Advocacy group pushes back on government wiretapping

By Kase Wickman
Sunday, May 22, 2011 17:12 EDT
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A communications public advocacy non-profit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has filed a Freedom of Information Act request, demanding that the Department of Justice explain why the government can access citizen phone records and other private information.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) has been controversial since it was implemented in 1986. Since then, the wiretapping law’s biggest revision came with 2001′s PATRIOT Act. ECPA offers the government access to communications records as a way to target terrorism and crime. EFF senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston cited the FBI’s “demonstrated history of abusing surveillance law” as a reason ECPA needed to be amended.

“Secret law has no place in our democracy,” Bankston said in a release announcing the EFF’s push. “Congress can’t even consider closing this dangerous surveillance loophole until we understand the FBI’s legal argument, yet the Department of Justice is still hiding it from Congress and the public.”

A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in April addressed the need to amend and clarify EPCA, especially in the case of online records, however, it seems as if the delay will stretch on longer.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) expressed his frustration about the slow pace of change during the hearing.

“Given the fact that the inter-agency process appears to have taken over a year at this point, and the conversations between the legislative and executive branch about this have been close to zero as far as I can tell,” Whitehouse said. “The folks attacking us are not waiting.”

Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman is a reporter for Raw Story. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and grew up in Eugene, OR. Her work has been featured in The Boston Globe, Village Voice Media, The Christian Science Monitor, The Houston Chronicle and on NPR, among others. She lives in New York City and tweets from @kasewickman.
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