White House: Police Should Have Warrants for Email Searches

Officials back a push to update a 1986 privacy law.

National Journal
Brendan Sasso
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Brendan Sasso
May 1, 2014, 12:07 p.m.

Po­lice of­ficers should ob­tain a war­rant be­fore search­ing emails, text mes­sages, and oth­er private di­git­al con­tent, White House ad­visers said Thursday.

The of­fi­cials urged Con­gress to up­date the Elec­tron­ic Com­mu­nic­a­tions Pri­vacy Act — a 1986 law that al­lows po­lice to read emails that have been opened or that are more than 180 days old without a war­rant.

Pri­vacy ad­voc­ates have been lob­by­ing the White House for months to come out in fa­vor of up­dat­ing the law. The Justice De­part­ment has pre­vi­ously ex­pressed sup­port for up­grad­ing the law’s pri­vacy pro­tec­tions, but the Se­cur­it­ies and Ex­change Com­mis­sion has ar­gued that new le­gis­la­tion should in­clude a carve-out for civil in­vest­ig­a­tions. 

The White House of­fi­cials an­nounced their sup­port for the up­date as part of a re­port on data pri­vacy. In a blog post, John Podesta, a seni­or ad­viser who led the pri­vacy re­view, said Con­gress should amend ECPA to “en­sure the stand­ard of pro­tec­tion for on­line, di­git­al con­tent is con­sist­ent with that af­forded in the phys­ic­al world — in­clud­ing by re­mov­ing ar­cha­ic dis­tinc­tions between email left un­read or over a cer­tain age.”

Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Patrick Leahy, a Ver­mont Demo­crat, is cham­pi­on­ing ECPA re­form le­gis­la­tion, but his bill has yet to reach the Sen­ate floor. Con­tro­versy over Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency spy­ing has largely over­shad­owed the is­sue in the past year.

“It is clear that mo­mentum is on the side of re­form, and now it is time for the Con­gress to re­spond,” Leahy said in a state­ment. 

Pri­vacy groups ap­plauded the White House for back­ing the le­gis­lat­ive push.

“Every­one who cares about their pri­vacy should be glad that the pres­id­ent’s re­view group re­com­mends up­dat­ing ECPA to pro­tect Amer­ic­ans’ com­mu­nic­a­tions,” said Chris­toph­er Ca­labrese, a lob­by­ist for the Amer­ic­an Civil Liber­ties Uni­on. “By re­cog­niz­ing that on­line and off­line com­mu­nic­a­tions should be treated the same, the re­port lays the ground­work for keep­ing every­one’s emails, texts, and pho­tos private and se­cure.”

Nu­ala O’Con­nor, the pres­id­ent of the Cen­ter for Demo­cracy and Tech­no­logy, urged Con­gress to “act now to pass ECPA re­form le­gis­la­tion without any loop­holes.”

What We're Following See More »
RELIEVES MARK TONER
Former Fox Anchor Heather Nauert to Be State Dept. Spokeswoman
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS
NOT WORRIED ABOUT BUDGET NEUTRALITY
Trump Wants to Slash Corporate Rate to 15%
10 hours ago
THE LATEST
PROMISES “MASSIVE” CUTS
Trump Tax Reform Package Coming Next Week
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

President Trump today said he'll be releasing his tax reformpacakge next week around the 100-day mark of his presidency. He promised that "businesses and individuals will receive a 'massive tax cut ... bigger I believe than any tax cut ever."

Source:
ONLY BROAD PRINCIPLES
Mulvaney: Tax Reform Details Won’t Be Released This Week
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

Despite President Trump's announcement that his tax reform proposal would be released this week, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney now says it will be ready in June. This week's announcement will be limited to "specific governing principles."

Source:
DOMESTIC PRIORITIES
Pence Cuts Asia Trip Short For Big Week
14 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Vice President Mike Pence has cut his Asia trip short "to race back to Washington, where the Trump administration faces a critical week on tax reform and a funding plan to keep the government running, an aide said on Sunday." Pence will return to Washington on Tuesday morning instead of Wednesday. Trump has a busy week ahead, as he plans to roll out a tax reform on framework, sign a number of executive orders, and works to keep the government open past Friday.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login