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Senate Bill Rewrite Lets Feds Read Your E-mail Without Warrants 403

Posted by timothy
from the as-if-they-wouldn't-otherwise dept.
concealment writes "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. [Sen. Patrick] 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."
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Senate Bill Rewrite Lets Feds Read Your E-mail Without Warrants

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  • Yay! Democrats! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:47AM (#42039981)

    Guardians of our Liberties and Privacy!

    Good thing those nasty old Republicans aren't running the show. They might force the Feds to get a search warrant or something.

  • by Nimey (114278) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:50AM (#42040011) Homepage Journal

    I saw the summary and immediately thought "oh, surely this is Yet Another example of the submitter tarting up a story and the editor not bothering to read the story first to verify the truth of it".

    The story seems to be true (except that it's just in the bill stage, so the headline should read "will let", but let's not let facts get in the way, Slashdot), but that's immaterial to my post here.

  • Re:Yay! Democrats! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:50AM (#42040019)

    You're gonna have to rewrite your national anthem at this rate

    Home of the brave - Nope. You have a whole agency called TSA which I assume stands for The Scared Americans

    And what with this lot you can hardly be called the land of the free

  • Re:Yay! Democrats! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Damastus the WizLiz (935648) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:53AM (#42040057)

    Guardians of our Liberties and Privacy!

    Good thing those nasty old Republicans aren't running the show. They might force the Feds to get a search warrant or something.

    Do you really think that one side or the other is going be that much better?

  • Reality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yaddoshi (997885) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:53AM (#42040059)
    Whenever anyone starts freaking out about email snooping, I find it is a good time to point out that an email message that is not encrypted is roughly as secure in transit as a postcard.
  • Fascinating... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fullback (968784) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:02AM (#42040189)

    I'm an ex-pat who's lived outside the U.S. for twenty years (this year). It's been fascinating to watch the transformation of America from a distance over the past decade.

    It's fascinating, like watching a car crash in slow motion is fascinating.

  • Re:Yay! Democrats! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jawnn (445279) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:02AM (#42040193)
    Your glee is... misplaced. Since the paranoid responses to September 11 over a decade ago, both sides of the aisle can hang their heads in shame. The elected officials of both parties have pushed the power of government to interfere with our personal liberties on the promise of "keeping us safe". It's bullshit, of course, but to suggest that it is being shoveled by one party more than another is to ignore plain facts.
  • Re:Reality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:04AM (#42040217)
    Because it is non trivial to set up. People of average intelligence get confused with key exchanges, signing, etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:05AM (#42040235)

    [google.com]

    That generation (generalizing Big time) - both Dems and Reps - have a completely different view of America. They were the kids who were alive during WWII and saw everyone working together to defeat evil. The government was Good. The government fought for freedom.

    To them, we are the source of Good, Truth, Justice, and that we can do no wrong. They lived during the US' best economic times, they saw the US become a World power and pretty much lead the World.

    My 20 something daughter and her grandparents talk as if they come from two different countries. It's really entertaining. I look forward to Thanksgiving.

  • by Shavano (2541114) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:08AM (#42040285)
    Stop whining on Slashdot for a few minutes and write your Senator and Congressman.
  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:09AM (#42040291)
    The first step was the destruction of history classes. Anyone under 30 doesn't understand why losing little freedoms is so dangerous.
  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:10AM (#42040313)

    Seriously, what does the 4th Amendment in particular, or the Constitution in general, even apply to anymore? The government can subvert every single protection afforded in the Constitution simply by saying "It's a national security matter" (or even "It's a law enforcement matter") and every court in the country will simply turn its head and ignore it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:12AM (#42040343)

    Let's call this what it is, high treason. The president, members of congress, and judges all swear an oath of office to defend the Constitution, not render it asunder.

    "I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. ..."

  • Re:Reality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow (319597) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:16AM (#42040409) Homepage

    And in my country the police (or anybody else) aren't allowed to routinely intercept my post without a warrant (and otherwise it has to be random discovery, i.e. the post office spot a suspicious package or trail of packages and inform the police, etc.).

    So even if your analogy were perfect, it's got little to do with the warrantless tracking.

    That said, even if you encrypt the postcard, there's nothing to say that the guy the other end isn't forced to give a decrypted version to his local law enforcement or face jail-time anyway. Which is, again, strangely true to the analogous email storage too.

