Sen. Leahy wants to read your emails without a warrant

If the CNET story is true, what was Democratic Senator Leahy thinking?

Senate bill rewrite lets feds read your e-mail without warrants

Proposed law scheduled for a vote next week originally increased Americans’ e-mail privacy. Then law enforcement complained. Now it increases government access to e-mail and other digital files.

Now an unnamed aide is saying that no, the story is not accurate.  But we need to hear a lot more directly from Senator Leahy. It should be an easy question to answer – are you letting people read our email without a warrant or not? – without requiring “unnamed aides.”

We’ve known for a while that it’s not just Republicans who want creepy laws that spy on Americans, though hopefully this time it’s all just a big mistake. Following an election where progressive ideas and candidates won across the US, it’s really disappointing to read this news.

Internet spying via Shutterstock

Maybe this is what Justice Department officials want, but is this what voters want?

Even with the Justice Department, it’s not obvious why they would want this kind of power, since they couldn’t even figure out how to regulate and/or pursue Wall Street. So why would we want to give these federal agencies, who so often fail so badly, even more power?

This stinks, but welcome to the wobbly Democratic leadership. And so soon after the election, no less. Why should we vote for anyone who supports such garbage?


Leahy’s rewritten bill would 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.

It’s an abrupt departure from Leahy’s earlier approach, which required police to obtain a search warrant backed by probable cause before they could read the contents of e-mail or other communications. The Vermont Democrat boasted last year that his bill “provides enhanced privacy protections for American consumers by… requiring that the government obtain a search warrant.”

Leahy had planned a vote on an earlier version of his bill, designed to update a pair of 1980s-vintage surveillance laws, in late September. But after law enforcement groups including the National District Attorneys’ Association and the National Sheriffs’ Association organizations objected to the legislation and asked him to “reconsider acting” on it, Leahy pushed back the vote and reworked the bill as a package of amendments to be offered next Thursday.

An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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23 Responses to “Sen. Leahy wants to read your emails without a warrant”

  1. Sweetie says:

    Leahy isn’t polishing his faux-progressive credentials.

  2. mike31c says:

    I am SO tempted to send the good Senator’s email address to every single spam bot place that I know of and RWNJ’s mailing list just so he can get an idea what a full inbox of crap looks like.

  3. A reader in Colorado says:

    Actually, you were voting for four more years of George W. Bush, and many people told you you were voting for four more years of George W. Bush, but you did not listen.

    Instead, collective Democratic Party die hards wet the bed about Romney, screamed about the lesser of two evils, and yowled how a third party could not be successful and how voting for them was an act of betrayal.

  4. Rwolf says:

    U.S. Senate bill Rewritten So Cops / Feds Can Read Your Email Without Warrants

    Most Americans have not considered if Sen. Leahy’s Internet Access bill is passed, the Feds and Cops can use warrant-less searches of their sent and received emails to charge Citizens with crime. Until now in America, no warrant) searches of email was something talked about happening in oppressive regimes like Iran. It is problematic see (COINTELPRO) History that U.S. Government, federal agencies and police without probable cause or warrants will search the email, social media sites, private docs and other communications of activists; Americans and corporations that politically disagree with U.S. Government—in hopes of finding evidence of wrongdoing.

    After Sen. Leahy’s Internet Access bill is passed, what do you do if you get an email that erroneously appears to include you as a participant in a crime or conspiracy that U.S. Federal Agencies and cops can use in court (without a warrant) against you or your business?

    U.S. Police and federal agencies can take out of context any innocent—hastily written email, fax or phone call record to allege a crime or violation was committed to cause a person’s arrest, fines and or civil asset forfeiture of their property. There are more than 400 laws/violations that can subject property to Government asset forfeiture that require only a civil preponderance of evidence, little more than hearsay.

