BY MICHAEL HAYNE
Online privacy seems to be a bigger oxymoron these days as compassionate conservative. First, we had the totally invasive and unholy marriage of SOPA and PIPA eroding our internet freedoms under the guise of “fighting terrorism” (meaning more money for the military-industrial-complex and more fascism for power-starved politicians). Then we had their unholier bastard child known as CISPA. And Just when mindless lovers of funny talking dog memes on Facebook; interested pinterests; viewers of naked celebs holding up their cell phones; and whatever the heck is left on the internet thought that their idle online privacy was being compromised with such invasive bills as SOPA and PIPA, Congress has a whole new piece of online freedom killing tyranny in the works,
The David Petraeus affair and all the reading of the penthouse meets melrose place emails by the FBI has shown the uncomfortable intrusiveness behind the government surveillance state. And now one so-called Democratic Senator, although claiming to have modified a new Email Privacy Bill, is in fact giving the creepy and invasive lethiathan more power.
Senate Judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) originally said the purpose of the bill was to “provide enhanced privacy protections for American consumers by requiring that the government obtain a search warrant” in order to read electronic communications. Ironically, Leahy was often at odds with the Bush cabal and their endless efforts to erode freedom in mae of “fighting terror” and was once told to “Go F#*k Himself” by the former dark overlord VP himself. Hopefully that offer still stands.
Worse yet, the legislation buttressing this policy hasn’t been updated since 1986, when email was downloaded from a server onto a physical computer. With most email now existing in the cloud, Congress has not updated the law to account for the change, thus meaning that all email can be investigated, often without a warrant. (In fact, after 180 days, all email can be searched, regardless of the format, though a warrant is required for data stored on a local hard drive.)
Congress is barely pretending to hide the fact that it’s just furthering the ability for warrantless snooping:
“A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans’ e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law.
CNET has learned that Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans’ e-mail, is scheduled for next week.
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. (CNET obtained the revised draft from a source involved in the negotiations with Leahy.)” (Source: FDL)
In other wards, any law enforcement or intelligence-gathering agency would be allowed to access emails without a warrant or court review in the event of an “emergency”. What could this emergency mean? Hopefully it means putting a stop to the pesky relative sending you stock jokes, but it probably just means that anyone with a anything remotely critical to say about the police state will have their emails read by some lifeless creepo bureautard. Of course this is all done in the name of that bumper sticker, blanketed blank check of tyrannical fascism known was the “war on terrorism”.
The civil libertarian's nightmare is an update to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which originally would have required that federal agencies obtain a warrant backed by probable cause. Therefore, the Leahy bill is a flagrant reversal, allowing for greater warrantless snooping than the law currently allows. We don’t need no stinkin’ fourth amendment! And you thought it was bad when your spouse was checking your email for naughty dating site invites?
Be sure to contact your Representatives and tell them not to support yet another online freedom killing bill.
Michael Hayne is a comedian/VO artist/Columnist who co-wrote an award-nominated comedy, wrote for NY Times Laugh Lines, guest-blogged for Joe Biden, and writes a column for MSNBC.com affiliated Cagle Media. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.