You just can't take your eyes off these guys in Washington! They are like magicians; getting you to look at one hand while the other is performing the trick. We get wrapped up in things like shootings, fiscal cliffs, and gun control while they are implementing more laws against our civil liberties. Following Thanksgiving we saw a push by the Senate Judiciary Committee to amend the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act that would require government to get a probable-cause warrant to obtain email and other content stored in the "cloud." Sadly, the provision was dropped from the legislation, but no one knew it until it was headed for Barack Obama's desk.
Wired reported at the end of November:
A Senate committee on Thursday unanimously backed sweeping digital privacy protections requiring the government, for the first time, to get a probable-cause warrant to obtain e-mail and other content stored in the cloud.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, amends the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The amendment would nullify a provision that allows the government to acquire a suspect’s e-mail or other stored content from an internet service provider without showing probable cause that a crime was committed.
The development comes as e-mail privacy is again in the spotlight after FBI investigators uncovered an affair between then-CIA chief David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell after gaining access to e-mail accounts used by Broadwell.
Currently, the government can obtain e-mail without a warrant as long as the content has been stored on a third-party server for 180 days or more, and only needs to show, often via an administrative subpoena, that it has “reasonable grounds to believe” the information would be useful in an investigation.
However, the Senate dropped the amendment and as a result, "the government can collect emails and other cloud data without a warrant as long as the content has been stored on a third-party server for 180 days or more. Federal agents need only demonstrate that they have “reasonable grounds to believe” the information would be useful in an investigation." The Fourth Amendment apparently doesn't apply for this, but I'm sure like liberal arguments over guns and how they "couldn't envision modern rifles," we'll hear about how the Founders had in mind a person being "secure in their... papers and effects," but could never have imagined electronic mail.
Instead of protecting privacy, or in the words of the Constitution "be secure," Congress rolled over to special interests like Netflix and Facebook.
The thing is, this amendment was led by a Democrat! Yet, he got little support from Barack Obama or his fellow lawmakers.
So what do we have now? We have Barack Obama about to sign into law the extension of the violation of Constitutionally protected rights that was begun under George W. Bush, when his administration was given authorization for a secret wiretapping program through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) back in 2008. The more this kind of thing is tolerated, the more of it we will see continuing to be pushed through into law.