- Obama military strategy too weak for future security, panel reports
- Sen. Tom Coburn vows to slow down budget-busting bills ahead of recess
- Obama fantasizes about more executive power, signs new order on federal contractors
- Clintons call Klein, Halper, Kessler ‘a Hat Trick of despicable actors’: report
- Boehner accuses Obama of ‘legacy of lawlessness’
- Pro-marijuana group claims responsibility for Brooklyn Bridge flag swap
- Young adults shun Obamacare mostly due to cost: survey
- Stabbing attack on transgender girl, 15, was ‘bias motivated,’ police say
- LGBT adults still lean overwhelmingly toward Democratic Party
- Lawmakers rattled by Syria genocide horrors, call on Obama to act
IRS, SEC must respect email privacy: House Appropriations Committee
Question of the Day
The House Appropriations Committee unanimously passed legislation to ensure Americans’ email is private, is covered by the Fourth Amendment and cannot be searched by federal authorities without a warrant.
The legislation was approved by the committee Wednesday afternoon as an amendment to a must-pass spending bill that funds the Treasury, the White House, the federal judiciary and more than two dozen independent agencies — including the IRS and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The measure bars any agencies funded by the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill from using any funds to conduct investigations that do not treat Americans’ email in the same way they treat “hard mail and other private documents,” according to the amendment’s author, Kansas Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder.
The bill does not impact the National Security Agency or the FBI, both of which can use special, court-approved procedures to run warrantless searches of email, including that sent by U.S. citizens, for the purposes of counter-terrorism or foreign intelligence gathering.
The measure “affirms to Americans they have the same privacy rights in their email that they have in their postal mail,” said Mr. Yoder in a statement to The Washington Times.
The move by the second-term congressman follows a months-long cat-and-mouse game lawmakers have been playing with the IRS and other federal agencies about their authorities regarding Americans’ personal email stored by third-party service providers like Google or Yahoo.
Out of date and inadequately drafted legislation governing the issue — the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) — has allowed federal agencies to assert that “Fourth Amendment protections did not protect emails the same way it protects postal mail,” because Americans “‘do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy,’ in their email. I completely disagree,” said Mr. Yoder.
Although federal courts have affirmed — and Justice Department guidelines now recognize — that the Fourth Amendment covers e-mail, IRS officials have, in Congressional testimony, generally dodged the question of whether they regard a warrant as necessary to search email.
Records released under the Freedom of Information Act show that, at least until recently, IRS lawyers routinely used subpoenas, rather than warrants, to get email records from third parties.
“If government agents want to read emails, they should go to court, show probable cause to believe a crime is being committed, and obtain a search warrant just as they would for postal mail and telephone calls,” said Mr. Yoder.
The Appropriations Committee approved the bill, but no date has been set for floor consideration.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...
- Senator's memo shows Iran links in Homeland Security's troubled immigration program
- Help wanted: Homeland Security plagued by vacancies at the top
- Dems back bill to fix problems in investor visa program
- Democrats proceed with Mayorkas vote despite pending investigation
- NSA monitored 'World of Warcraft' players
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By James A. Lyons Jr.
The president has shifted alliance from friend to enemy
- Inside the Ring: Israel surprised by Hamas tunnel network
- Army's 3-D printed bombs to create 'a whole new universe' of lethal capabilities
- Chicken pox outbreak puts illegal immigrant facility on lockdown
- GOP leaders delay border bill, leave Obama in control
- Report: 40% of weapons sent to Afghanistan are unaccounted for
- CIA admits improperly hacking Senate computers in search of Bush-era information
- CRUZ: A tale of two hospitals: One in Israel, one in Gaza
- Lois Lerner hated conservatives, new emails show
- Catholic League slams Obama: 'Do Christian lives mean so little to you?'
- U.S. troops told not to eat, drink in front of Muslims during Ramadan
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world