Privacy

Sen. Leahy's Office Says Warrantless Searches Won't Be in Tech Bill

Draft of bill circulating that would allow regulatory access to private electronic correspondence not under consideration

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A report from CNet today claims that a bill up for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee next week that was supposed to increase privacy protections around our email would instead do the opposite, allowing many federal agencies to gain access to your email without a warrant. However, my reporting suggests the article is inaccurate. Here's what CNet says:

CNET has learned that Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns….  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.

This would be particularly disturbing in the wake of the scandal surrounding Generals Petraeus and Allen, whose emails were exposed during a wide-ranging and questionable FBI investigation and have brought the discussion of limits on the surveillance state to the fore. But when reached by phone, Patrick Leahy's spokesperson David Carle bluntly said the article was "wrong."