Covered at Reason 24/7: Department of Justice Looking to Expand Online Surveillance Powers


hi feds
Reason 24/7

The Department of Justice has dropped its push for police to be able to access e-mails without a warrant, but would still like federal agencies to have those powers, and more.

From CNET:

The Obama administration has dropped its insistence that police should be able to warrantlessly peruse Americans' e-mail correspondence.

But at the same time, the Justice Department is advancing new proposals that would expand government surveillance powers over e-mail messages, Twitter direct messages, and Facebook direct messages in other ways…

Elana Tyrangiel, a former White House lawyer who's now an acting assistant attorney general, will announce the department's new policy positions at a congressional hearing that's scheduled to take place tomorrow morning.

Tyrangiel's written testimony says the current rules—enacted during the pre-Internet era in the form of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986—"may have made sense in the past" but "have failed to keep up with the development of technology, and the ways in which individuals and companies use, and increasingly rely on, electronic and stored communications."

But she also says that the department's civil attorneys investigating antitrust, environmental, civil rights and other cases—and presumably other federal agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission—should have warrantless access to Americans' electronic correspondence.

The crux of the federal government's argument is that computers ought to be treated like landline telephones under the (pre-Internet) law.

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  1. So, which novel will this administration make non-fiction sooner: Atlas Shrugged, or 1984?

    1. But it’s to investigate antitrust, environmental, civil rights, SEC and FTC and tax violations!

      Why do you want more dead children?

    2. Ha! Obama has already far surpassed Big Brother’s surveillance capabilities and intrusiveness. Today’s Beltway Bandits make Wesley Mouch look like an anarcho-capitalist . Victimology is the state religion that celebrates the saintliness of looters and moochers.

      But, since there is no John Galt, I’d have to say 1984. The Junior Anti-Sex League is still missing, though.

      1. I thought they were called feminists.

  2. Whatever it takes to keep America and Her children safe.

    1. Why would any citizen object, unless they had something to hide?

      “To those who scare peace loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: your tactics aid terrorists…” according to Bush0bama Attorney General Ashcroft, and should be punished as the treason that it is!

  3. The crux of the federal government’s argument is that computers ought to be treated like landline telephones under the (pre-Internet) law.

    Wait, I thought you had to have a warrant to wiretap a landline phone…wouldn’t that be at odds with the gist of this story as the feds looking for warrantless snooping powers?

  4. Just a minor quibble – the government already has the power to monitor you 24/7 (and I’m pretty sure they use it in plenty of cases), what they want is the authority. The question is – will they continue to use the power without the authority? And who do you trust to tell us that they are continuing to use unauthorized powers when those powers become explicitly unauthorized?

    1. They will continue to monitor peoples’ communications regardless of whether Congress authorizes them to. What they want is for the results of those snoops to be admissible in court.

  5. Here’s a valuable piece of information: You don’t see headlines that say, “Department of Justice Looking to Contract _____________ Powers.”

    Government always seeks more power. Always. If we don’t do everything we can all the time to prevent its growth, more power it will get. Even in anarchy, everyone has to keep knocking down those seeking power over others. In miniarchy, it’s even harder, because some government is, by definition, accepted.

    1. SO the first step is to kill all the lawyers?

      1. If only it were that simple.

  6. Government always seeks more power.

    We should have established some sort of contractual arrangement specifying the powers and duties we consented to cede to the government.
    You know, to eliminate confusion.

    Why didn’t we think of that?

    1. The one we used apparently needs amending.

      1. I’m told it’s not a suicide pact.

        1. It’s not, but the distortions in its name very well may be.

  7. “This Constitution did not die of natural causes.

    “It was MURDER!”

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