Next week the Senate will vote on a bill that could give federal law enforcement officers the right to read your email whenever they want—even if they don’t have a warrant to do so. The law has recently been touted as a bill that protects the privacy of Americans, but behind the scenes, it’s been rewritten.
According to CNET, law enforcement complained about the bill, so Democrat Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has rewritten his bill so that government agencies will be able to access a number of different electronic sources, including Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Docs files, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter posts, and e-mail—all without a search warrant.
More than 20 different agencies, including Homeland Security, the FBI, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Securities and Exchange Commission would have access to this information. Homeland Security and the FBI would have even more access to Americans’ Internet accounts in some cases, and they wouldn’t even have to notify a judge to do it.
CNET said they did receive a draft of the amendments that have been proposed for the bill. The site has linked it to its full story about these amendments. The bill originally called for police to need probable cause and a search warrant before they could access Americans’ Internet accounts. Leahy originally designed his bill to be an update to surveillance laws that were created more than 20 years ago. A vote had been planned two months ago, but Leahy changed it after objections were raised by many of the National Sheriff’s Associations and the National District Attorneys’ Association. According to CNET, the bill Leahy will present to the Senate next week “is a substitute for H.R. 2474, which the House of Representatives has already approved.”