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Christmas Surprise: Senate Allows Warrantless Search of Email

RightMarch December 26, 2012

Mark Horne at Godfather Politics reports:

While the news has been focused on the “fiscal cliff” and the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the Senate has taken their gift back from the nation. They’re like Scrooge, except Scrooge was just a private business man, not a civil government who could own people who had the misfortune to live in his dominion. Bah, humbug!

Back after Thanksgiving, the Senate gave us all reason to hope.

“A Senate committee on Thursday unanimously backed sweeping digital privacy protections requiring the government, for the first time, to get a probable-cause warrant to obtain e-mail and other content stored in the cloud. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, amends the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The amendment would nullify a provision that allows the government to acquire a suspect’s e-mail or other stored content from an internet service provider without showing probable cause that a crime was committed. The development comes as e-mail privacy is again in the spotlight after FBI investigators uncovered an affair between then-CIA chief David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell after gaining access to e-mail accounts used by Broadwell. Currently, the government can obtain e-mail without a warrant as long as the content has been stored on a third-party server for 180 days or more, and only needs to show, often via an administrative subpoena, that it has ‘reasonable grounds to believe’ the information would be useful in an investigation.”

There was still reason to believe there would be a struggle on the Senate floor, but no one expected that struggle to take place until 2013.

Instead, we find coal in our stocking. While the struggle to get the protection in the bill was loud and public, no one knew about the Senate’s decision to drop the provision until the Bill was already headed to the White House.

Of course, we know the Obama White House is exactly like the Bush White House on these issues, or worse.

I’m not sure how much longer we can last pretending that we have any real political will in Washington to respect the rights of the people. A few Senators might want to score votes with their constituents, but they obviously don’t believe stripping us naked to government eyes will get them in any real trouble with the electorate. The TSA still proves that we will literally allow them to do that to us.

By their actions, Congress shows that they simply take it for granted that, to some degree or other, all our windows and doors and walls are supposed to be removable so that one of the government’s best and brightest can walk in and search through any area of our life that he finds interesting. The Fourth Amendment is respected by any three branches of government about as much as the President and Congress respect the debt ceiling.

Sadly, until voters really show they punish candidates who spy on them and reward candidates who are serious about the Fourth Amendment, the situation will only get worse.

 

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