Senate To Fast-Track Legislation Requiring Cops To Get Warrants To Read Your Email

Sen. Patrick Leahy is pushing to fast-track legislation that would require police to obtain a warrant before accessing emails and other private online messages.

Of course, this doesn't do a thing about the NSA or all the other government agencies who can read your email, but it does require police to get real warrants from a judge before accessing someone's online information:

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is pushing to fast-track legislation that would require police to obtain a warrant before accessing emails and other private online messages.

Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) goal is for the Senate to unanimously approve his bill before the August recess, according to one of his committee aides. Any opposition could delay a vote until after Congress returns in the fall.

He has secured unanimous support from his fellow Democrats and is in negotiations with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the Judiciary Committee's ranking member, and other Republicans to address their concerns.

Leahy's aide claimed that even if a floor vote is delayed until after the recess, they are already "way past" the 60 votes they would need to overcome a filibuster and approve the bill, which is co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Lee (Utah).

Gregory Nojeim, a senior counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology and a supporter of stronger privacy protections, said that the news of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs has given Leahy's bill a new boost of momentum.

"Revelations about NSA spying have made members of Congress very concerned about privacy," Nojeim said. "I think a lot of members are eager to vote for privacy legislation, and this provides that opportunity."

Leahy's bill would not affect the NSA programs, but it would curb the ability of local and federal law enforcement officials to access private online messages.

Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986, police only need a subpoena, issued without a judge's approval, to force Internet companies to turn over emails that have been opened or that are more than 180 days old.

When lawmakers passed ECPA more than 25 years ago, they failed to anticipate that email providers would offer massive online storage. They assumed that if a person hadn't downloaded and deleted an email within six months, it could be considered abandoned and wouldn't require strict privacy protections.

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