    Sen. Patrick Leahy’s has reworked his privacy bill H.R. 2471 touted to protect Americans’ e-mail privacy (into a warrant-less Internet access bill) that will allow the FBI, police and more than 22 federal agencies without probable cause to access your private email and other Internet communications using only a mere subpoena. Alleged seized evidence without warrants may be introduced in U.S. Civil, Criminal and Administrative prosecutions and under (NDAA) The National Defense Authorization
    ACT and Patriot Act.

    After Sen. Patrick Leahy’s warrant-less Internet Access bill is passed, Americans should expect a spike in arrests and property forfeitures by the feds and local police. Many Police departments are now in a budget crisis. Faced with having to layoff police officers, police increasingly look to civil asset forfeiture of Citizens’ property to pay their salaries and operating costs. This is a conflict of interests.

    The passed “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000” (effectively eliminated) the “five year statue of
    limitations” for Government Civil Asset Forfeiture: the statute now runs five years (from the date) government or a police agency allege they “learned” an asset became subject to forfeiture. Should the Senate pass Patrick Leahy’s (no warrant) government Internet Access bill, police will relentlessly sift through business and Citizens’ (government retained Internet data), emails and phone communications to discover crimes and civil violations.

    Annually U.S. Government seizes billions in assets without filing criminal charges. Increasingly local police turn their criminal investigations over to Federal Agencies to receive an 80% rebate of forfeited assets. Federal Government is not required to charge someone with a crime to forfeit property.

    A vote on Sen. Patrick Leahy’s warrant-less access bill is scheduled before November 30, 2012.

    Can Canadians Hold Out Against Their Government’s Recent Forceful Efforts to Wiretap Their Lives?

    Is it coincidence it was recently reported the Canadian Government intends to resurrect (Commons Bill C-30) that Canadians earlier this year rejected? Canadians discovered that (Commons Bill C-30) touted to protect children on the Internet—would also give any Canadian police officer—without a warrant—the power to request Internet service providers turn over customers’ information (see section 17 of C-30); allow Canadian police to seek into Canadians’ private computers. C-30 was strongly
    opposed by Canadians in April 2012. Canadians further discovered Canada had signed with the United States an array of (Asset Forfeiture Sharing Agreements) for Canada to share Canadian and Americans’ assets civilly or criminally confiscated using Asset Forfeiture laws that result from U.S. and Canada sharing information gleaned from electronic surveillance of Canadian / American Citizens’ communications, e.g., emails, faxes, Internet actively, phone records.

    You may learn more about Sen. Patrick Leahy’s reworked privacy bill H.R. 2471 at CNET:

  5. arcadesproject says:

    I once read abut this guy from back in the cold war era, a spy type of guy, I think, or maybe a member of Congress. Anyway, he said.: You can either look for (intelligence) diamonds or you can look through zilliions of toothbrushes but if you look through the tooth brushes, you will miss the diamonds.
    Now my e-mails are most assuredly toothbrushes and the spy agencies are deeply stupid if they waste time looking at them. Unless, of course, they are not looking for intelligence diamonds at all and are in fact looking for dissidents.

  6. Butch1 says:

    Leahy, don’t you have anything better to do with your time like working on a “Jobs Program?” Or perhaps, you should be finding a way to bring home the troops from Afghanistan sooner. Perhaps, legislation on tougher laws from global warming?

  7. Two points:

    * The draft that Declan McCullagh posted was one that was written by Chuck Grassley, and was never in consideration. This has been confirmed by multiple sources

    * Declan is a “Draw by Crayon Libertarian”, and tends to boost Republicans, note that he still boasts about creating the “Al Gore created the internet” meme, so find a second source before you go with one of his stories.

    You can go to for the details.

  8. ddearborn says:

    People when are you going to wake up. The Congress nor any member of the government CAN NOT READ YOUR MAIL WITHOUT A WARRANT PERIOD. Passing a law that violates the Constitution is invalid and not binding on the citizens. What these people are doing is treason. These people are actively and directly attacking the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

  9. Blogvader says:

    Chris, what makes you think folks weren’t voting for four more years of Bush-era ‘national security’ policies? Obama has embraced and expanded the surveillance state. He is arguably worse than Bush.

