Senate Bill gives govt. agencies WARRANTLESS access to everything you do on the internet

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I think this is the ‘‘Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2011’’ – or S. 1011.


The Obama Administration has been undermining the 1st and 2nd Amendments.

Here is an attack on the 4th.

I picked this up from CNET.

Senate bill rewrite lets feds read your e-mail without warrants

Proposed law scheduled for a vote next week originally increased Americans’ e-mail privacy. Then law enforcement complained. Now it increases government access to e-mail and other digital files.

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.

CNET has learned that Patrick Leahy, [hissssssss] 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.  [Call your Senators.]

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. (CNET obtained the revised draft from a source involved in the negotiations with Leahy.)

It’s an abrupt departure from Leahy’s earlier approach, which required police to obtain a search warrant backed by probable cause before they could read the contents of e-mail or other communications. The Vermont Democrat boasted last year that his bill “provides enhanced privacy protections for American consumers by… requiring that the government obtain a search warrant.”

Leahy had planned a vote on an earlier version of his bill, designed to update a pair of 1980s-vintage surveillance laws, in late September. But after law enforcement groups including the National District Attorneys’ Association and the National Sheriffs’ Association organizations objected to the legislation and asked him to “reconsider acting” on it, Leahy pushed back the vote and reworked the bill as a package of amendments to be offered next Thursday. The package (PDF) is a substitute for H.R. 2471, which the House of Representatives already has approved.


The list of agencies that would receive civil subpoena authority for the contents of electronic communications also includes the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Maritime Commission, the Postal Regulatory Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Mine Enforcement Safety and Health Review Commission.


Howdy’a like them apples?

Revised bill highlights

  • Grants warrantless access to Americans’ electronic correspondence to over 22 federal agencies. Only a subpoena is required, not a search warrant signed by a judge based on probable cause.
  • Permits state and local law enforcement to warrantlessly access Americans’ correspondence stored on systems not offered “to the public,” including university networks.
  • Authorizes any law enforcement agency to access accounts without a warrant — or subsequent court review — if they claim “emergency” situations exist.
  • Says providers “shall notify” law enforcement in advance of any plans to tell their customers that they’ve been the target of a warrant, order, or subpoena.
  • Delays notification of customers whose accounts have been accessed from 3 days to “10 business days.” This notification can be postponed by up to 360 days.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. jarhead462 says:

    Oh my- would that be “Leaky” Leahy? Who, during the Reagan administration shot off his big mouth about operatives in the field in Central America and got some agents killed? Is this the same Pat Leahy? I guess he doesnt like secrets.

    Semper Fi!

  2. It’s interesting that liberals, who in the ’60s and ’70s referred to those who exercised police power as “pigs” now want those same “pigs” to have unfettered access to every nook and cranny of our lives, and to hell with the Bill of Rights.

  3. EXCHIEF says:

    I’ve spent the better part of 49 years in law enforcement (yep I’m an old cop) protecting the Constitutional rights of citizens. I am disappointed to say the least that many of my fellow law enforcement executives support this proposal. While they should be protecting free speech rights and warrantless intrusions they are doing just the opposite.

    I understand new technology but unfettered access to what people say on the internet coupled with the increasing use of drones by civilian law enforcement is over the top. Big Brother watching without the checks and balances of the judiciary is NOT what the Founding Fathers intended. 1984 has just taken a littler longer to arrive than predicted.

  4. EXCHIEF says:

    I meant to say “and not advocating warrantless intrusions…”

  5. dominic1955 says:

    I think “Law Enforcement” needs to be reminded that they are to protect and serve, not to make themselves the Gestapo.

  6. Therese says:

    I was visiting Drudge, where I read that fearless leader has a unbelievably large data base on just about everybody who went to the polls on November 6th. I then felt less like a voter and more like a cow ready for milking.

    Now I feel like a dog that has an epidemic case of ticks.

