200 governments and dictatorships will be meeting behind closed doors next month at the “World Conference on International Telecommunications” (WCIT) in the United Arab Emirates to discuss handing complete control over the internet to the ITU.

    Last week, the UN and the dictatorship ruling Azerbaijan hosted the so-called “Internet Governance Forum” (IGF) in Baku under the banner of “Internet Governance for Sustainable Human, Economic, and Social Development.” Critics slammed the forum, the notion of “Internet Governance,” and especially the host regime, known for its barbaric repression of free speech. But while no binding decisions were made there, UN leaders and despots from around the world took the opportunity to prepare for the upcoming ITU summit in Dubai.

    The widely condemned ITU plan calls for reforms that would stifle free speech, regulate social media, force Internet users to pay “fees” for services like Skype and e-mail, and much more. Among the chief problems cited by analysts is a plan to allow UN members — mostly dictatorships — to demand that the ITU shut down content they do not approve of. The scheme would also create a global Internet surveillance regime while permitting governments to restrict or block online information. Anonymity on the Web would become a thing of the past, too.

  4. So, Obama care was not enough for them? Seriously, this is getting out of hand. Who is the moron trying to legalize this?

    …oh wait, who were the morons who put them there?

  5. The real difference between Republicans and Democrats: Republicans want to take away your rights and freedoms to protect you from outsiders, Democrats want to protect you from yourself.

    1. It gets far more complicated than that.

      I get the best perspective by thinking outside the government, from the point of view of the lobbyists, particularly our Corporate Oligarchy. It is THEY who wrote and shoved both SOPA and PIPA into the US Congress. Their point is to violate the US Constitution in pursuit of media pirates, etc. The result, however, is ENTIRELY different.

      Like I said: Traitorous idiot louts.

    2. I’m uncertain about republicans. But recently, the Democrats have shown an interest in complete control.

      If you look at the finer details of Obama Care, for instance, you will notice it may violate the first 5 amendments in the Bill of Rights.

  6. Well if all information is going to always be public then it will negate the need for passwords. That will reduce the stress of having to remember a humpteen different passwords. That’s good isn’t it.

    Okay okay, I’ll pull my thumb out… Yes right, this is nasty business and I’m sorry but it is GWB’s fault. (Actually I think it more the state within the state that Harry [Mr. Truman] warned us about on his way out of the White House, sometimes referred to as the government within a government. The President of the United States always has to have “plausible deniability”, which means he really can’t know the really bad stuff that he is indirectly signing off on via legitimate legislative processes.) However, Mr. Obama promised in his first election that he would begin repealing these clearly unconstitutional invasions of privacy foregoing any due-processes, and I’m also sorry, but to my knowledge, not a one has been reversed.

    Seems to me it’s come to be a lot less about who’s in power and a lot more about what’s in power.

      1. In this day and age there is no justifiable reason for the Internet falling under US jurisdiction. It’s mostly beyond US borders already. It should be run by an internationally focussed organisation and overseen by similar.

  7. This site is a fool leading the fools. Why? Because its fine when they lose liberties when their party tells them too. They only care when the opposing party has responsibility. If you’ll lose all your liberties for your home team wtf does it matter? Where was this outrage when the Republican Party stole your liberties? Can’t see your own hypocrisy yet? If ever?

  8. Tyranny and despotism never take a vacation. The same can’t be said of the american people when it came to protecting their Constitution; a document incapable of protecting itself.

Reader Feedback

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