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The last time legislators updated the Electronic Communication Privacy Act (ECPA) was when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was a toddler. With new technological innovation and new privacy concerns, Congress must cooperate to bring the laws into the 21st Century. Reforming the ECPA is necessary to guarantee our Constitutional protection against warrantless digital searches and seizures. The answer is the Leahy Lee-Amendment.
This vitally important Amendment updates the Electronic Communication Privacy Act (ECPA) to require warrant protection of American emails and private documents. The Leahy-Lee reforms are long overdue; after all they extend the same protections to email and document storage that have already historically been applied to snail mail and telephone calls. Democrats and Republicans agree that ECPA needs reform. While the term “bipartisan” is usually a polarizing term bandied about flippantly in Washington, Republican and Democrats have come together to protect our constitutional right to digital privacy.
While both sides of the isle have support for a pure Leahy-Lee Amendment, a few Senators are supporting bureaucratic interests over the privacy of American citizens. Government bureaucrats are pushing hard to get exemptions from the new standards for warrants in the Leahy-Lee amendment. The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), for instance, is pushing to nullify the intent of the amendment so it can continue to spy on all emails and private documents without a warrant. The Senate should reject these attempts to carve out exemptions, and support extending Fourth Amendment protections included in the Leahy Lee amendment to all online transactions.
With the original Leahy-Lee Amendment, the SEC would have ample authority to obtain information about suspects it targets in its investigations. But the SEC is trying to exempt itself entirely from getting a warrant in order to access emails and private documents. The SEC wants to have unlimited access to private messages from internet giants like Google and Facebook. Without the checks of a pure Leahy-Lee amendment, the SEC and related agencies will be gaining access to all the personal, sensitive materials including business dealings. This would turn current regulations on their head and open the flood gates for bureaucratic abuse.
Congress must resist the temptation to feed the monster of government bureaucracy. The Untainted Leahy-Lee amendment would starve the beast of government bureaucracy and provide proper Constitutional warrants to access emails and private documents. Urge Congress to support an unblemished Leahy-Lee amendment and advance the protection of digital privacy rights.