  7. monmir says:

    Yes we are marching to dictatorship. The law about civil unrest has been pushed even further than what other presidents have done. O forever or at least permanent damage to the country and even Putin-Medvedev type of scheme. Division and civil unrest is his game. Guess whose friend he is.
    Note how the administration is ignoring talk about Benghazi as if nothing happened, and is touring Asia for human rights when there is a conflict in the Middle East. All this while wrecking our currency. You stir up division and animosity and you make people poor let’s not guess what the result will be.
    I wish priests would have their own Mass not con-celebrate (so many Masses have not been offered for so many years) and that all of us would be serious and hold tight to our rosary, soon it will be all we will have.
    Thank you for the recipe to cook squirrel (on this blog) which may be handy soon, I have a recipe for pigeon which I can send, I think when we are down to rats the recipe does not matter.
    Our Lady of Fatima pray for us sinners.

  8. Flambeaux says:

    I was under the impression that this was already being done in fact. So the bill is really more about making legal what is currently being done rather than granting permission for us to be further violated. Exemption from liability rather than actual expansion of the police powers of the state.

    But, either way, we’re screwed.

  9. Jack Hughes says:

    call me a foriegn idiot who has no idea of American Government but doesn’t this violate the 4th Ammendment in so many ways? Even taking Carroll Vs United States and Dumbra Vs United States into account.

  10. Ted says:

    I think most people have nothing to hide, but it is the idea of the government tentacles reaching out to be the “Big Brother” of Mr Orwell that is bothersome. The State is the modern god who wants to be everywhere, control everything, and have power over all.
    But this legislation is also a bit of a red herring, since those with something to hide will use encryption in their emails anyways, unless you are Mr Bin Laden or his cohorts who were technologically primitive. These encryption programmes are available open source, and it would generally take a century for a beast of a computer to crack the pass key. Perhaps we should all start using encryption just to make a point, but if that happens the State will no doubt make encryption illegal.

  11. Pingback: Up For Vote: Senate Bill Let's Feds Read Your Emails Without Warrants - ALIPAC

  12. kellym says:

    Sheesh! It’s this kinda stuff that makes me ashamed to be a Vermonter! Patrick Leahy has been a menace since he’s been in the Senate – and that’s a long time. Cripes.

    And yes, I agree that most people do feel they’ve nothing to hide, but that is not a tacit invitation to open the door and say, “Have a look-see!” And encryption isn’t just about email. It’s also about every secure financial transaction made. Say so long to

  13. wmeyer says:

    Jack Hughes: It has been a hallmark of this administration that the Bill of Rights is not an obstacle to their wants and wishes. Tyranny is on the rise, and who will stop it? The SCOTUS? Hardly.

    Checks and balances must be actively used to have meaning. And in the recent past, they haven’t much been considered.

  14. chantgirl says:

    Therese, is this the article you read?

    I am amazed that with technology (drones, online databases, online banking, email and cell phone surveillance) having reached the point where a seriously bad leader could make life miserable for the country if he really wanted to, that people aren’t a little more concerned about the government routinely flouting the Constitution and Bill of Rights to invade the privacy of its’ citizens. It’s not just terrorists and drug dealers and child porn producers that should fear these invasions. Any American who engages in pro-life work, who donates to pro-biblical marriage causes, who donates to any political group, who has signed up as part of a political party etc. should be worried about these invasions. Frankly, I’m incensed that we’ve gone from polling people about their political leanings to actively trying to figure out who someone voted for by spying on what groups they have made donations to, what books they have purchased etc. 9-11 was seriously bad, but it has been used as an excuse to give away our privacy. Al quaeda is a bunch of boys throwing rocks compared to the power and weapons of the USA. If the wrong man ever became President, he’d have a system in place that is all set to wield a terrible power over its’ citizens. Can’t we hunt terrorists without giving the govt. the power to be a tyrant?

  15. MikeJ9919 says:

    Fr. Z –

    I am a lawyer and I know constitutional law pretty well, though 4th Amendment law in particular is not an area with which I am very familiar. But my understanding is that current Supreme Court interpretation of the 4th Amendment does not require a warrant for electronic communications, phone records, bank records, or anything held in the custody of a third party. Because you have voluntarily disclosed it to a third party, you have waived your right to require a warrant. Generally all the government needs to do is issue a subpoena, which requires no independent review and probable cause determination by a judge.

