ALERT: ‘Email Privacy Act’ does not mean what you think it means

ALERT: ‘Email Privacy Act’ does not mean what you think it means
Credit: AP

[Ed. – Sound the klaxon.  This is bad.  If you read nothing else, read this today.  Most emphasis added.]

So-called email privacy bills moving towards bipartisan passage in Congress encourage bureaucrats to get and read our emails without a warrant signed by a judge.

The Email Privacy Act, H.R. 699, and its Senate companion bill S. 356, actually authorize and encourage hundreds of federal and state agencies to violate the Fourth Amendment with respect to the content of private emails. …

While purporting to require warrants signed by judges to search or seize emails from email storage systems such as “the cloud,” these bills expressly allow federal and state agencies to issue judge-less “administrative subpoenas” to obtain private emails and content from individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations. In other words, it allows the subpoena of every person and private entity in America, except email storage providers.

What the NSA has been doing for national security purposes in blindly collecting metadata pales in comparison to encouraging hundreds, perhaps thousands, of federal and state agencies to collect and read the actual content of emails for far more mundane and non-exigent purposes than national security.

This encourages the government to actually target minority groups, critics of government, practitioners of their religious beliefs, and others, thereby creating an environment to chill and even punish the exercise of First Amendment rights. That’s not paranoia; that’s the very history and purpose of why we have the Fourth Amendment.

Administrative subpoenas are issued unilaterally by bureaucrat agencies without “probable cause,” and without “oath and affirmation” before neutral judges. They are impossible to reconcile with the express and plainly written requirements of the Fourth Amendment, which protects our “security” in our “houses, person, papers and effects.” …

Emails must be considered “electronic” papers subject to Fourth Amendment protections every bit as much as Justice Brandeis predicted. The Fourth Amendment guarantees security, privacy and private property rights in all papers and effects.  It is time to eliminate judge-less administrative subpoenas, which are institutionalized violations of the Fourth Amendment.

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