    The problem here is NOT message security. The problem here is law enforcement being able to do these things with no tracking, no permissions, no way to tell if they are deliberately targeting innocents (e.g. fishing expeditions), no way to tell if they are intercepting their old girlfriend's post, etc. because of the desire to remove JUDICIAL OVERSIGHT. Nobody cares that X sent an email that was used to prosecute him.

    We *do* care that person in department *Y* has routine, unauthorised, complete access to things we do with no judicial oversight and could be using them to snoop on your girlfriend, or see if his hunch was right about your sexual habits. And THAT is none of their business, and why we have judicial oversight in the form of having to ask for warrants that are limited in scope (i.e. you can't just ask for a warrant to "always" do this "for ever").

  • Re:Fascinating... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:20AM (#42040485) Homepage

    I'm an ex-pat who's lived outside the U.S. for twenty years (this year). It's been fascinating to watch the transformation of America from a distance over the past decade.

    America transformed into a snooping society well over a decade ago. Did you not read the European Parliament's ECHELON investigation in 2001 (a sensation sadly forgotten after the infinitely bigger press sensation of September 11th)? All that infrastructure was in place in the 1990s, and it was President Clinton who favoured intercepting foreign business correspondence in order to "level the playing field".

  • Re:Yay! Democrats! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:26AM (#42040563)

    You could post something like "Damned Republicans!" and get a +5 on Slashdot, without anybody realizing that Leahy's a Democrat.

  • Legality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gr8_phk (621180) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:28AM (#42040595)

    Did you not read the European Parliament's ECHELON investigation in 2001

    That was a secret thing because it was illegal. If your snooping powers are illegal, you'll do it anyway when it's really really important. There's always the risk of getting caught or bad PR or losing your job etc. But once you enshrine the snooping in law and sidestep constitutional protections, it become ripe for abuse. So yes, it has always been going on but they're now trying to take it to another level.

  • by PortHaven (242123) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:32AM (#42040657) Homepage

    No it won't. The Constitution is just about meaningless these days.

    - you can be stopped, searched, and seized with no suspicion or warrant
    - try using your right to bear arms in NYC
    - granted, they're not quartering troops in our homes....but there is no need to.
    - guess, we still have the right to gripe...for now

  • Re:Yay! Democrats! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:35AM (#42040695)

    No. They're human and they're working for their paychecks, NOT the common good.

    Both sides are shit. Let's worry about fixing this world first before we take sides.

  • Re:Yay! Democrats! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:36AM (#42040723)
    I'd argue that republican vs democrat is missing the underlying cause. The parties aren't conspiring to erode our privacy or liberties. The voters have indicated they're willing to trade those away for a sense of security. The parties are selling the voters what they want.

    Stupid voters...
  • by rickb928 (945187) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:40AM (#42040789) Homepage Journal

    Access to my tweets without a warrant is not a fight I need to have. I spew these out to my supposedly private followers, and it would be trivial for the government to sneak into my list with a handle as unimaginiative as bigbrother or watchingyou or even mintruth. Privacy on Twitter is not an illusion, it is nonexistent.

    Access to my Facebook wall, if I designate it as for friends only, I think is improper. No, this I need to fight.

    Reading my email without a warrant? Time to consider that email is replacing snail mail so well that the USPS is going under, just slower than Hostess. If the government needs a warrant to open an envelope and read my paper mail, they should need a warrant to do the same to my email.

    And the electronic nature of email does not change the fact that I have as much an expectation of privacy as with paper mail. Think it over. Someone can, for most of us, reach into your mailbox and take out an envelope, steam it open, Polaroid the contents, and put it back. The medium does not change the act, merely the process. We need to re-establish the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, among others. This finally gets me to open up my phone and email my representatives today. We may have to have the revolution after all.

  • by Zaphod-AVA (471116) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:42AM (#42040825)

    Secure in our papers and effects. When written, this included all private communications. Simply because we use electrons instead of ink and paper doesn't mean we lose the protection of the 4th amendment.

  • by dnahelicase (1594971) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:46AM (#42040899)

    Stop whining on Slashdot for a few minutes and write your Senator and Congressman.

    Last time I wrote my senator (Dan Coats) it was to express my disapproval in what he was doing and how he was acting on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

    I got a letter back in the mail, which started out "Thank you for your letter supporting me in my disapproval of how the Obama administration is handling the Bengazi incident. As you may or may not be aware, I sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee..."

    You can write, call, speak, campaign, but it doesn't really matter. Everyone that gets elected seem to think they have a "mandate" and do whatever they want until someone else gets elected and continues on in the same manner.

