A Senate Judiciary Committee aide is denying in strong terms that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) supports legislation that would give federal agencies broad power to read Americans emails without a warrant.
CNET’s Declan McCullagh reported on Tuesday that Leahy had rewritten a bill that was originally intended to protect email privacy and it would now “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.”
But a aide told Raw Story that Leahy did not support the proposal outlined by CNET or any other broad carve outs that would allow warrantless email searches.
The bill which is scheduled to be considered by the Judiciary Committee on Nov. 29 is not expected to depart from advocating strong email privacy, the aide said.
EPIC Advocacy Counsel Alan Butler told Raw Story that it was too early to comment on the legislation because all of the details had not been hammered out yet.
“It’s hard to know whether what we’ve seen in that story is the final word or not,” Butler explained. “We’ve sort of gone over that particular piece for a number of months because it’s changed in different ways… There could be significant push back if it significantly weakens the oversight provisions that it seemed at first that it was providing.”
“In light of what’s going on, especially in the past few weeks with the [former CIA Director David] Petraeus scandal, I think it underscores the need for safeguards and judicial review of this sort of electronic surveillance and investigatory techniques.”
Update (4:30 p.m.ET): In a tweet on Tuesday, the senator’s office made it clear that “Sen.Leahy does NOT support such an exception for #ECPA search warrants.”