The Conversation

NSA Backlash Leads to Legislation on the Hill

Recent revelations about the scope of the government's domestic surveillance programs are fueling new privacy legislation by Congress. "The revelations offer an opening for updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which would require law enforcement to get a warrant before searching personal emails."

Also lurking in the background is legislation pushed by the Obama administration that would expand federal wiretapping capabilities. 

The new bills focus on traditional law enforcement's access to communication data, not the National Security Agency.  "The fact that the public is now aware of this issue — and everything that has come out about the NSA — is likely to cause a lot of people to focus on privacy and in particular online privacy and the privacy of their emails," Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said in an interview. "There’s absolutely political will for it."

The tech industry stands on one side of the issue, supporting privacy reform while law enforcement is on the other, wanting access to the information to track criminals.

The wheels were already in motion to take up privacy issues in Congress with Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Lee (R-UT) cosponsoring a reform bill.  House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) has promised to prioritize the issue this Congress. 

The recent leaks about the NSA surveillance operation has seen momentum pick up.  "A House companion to the Leahy-Lee reform bill — introduced by GOP Reps. Kevin Yoder of Kansas and Tom Graves of Georgia — has more than 100 co-sponsors, 22 of whom came after the first NSA disclosures."

“Everyone’s hearing about it from their constituents from home, and so they want to have legislation they can sign on to respond to it,” Yoder said.


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