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New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg left the Republican Party yesterday and switched to unaffiliated, a move certain to be seen as a prelude to an independent presidential bid that would upend the 2008 race, the Associated Press reported.

The billionaire, a lifelong Democrat before he switched to the Republican Party in 2001 for his first mayoral run, said the change in his voter registration does not mean he is running for president.

“Although my plans for the future haven’t changed, I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead our city,” Mr. Bloomberg said, according to the AP.

E-mail security

A U.S. appeals court in Ohio has ruled that e-mails stored on Internet servers are protected by the Constitution much like telephone conversations are and that a federal law permitting warrantless secret searches of e-mail violates the Fourth Amendment, reports Shaun Waterman of United Press International.

An Ohio man, whose e-mail was searched after his Internet service provider was ordered to turn it over to federal investigators and not to tell him, sought and won an injunction against the government last year in U.S. District Court. On Monday, that injunction was upheld by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“The District Court correctly determined that e-mail users maintain a reasonable expectation of privacy in the content of their e-mails,” ruled the three-judge panel. The court held that the 1986 Stored Communications Act, which allows the government to obtain an order requiring ISPs to turn over e-mail stored on their servers, violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable search and seizures.

The court drew a distinction between the data stored by the ISP about each e-mail — e.g., the addressee and time of transmission — and the content of the e-mail message itself, analogous to one that the law now respects between the information about phone calls and the actual conversation. The former can be obtained without a warrant; the latter cannot.

Belabor the point

The Democratic brass was out in force to support 4,000 labor activists at an outdoor rally near the Capitol yesterday in support of the upcoming Senate vote on the Employee Free Choice Act, a measure that will make it easier for workers to join unions.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts spoke of the history of organized labor in the U.S. and the relevance of unions today.

“Workers are not asking for much — decent wages, decent working conditions, health care,” he said.

Mr. Kennedy shared the dais with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer of New York, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, and Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, among others. Teamsters President James P. Hoffaand AFL-CIO President John Sweeney also spoke.

Debate on the Senate floor is expected in the next week. The House passed the measure in March. The bill would allow workers to unionize by simply signing a card or petition rather than secret-ballot elections, which supporters say is fair, simple and direct. Opponents say it denies workers the opportunity of an election — and is nothing more than political payback by Democrats to the unions, which supported the party during the 2006 congressional elections.

c Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.