    (The rules are, I think, different for rented apartments, lockers, and even guest accomodations, because we have always accorded more protection to physical property.)

    I don’t agree with this reading of the 4th Amendment. Particularly in the digital age, it seems to eviscerate the guarantee that people will be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects. But that is my understanding of current Supreme Court precedent.

  16. Elodie says:

    I was under the impression, Herr Leahy, that the contents of an email in the US were private. At least … the US I knew…..

  17. Joshua08 says:

    As brought up by Mike, there is the third-party doctrine, and that is the basis for most searching of emails, etc. Essentially a third party (e.g. Google) possesses the data, and hence certain rights are not applicable. Such a doctrine was formed before the age of the Internet.

    However, I am unaware of any SCOTUS decisions on this question. In fact, I am encourage by the court in this area. Earlier this year the court rule unanimously that the government may not attach a GPS device to a car and track your movement without a warrant. Such actions have been done with increasing frequency. The majority opinion (Roberts, Scalia, Sotomayor, Kennedy and Thomas) was that it was trespassing on private property, and when coupled with the monitoring constituted as “search” as used in the 4th amendment. The minority opinion, which concurred in judgment (written by Alito, joined by Ginsburg, Kagan, and Bryer) was that Scalia’s opinion was too narrow for the digital age in applying the trespass doctrine and that it constitute in itself an invasion of privacy and therefore a “search” under the 4th amendment. Sotomayor filed a concurring opinion with Scalia, but voiced agreement with Alito too. So Alito, Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Bryer are all acutely aware of the need for a reevaluation of judicial doctrine with digital information, and very much in a way favorable to our rights. The other 4 are also promising. Now the Renquist, Stevens and O’Connor are out (all enemies of our rights here, Stevens and Rehnquist in part because they were somewhat ignorant and clueless about technology, e.g. in Kyllo v. US, where the court ruled that thermal imaging constituted a search and required a warrant, Scalia, Thomas, Souter, Ginsburg and Bryer deciding.)

    The 6th circuit has already ruled that access to emails requires a warrant, so if you are in, say Kentucky, or another state it presides over, they do need to get a warrant and nothing Leahy does would change that.,

  18. Gail F says:

    I thought that Bush should have been impeached over the whole warrantless wiretapping thing — which, if you will remember, consisted of allowing the government to listen in on any wireless conversation without a warrant, even though existing law allowed for them to listen in first and ask for a warrant later. This is the same thing writ large.

  19. wmeyer says:

    If the wrong man ever became President, he’d have a system in place that is all set to wield a terrible power over its’ citizens.

    Uh… you mean like now? The sitting president now has taken the power to turn off the Internet at will, and his administration has continued to operate at the highest spending levels in history, without a budget. His treasury secretary advises removing the debt ceiling altogether. His Obamacare has given to an unelected official the power to invoke regulations which contravent the first amendment. Need I continue?

  20. pmullane says:

    “The sitting president now has taken the power to turn off the Internet at will, and his administration has continued to operate at the highest spending levels in history, without a budget. His treasury secretary advises removing the debt ceiling altogether. His Obamacare has given to an unelected official the power to invoke regulations which contravent the first amendment. Need I continue?”

    Maks you wonder doesnt it? I’m far from a conspiracy theorist, but if you wanted to break the United States of America, what would you do differently to what Mr Obama has done?

  21. wmeyer says:

    I’m far from a conspiracy theorist, but if you wanted to break the United States of America, what would you do differently to what Mr Obama has done?

    Exactly. And it amazes me to hear, even this morning, that we “may be” headed for another “recession.” I think that if the “hope and change” continue as in the last four years, we are headed for collapse, not recession. And given the state Europe is in, I foresee that the collapse will trigger a world economic collapse.

    My trust is in in God. There is no politician I trust.

