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US Senate Ready to Wipe Out Email Privacy in America

by: tcrp

Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 09:21 AM CST

(An important issue. - promoted by Karl-Thomas Musselman)

By Renato Ramírez
Chairman of the Board and CEO, IBC-Zapata
James C. Harrington
Director, Texas Civil Rights Project

The U.S. Senate will soon vote on a law that would gravely undermine Americans' privacy and give expanded, unbridled surveillance over people's e-mails to more than 22 government agencies.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chair of the Judiciary Committee, has capitulated to law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Justice Department, and is sponsoring a bill, authorizing widespread warrantless access to Americans' e-mails, as well as Google Docs files, Twitter direct messages, and so on, 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.

Leahy's bill would only require the federal agencies to issue a subpoena, not obtain a search warrant signed by a judge based on probable cause. It also would permit state and local law enforcement to warrantlessly access Americans' correspondence stored on systems not offered "to the public," including university networks.

Even in situations which still would require a search warrant, the proposed law would excuse law enforcement officers from obtaining a warrant (and being challenged later in court) if they claim an "emergency" situation.

Not only that, but a provider would have to notify law enforcement in advance of any plans to tell its customers they've been the target of a warrant, order, or subpoena. The agency then could order the provider to delay notification of customers, whose accounts have been accessed, from three days to "ten business days" or even postpone notification up to 360 days.

Agencies that would receive civil subpoena authority for electronic communications include the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Maritime Commission, the Postal Regulatory Commission, the NLRB, OSHA, SEC, and the Mine Enforcement Safety and Health Review Commission. There is no good legal reason why agencies like these need blanket access to people's personal information with a mere subpoena, rather than a warrant.

One might expect better of Leahy, given his liberal credentials; but he has been quite disappointing. In fact, he had a hand in making the Patriot Act bill less protective of civil liberties. Nor has the Administration been helpful in this regard, quite to the contrary. Expectations of "law and order" types might not be as high in terms of protecting civil liberties, but they should not be as unsatisfactory as they are with proponents of constitutional freedoms.

The revelations about how the FBI perused former CIA director David Petraeus' e-mail without a warrant should alarm us all, who have less power and prestige than he did.

If the Fourth Amendment is to have any meaning, it is that police must obtain a search warrant, backed by probable cause, before reading Americans' e-mails or other communications. If we are to preserve our constitutional protection from warrantless searches, unreviewed by the courts, we need to let our U.S. Senators from Texas hear from us immediately and resoundingly.

We cannot allow the government to undermine our rights, bit by bit, even in the name of national security, which too often is the mantra it so casually uses. As Ben Franklin said, those who give up freedom in the name of security deserve neither.

This abridgement of our fundamental rights affects us all -- conservative, liberals, and libertarians alike. Our allegiance to the Constitution must be non-partisan. Write or call your Senators -- now.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Big Government Conservatives and the Supreme Court

by: Glenn Melancon

Wed May 06, 2009 at 02:26 PM CDT

Washington politicians and lobbyists are already lining up for a Supreme Court confirmation fight.  The buzz words are flying fast. Their jargon is meant to rally activists for or against any nominee.  As citizens, however, we need to take a step back and look at the issues more closely.  Who is pushing for "big government"?  Who wants less?

Conservatives will make the abortion debate at the center of the confirmation process.  How much control should politicians have over a pregnant woman?  The 1973 Supreme Court Case Roe v. Wade limited state and federal control.  Ever since then, conservatives have been fighting to reinstitute a larger role for government.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 511 words in story)

DPS Still Won't Hand Over Leininger Tapes to Observer

by: Phillip Martin

Thu Sep 20, 2007 at 02:25 PM CDT

Forgive me if this isn't still fresh "news" -- but I'd thought these tapes were long ago released. I had no idea this was still going on.

In 2005, there was a great deal of discussion that the influential millionaire, James Leininger, was holding private meetings with members in a room off the back hall of the Texas House. The Observer requested those videos, to determine whether or not a man who has spent millions of dollars on his pet issue -- school vouchers -- was, in fact, in the back halls of the Capitol. So now, two years, later, why haven't those tapes been released? The latest Texas Observer editorial:

he Texas Department of Public Safety has now spent more than two years and almost $166,000 in lawyer fees fighting a Texas Observer request to release information we believe should clearly be made public. Attorney General Greg Abbott agrees. A state district judge agrees. The state public records law is on our side...

On October 24, in a courtroom at the University of Texas at Austin, DPS will try again to keep the information secret, this time in an appeal before the Third Court of Appeals. If that fails, and it probably will, we have no doubt DPS will go for a fourth strike by appealing to the state Supreme Court.

This is patently absurd, especially since DPS is claiming they can't release the tapes because they are "protecting us from terrorists" -- despite the fact, as the Observer article points out, that those cameras are in plain sight to anyone who walks in the back hall. So unless Leininger is a terrorist, the DPS needs to stop wasting the taxpayer's money and hand over the tapes. Now.
Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Did Bob Gammage Vote Against Wiretapping Warrants?

by: Sean-Paul Kelley

Wed Feb 01, 2006 at 11:48 PM CST

( - promoted by Damon McCullar)

Ed. note: below is a journal entry written by a BOR reader. If you sign up for a user account, you'll also be allowed to post on our "journals" page. Then, if your post merits unique and interesting enough research, commentary, or controversy, you might even end up on the BOR front page. So sign up for those user accounts! -- Phillip Martin

Did Bob Gammage, a candidate for Texas governor, vote to give any president the unfettered authority to invade innocent citizen's privacy? Did Bob Gammage vote against the original FISA bill? In conference no less? Did he vote against fundamental constitutional checks and balances? This document (from The Agonist) indicates that he did.

Full story at The Agonist

Discuss :: (49 Comments)

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