The government needs a warrant to rummage through your personal papers, so why doesn't the same requirement apply to your emails?
It will if a measure that passed the House this week on voice vote becomes law.
Thanks to a federal statute passed in 1986 — before the internet — the Justice Department need only obtain a subpoena to access digital communications that are more than 180 days old. A subpoena is subject to much less judicial oversight than a warrant.
While some judges have been increasingly skeptical of the government's use of subpoenas in this manner, others have allowed it. The House bill would update the law to force federal authorities to secure a warrant per the Fourth Amendment before demanding such private emails from service providers.
"While there are disagreements about other aspects of surveillance reform, there is no disagreement that emails and electronic content deserve Fourth Amendment protections," Google executive Richard Salgado told Reuters.
The added protection is two decades overdue and will make it more difficult for the government to invade the privacy of law-abiding Americans. The Senate, which dawdled on similar legislation last year, should advance the bill to the president.
Donald Trump's tweeting fetish has his opponents scurrying around in all directions. One in particular that generated quite an amusing response was his post three weeks after the election that said in addition to "winning the Electoral College in a landslide, (he) won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."
Not surprisingly, Democrats have eagerly bit at his trolling. But according to an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal last week, an investigation in Trump's own hometown indicates that, in some places, concerns about the integrity of the voting process are more than imaginary.
In a commentary headlined, "Voter Fraud a Myth? That's not what New York Investigators Found," attorney Larry Levy reveals that back in 2013, the New York City Department of Investigation conducted a test on the voting system. Investigators posed as 63 individuals still on the city voter rolls despite having died, moved out of the jurisdiction or been convicted of a felony at least two years earlier.
"The investigators didn't go to great lengths to hide their fraudulent votes," Levy writes. All told, 97 percent of the badly disguised fake voters were allowed to cast ballots without incident. None was reported to the authorities or to the city's board of elections.
Democrats for years have been fighting efforts to safeguard the integrity of the process as a nefarious plot to keep poor and minority voters from participating.
But as Levy notes, the New York City experiment showed that too often, "such illegal behavior doesn't get reported or corrected" and that jurisdictions are susceptible to those who might seek to manipulate the tally. There's nothing wrong with embracing policies intended to limit those opportunities.
REPRINTED FROM THE PANAMA CITY NEWS HERALD