Photo: Flickr/Ed Yourdon
A Senate proposal originally crafted to protect Americans’ email privacy has been rewritten to give government agencies more surveillance power than they currently possess, Declan McCullagh of CNET reports.Patrick Leahy, Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, reshaped the bill in response to law enforcement concerns. The previous version of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act required police to obtain a search warrant backed by probable cause before they could read e-mails or other communications.
The newest version of the bill, which is schedule for vote next week, would allow law enforcement to access Americans’ e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant.
Here are a few of the highlights (via CNET):
• Grants warrantless access to Americans’ electronic correspondence to more than 22 federal agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission. 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.
McCullagh obtained the revised draft from a source involved in the negotiations and reports that the bill would also allow FBI and Homeland Security to “gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge.”
A source told CNET that Justice Department officials expressed displeasure about Leahy’s original bill, arguing that requiring a warrant to obtained emails could have an “adverse impact” on criminal investigations. McCullagh notes that in 2010 the Obama administration sought to access Yahoo Mail accounts without a search warrant.
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