  22. pmullane says:

    wmeyer, yes and its funny how governments in both Europe and now the United States are doing exactly what you would not do in a recession (increase borrowing and not decreasing spending), and then they are SHOCKED that their econimies arent growing. Either these people are spectacularly incompetant or……..

  23. chantgirl says:

    wmeyer- Yes, we definitely got the wrong man for the job, but apparently the man we deserve. We’ll see how far his abuse of power goes now that he doesn’t have to worry about another election (and the abuses up until now are pretty atrocious). I am not a lawyer, but I have wondered at the legality of unelected panels like HHS and the EPA basically legislating outside of Congress.

    As for email surveillance, someone please explain to my little brain how it is illegal to tamper with mail, but not online mail, or have I missed the part where the government can tamper with postal mail too?

  24. Supertradmum says:

    There is no need for this type of surveillance except for two things: a planned tyranny, which will and is slowly consolidating all power in the executive branch; this president I think has made more executive orders than others. Secondly, a paranoia of the narcissistic state, which sees the need for control simply out of fear of losing power. We see this in the history of the tyrants in Russia, China, and indeed, Britain, under Queen Elizabeth I, who, as we know, believed in papal authority as long as she was the pope (Trollope). The Star Chamber was the first secret police system in the history of the West. And the reason? To undermine the power of the Church….the only reason.

    Real freedom scares those who do not have souls.

  25. chantgirl says:

    Granted that the feds can tamper with mail if there is a bomb threat or security issue, but third parties aren’t allowed to open and read our mail, so why would they be allowed access to our email?

  26. SKAY says:

    “I’m far from a conspiracy theorist, but if you wanted to break the United States of America, what would you do differently to what Mr Obama has done?”

    My feelings also and more is yet to come. Obama voters are now expecting Christmas every day for themselves. They really do not know or care about what a disastor this administration is for this country in so many ways.

    Along with that, the atheists and the ACLU(big Obama supporters) are very busy trying to take Christ out of Christmas again. this year. If there is no Christ–there is no Christmas-no joy and good will toward men.
    There also would be no Black Friday, no Christmas hiring, and all the companies that revolve around Christmas would collapse.
    I suppose Obama could then take over a “non Christian” Santa’s job(with taxpayer money) — for votes of course. He is basically doing that now anyway.

  27. moon1234 says:

    I am always amazed when people realize, years later, that what the “tin foil hat people” were saying decades ago is now coming true.

    I wonder how the law would interpret e-mails held on a private companies servers? i.e. a family business that runs their own e-mail server. This is true private property. e-mails are NOT held by a third party, but rather a private business/family. There would be NO third party held exemption.

    I bet they would first try and break in (illegal) and then when that did not work, take legal action.

    This country really is dead. The Masses do not realize what is happening, the monitory do and don’t care and the few left who know what is coming are prepping and preparing while being laughed at by the masses.

    I predict that when the financial collapse does come, and it will come, those who are prepared will be assaulted as “rich” by those who feed off everyone else.

    Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is coming true, only with the twist that the rich are not really rich anymore. All they have has/will be stolen from them. Only those who bugged out, quietly, early on will somewhat escape what is coming.

    There are two ways this will end:
    1. War will start to attempt to cover up the financial fraud.
    2. Financial collapse will come and there will be riots in big cities with “refugees” spilling out from the cities.

    In either scenerio I highly suggest you are right with God, right with your neighbors (you don’t want them taking what you have either) and ready to defend your families.

    If we look back at how Rome fell and those who survived it, we see that the rural farmers and traders were the ONLY ones to escape the bloodbaths that ravaged Rome. Those who actually produced something, not pushed paper or buttons for a living.

    Sorry for the rant, but I don’t think we are headed for an easy ride over the next 20-30 years. We will see the Church persecuted more than now, good people have all of their lifes savings pillaged, etc.

  28. Charles E Flynn says:

    Update: Leahy scuttles his warrantless e-mail surveillance bill, by Declan McCullagh for CNET.

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