  10. goulo says:

    You ask: “Why should we vote for anyone who supports such garbage?”

    That’s why a lot of progressives didn’t want to vote for Obama.

    The usual answer is “Because the Republicans are even worse.” But the 2 major parties are virtually indistinguishable in their policies about privacy (and many other serious issues). Remember it wasn’t just Republicans who supported the PATRIOT Act (oh how quaintly long ago that all seems now, back when many progressives were outraged that Bush “merely” wanted the ability to freely spy on people but now accept that Obama wants the ability to freely assassinate people…)

  11. Max_1 says:

    Economies rise and fall…
    … Employment rates follow.


    So, wait till they take them pesky Constitutional Oaths, again…
    … Watch them LIE about supporting and defending the Constitution.

    Then ask yourself…
    … Should I really re-elect leaders who seek to do me under?

  12. ComradeRutherford says:

    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.

    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.

    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.”
    Raw Story (

  13. RepubAnon says:

    Maybe they can name it the Petraeus Memorial Privacy For The Children’s Homeland Security Act…

  14. BeccaM says:

    No, we did essentially just re-elect a national security regime that’s been expanded steadily over the last decade, with Obama giving back none of the powers Bush originally seized, and expanding them further.

    The only thing we did do was avoid electing an incompetent compulsively lying flip-flopping right-wing ideologue plutocrat. The greater of two evils, as it were.

  15. 1strepublic14thstar says:

    Leahy says the McCullagh/CNET story is wrong.

    “Ideas from many sources always circulate b4 a markup 4 disc., but Sen. Leahy does NOT support such an exception for … search warrants,” one of his tweets stated.

    The proposed legislation is scheduled for a hearing next week.

    Leahy, on his Facebook page, asserted: “The rumors … are incorrect. Many have come forward with ideas for discussion before markup resumes on my bill to strengthen privacy protections. … One of them, having to do with a warrant exception, is one that I have not supported and do not support.”

    David Carle, the senator’s spokesman, said in an interview Tuesday afternoon with the Burlington Free Press that Leahy, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has the job of being the “manager” of all proposals for changes in the law.

    Carle said he suspects McCullagh mistakenly assumed that Leahy was backing a plan for warrantless searches by being listed as the manager for the proposal.

    “This was a draft document for ideas to be discussed,” Carle said. “The ideas come from various sources, and so there’s a misconception that Leahy changed his bill. He did not.”

  16. jomicur says:

    Haven’t you been paying attention for the last four years? That’s EXACTLY what the majority voted for (not that they were given much choice).

  17. MyrddinWilt says:

    And Petraeus has exactly that type of system available to him.

    But it would not work in this case as the military keeps logs of all the mail through their servers, as his PR guy ‘Baghdad Boylan’ discovered when Glenn Greenwald and I caught him in a lie about sending a stupid email back in the day.

    Using a non-military encrypted email scheme like PGP would be most inadvisable for a general.

  18. MyrddinWilt says:

    No, that looks to me like they just served a subpoena on Google to get those. Its static data. They didn’t know what the username was at the start of the investigation. Had they known that they would not have needed Kelley.

    But what is rather interesting is that they have revealed that Google can reconstruct the complete editing history of the files.

  19. trinu says:

    Perhaps now is the time for people to start using public key cryptography with their email. Basically you release an encryption key (or a string of characters) to the public, and anyone can encrypt a message to you with it, but only you can only decrypt it if you have the private key.

  20. franklyn says:

    George Carlin used to talk about a friend that would answer the phone with, “Fuck Hoover. Hello?” I’m considering starting everything with something like that.

  21. mf_roe says:

    Elections have consequences.

  22. Drew2u says:

    Isn’t this part of the Patreus story, also; how they got ahold of his personal email accounts, too?

    And isn’t this just the legal step to OK the data mining center in Utah?

  23. MyrddinWilt says:

    Hmm, perhaps you should look up Declan

    He has a rather sordid past. He was also the original fabricator of the ‘Gore claimed to invent Internet’ smear.

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