  • Re:Yay! Democrats! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdot@uberm00. n e t> on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:47AM (#42040907) Homepage Journal

    You see a direct attack on the Fourth Amendment, and the best you can come up with is, "ha ha, it was your side that did it, not mine." Do you listen to yourself or are everyone's civil rights just another baseball game to you?

  • Re:Reality (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:47AM (#42040909)

    That said, even if you encrypt the postcard, there's nothing to say that the guy the other end isn't forced to give a decrypted version to his local law enforcement or face jail-time anyway.

    You make a valid point but I think the gist of this legislation is to allow legal, casual snooping without the hassle of obtaining a warrant. If this bill passes, there will be egregious abuses (cop snooping on ex-wife, etc) that will go unchallenged because, well, it was legal. The only excuse needed will be "I felt the safety of the person was at risk" or "We had reason to believe..."

    Whole point is, this bill would make casual snooping and abuses very easy to get away with and the consequences non-existent and easy as pie to skirt-around.

  • Re:Yay! Democrats! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:08AM (#42041263)

    Well, "the free" part is still true. It just doesn't refer to the people any more. It is the government that is free. Free to do whatever the hell they want with no oversight and nothing anyone can do about it. Because, you know, only child-molesters and terrorists want to be free, and you'd have to be one of those two groups to say anything about what the government does.

    The United States has a cancer and is rotting from within. (Sad enough on its own, worse by the fact that they are not alone.)

  • Re:Yay! Democrats! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moeinvt (851793) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:22AM (#42041521)

    "The parties aren't conspiring to erode our privacy or liberties."

    I share your disappointment with the voting public, but I disagree on this point. It's obvious that the Patriot Act had been written long before 9-11-2001 and TPTB were just waiting for an excuse to implement it. That's solid proof of a "conspiracy".

    Do you think that the Patriot Act would be re-authorized if it was put up for national referendum? How about the bill being discussed in the article? IMO, the people that "support" these measures do so passively, while the people that oppose them are passionate in their opposition. For that reason, I think the opposition would win.

    Unfortunately, we're stuck with the false dichotomy of the 2 party system and most of the 'R's and 'D's agree that The People should have fewer civil liberties. This issue just isn't important enough for most people to compel them to vote for a 3rd party. That's tacit support for the policies, but it's not a matter of politicians bending to popular opinion.

  • Re:Yay! Democrats! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sectoid_Dev (232963) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:38AM (#42041829)

    Indeed who are these 'hippies' and other people living work free off the largess of others? I look around and I see a soon to be permanent underclass working 60 hours a week at 2 part time jobs.

  • Re:Yay! Democrats! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:49AM (#42042013)

    I voted libertarian so I know I made the right decision.

  • Re:Yay! Democrats! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:51AM (#42042061) Journal

    Did you RTFA?

    dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns

    after law enforcement groups including the National District Attorneys' Association and the National Sheriffs' Association organizations objected to the legislation

    Justice Department officials have expressed their displeasure about Leahy's original bill

    The voters have NOT indicated they're willing to trade those away for a sense of security.
    The parties are NOT selling the voters what they want.

    This is a naked power grab by the portion of our government that would prefer a police state.

  • Re:Yay! Democrats! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @12:16PM (#42042467) Homepage Journal

    Do you really think that one side or the other is going be that much better?

    I have a feeling that the Greens or Libertarians may be.

  • Re:Yay! Democrats! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlueStrat (756137) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @12:41PM (#42042869)

    We already have a new national anthem. It goes like this:

    "AMERICA! .... F*** Yeah! "

    2nd verse:
    ?????
    3rd verse
    Profit

    No, no.

    It goes "Second verse, same as the first

    I'm "enery the eighth I am, 'enery the eighth I am I am..."

    And I'm sue that if King Henry VIII were to see this, he would be proud of Sen Leahy, the Democrats, and the Republicans for their heroic efforts to keep the serfs and other rabble that might oppose the Crown...err...US administration...in line and remind them that they only have the rights the government decides to allow any particular person at any given time.

    But never mind all that boring stuff and men behind curtains pulling levers, did you hear about the latest juicy political sex scandal?? OMG!! And abortion!...gay marriage!...racism!...terrorism!...Evil rich!...pedophiles!...GEORGE BUSH!! Oh my!

    Strat

  • by ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @12:47PM (#42042959)

    "Difference #1: We call ourselves a democracy, so of course we are."

    We are as democratic as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

     

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