The House of Representatives easily passed legislation on Wednesday to re-authorize the FISA Amendments Act, the 2008 law that allows the federal government to intercept the international communications of Americans with minimal judicial oversight. The vote was 301 to 118.
"I think that the government needs to comply with the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution all the time," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) in a floor speech opposing the bill. "We can be safe while still complying with the Constitution of the United States."
But House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, (R-TX) disagreed. "Foreign terrorists continue to search for new ways to attack America," he said before the vote. "Foreign nations continue to spy on America, to plot cyber attacks, and attempt to steal sensitive information from our military and private-sector industries."
74 Democrats voted in favor of this bill. Can you guess how Minority Leader Pelosi voted?
If Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is able to pass his amendement, e-mail and other electronic communication will have stronger privacy protection.
Right now, if the cops want to read my e-mail, it’s pretty trivial for them to do so. All they have to do is ask my online e-mail provider. But a new bill set to be introduced Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee by its chair, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), seems to stand the best chance of finally changing that situation and giving e-mail stored on remote servers the same privacy protections as e-mail stored on one's home computer.
When Congress passed the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), a time when massive online storage of e-mail was essentially unimaginable, it was presumed that if you hadn’t actually bothered to download your e-mail, it could be considered "abandoned" after 180 days. By that logic, law enforcement would not need a warrant to go to the e-mail provider or ISP to get the messages that are older than 180 days; police only need to show that they have "reasonable grounds to believe" the information gathered would be useful in an investigation. Many Americans and legal scholars have found this standard, in today’s world, problematic.
Just after midnight on August 31, Mitchell Wallace was awakened from his home in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite by the sound of gunshots. He heard dozens of rounds being fired and emerged from his house in time to see a police dog bite 25-year-old Michael Vincent Allen in the neck and drag him from his truck. Allen had just led police on a high-speed car chase, and would die from his wounds.
The Dallas Morning News reports (hat tip to Carlos Miller) that after the shooting subsided, Wallace took out his cell phone and began taking photos and videos of the carnage. But the police evidently didn't appreciate the scrutiny. Wallace says the Mesquite police confiscated the phone, deleted the photos and videos, and didn't return the device for four days.
Attorneys for a Baltimore man are accusing the police of harassment and intimidation after the police interviewed his ex-wife and former employers seeking information about whether he has a history of drug use. The man, Christopher Sharp, is a plaintiff in a lawsuit charging that Baltimore police violated his civil rights when they confiscated his cell phone and deleted video that he says documented police misconduct.
The Obama administration has already weighed in on Sharp's side. The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice filed a brief in January arguing that the officers' actions violated the First Amendment.
A hair-raising Los Angeles police chase ended Wednesday with a mob surrounding a group of alleged bank robbers who were seen throwing armloads of cash from their vehicle as they fled.
It began around 10 a.m., when four men allegedly robbed a Bank of America in Santa Clarita, according to The Los Angeles Times. Police said two of the suspects bailed out and fled on foot during the chase that ensued, and apparently escaped.
Two other drivers sped through downtown Los Angeles throwing wads of money from their vehicle. The chase finally came to an end an hour later when hundreds of people surrounded the vehicle and it was forced to stop.