Congressmen Joe Barton (R-TX), Chairman of the Congressional Bipartisan Privacy Caucus, Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Tom Graves (R-GA), Justin Amash (R-MI), and Steve Scalise (R-LA), Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, are urging Senators to oppose an effort by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to access Americans' emails without a warrant. Specifically, the SEC is seeking to obtain a carve-out from the Senate bill -- the ECPA Amendments Act introduced by Sens. Mike Lee and Pat Leahy -- that will strengthen privacy protections online. The legislation in the Senate has been held up by some Senators who are sympathetic to the SEC's demands for a carve-out.
Mr. Yoder and Mr. Graves introduced the Email Privacy Act, a companion to the Senate bill, with the support of 132 bipartisan cosponsors, including Mr. Barton, Mr. Scalise, and Mr. Amash. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has also endorsed the bill. The legislation would extend Fourth Amendment privacy protections that already exist for postal mail to email by requiring all government agencies to get a warrant before accessing Americans' emails stored with third party providers like Yahoo! and Google. The bill would not affect national security law.
"I believe our founding fathers would not have allowed for the invasions of privacy that we are seeing today, whether that is from our government or the private sector. It is not acceptable to allow anyone the right to freely access the private information of others, and the Framers of our Constitution echoed this sentiment in the Fourth Amendment. I praise the efforts of Reps. Yoder and Graves on this issue and I urge my colleagues on the Senate side to remember the right to privacy and pass a clean ECPA bill." Rep. Joe Barton, Chairman of the Congressional Bipartisan Privacy Caucus.
"The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution grants the right to privacy of our postal mail. In the age of email in which we live, Americans have every right to the same expectation of privacy when it comes to our email," said Yoder. "I believe the Fourth Amendment rights should extend to email and no government agency should be exempt from the law."
"The SEC, IRS, and every other federal agency should respect the privacy rights of all Americans, and no agency should get a loophole to snoop through the emails of innocent Americans without following the traditional judicial process. I commend Mr. Yoder for his efforts to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of innocent Americans by ensuring that the federal government cannot secretly read their emails without due process of law," Mr. Scalise said.
"I strongly oppose the SEC's effort to sidestep the Fourth Amendment," said Rep. Graves. "No federal agency should be under the illusion that email is any less protected than regular mail or other methods of communication. It's long past time to pass the Email Privacy Act and the Leahy-Lee bill, without carve outs, and eliminate the confusion about privacy rights that clearly exists in the Executive Branch."
"The Leahy-Lee bill ensures that federal agencies respect the Fourth Amendment's protection of e-mails stored in the cloud," stated Rep. Amash. "The Fourth Amendment cannot be disregarded just because some federal agencies find it 'impractical'. I strongly urge Senators to expedite consideration of the Leahy-Lee bill and to reject agencies' attempts to gut its important protections."