Jared Polis

Chamber of Commerce stops waging war against conservatives for a minute to team up with the ACLU to back email privacy bill

Chamber of Commerce Meme

United Liberty has covered at length the ongoing battles between free-market, pro-liberty conservatives and Chamber of Commerce-backed Republicans throughout the primary process this cycle and in the hall of Congress. From Justin Amash’s contentious primary to the upcoming vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, there are a number of skirmishes that highlight the growing rift within the Republican Party.

Will the GOP be the party of Big Business or the party of all business? That outcome is to be determined.

But in nearly every one of these battles, the Chamber of Commerce has been opposed to the pro-liberty wing of the Republican Party… until now.

Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder and Colorado Democrat Jared Polis introduced legislation to update the 1986 Electrontic Privacy Communications Act, an antiquated law governing electronic communications that allows law enforcement to obtain and read your emails without a warrant.

The bill now has 218 co-sponsors, or a majority of Members of the House.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports:

House to vote on amendment to limit NSA funding

After some wrangling with Speaker John Boehner, Rep. Justin Amash’s amendment to the FY 2014 defense spending bill that would reinforce already existing limitations on the National Security Agency (NSA) will come to the floor for a vote as early as tomorrow.

This controversial part of the 2001 anti-terrorism law allows intelligence and law enforcement agencies to access third-party records pertaining to an investigation into criminal activity. News broke early last month that the NSA has used this authority under the PATRIOT Act to gain access to virtually every Americans’ phone records, even if they aren’t suspected of wrongdoing.

Just last week, it looked as though Amash’s amendment wouldn’t be approved for debate by the House Rules Committee. If House leaders kept the amendment off the floor, it’s possible that the entire defense spending measure would have been held up. This led to Amash and Boehner — the two have some rocky history — working together to forge a workable amendment that could be brought to the House floor for a vote.

Amash tweeted out his gratitude to Boehner for bringing the amendment out of committee and to the the floor for an up or down vote:

Bring the Fourth Amendment into the 21st Century: Antiquated, privacy-violating laws must be revisited in light of NSA spying

Police Reading Emails

Under an antiquated law governing electronic communications, police can obtain and read your emails without a warrant, a threat “much worse” than NSA domestic spying, according to Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder.

From The Hill:

Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) expressed deep concern over the 1986 Electronic Privacy Communications Act (ECPA), which allows police to obtain emails without a warrant.

“It’s much worse than the debates we’re having over whether the NSA should be able to theoretically review phone call” data, Yoder said late Thursday during a Google Hangout video chat to discuss his attempts to update the law.

“This is much worse in that they’re actually reading the emails,” he said.

Yoder’s bill, the Email Privacy Act, would update the ECPA to require law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant before accessing digital communications including emails.

Currently, officials can access any email that has been stored for more than six months without a warrant.

Despite the threat it poses to their privacy, “most Americans aren’t aware of” the 1986 law, Yoder said.

The Email Privacy Act, which Yoder introduced in early May, has nearly 218 co-sponsors, the “magic number” required to get the bill passed on the House floor. Colorado Democrat Jared Polis, a reliable ally when it comes to civil liberties, is the chief Democrat co-sponsor.

True Bipartisanship: House passes amendments barring DEA from interfering in hemp, medical marijuana operations

Hemp Production

Three amendments passed the House last night on two separate bills regarding the cultivation and manufacture of Cannabis, two prohibiting the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) from using appropriated funds to interfere with legal industrial hemp production and another prohibiting the DEA from raiding medical marijuana operations in states where the treatment is legal.

It is important to note that industrial hemp and marijuana are two different species of the same plant. Industrial hemp is used in many countries to produce rope, clothing, and even automotive parts. It has a significantly lower THC count (the stuff that makes you “high”) than marijuana. And though cultivation isn’t yet legal at the federal level, Americans import millions of dollars worth of good produced with hemp from countries like China and Canada.

As former Congressman Ron Paul famously quipped, you’d have to smoke a telephone pole-sized hemp joint to get the same “buzz” as one marijuana joint. It’s important to note the difference when discussing these issues because many Americans who might oppose marijuana decriminalization could reasonably support industrial hemp cultivation.

Earlier this month, the DEA seized hemp seeds on their way to the University of Kentucky, according to US News and World Report. This sort of research was legalized when President Obama signed the farm bill earlier this year with an amendment from Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie legalizing Kentucky’s pilot program. Kentucky filed suit to release the seeds from the DEA.

Email privacy measure gaining support in the House

Though the ongoing controversy and revelations about the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs have slowed any legislative action to reform loopholes in outdated electronic communications laws, The Hill reports that the Email Privacy Act is picking up steam in the House of Representatives:

The Email Privacy Act from Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-Kans.), Tom Graves (R-Ga.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) has 181 co-sponsors in the House, and the authors are “still pushing to get more,” according to a Yoder spokesman.

“There’s a lot of growing support for that bill,” said Mark Stanley of the Center for Democracy and Technology. “A lot of members of Congress see this as a common sense thing.”

More than 40 lawmakers have signed onto the bill since November, pushing the total close to the magic number of 218, which would represent a majority of the House.
Passage of legislation to limit warrantless email searches appeared to be a done deal last year until revelations about National Security Agency surveillance rocked the debate.

The focus on the activities of the NSA shifted Congress’s focus from law enforcement access to national security, shunting the email issue aside.

It turns out people don’t like being spied on after all

See Video

Did you know that the federal government can get access to your emails because of a loophole in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA). The loophole means that after 180 days, your emails lose protected status and can be accessed by third-party providers without a warrant.

This video, produced by End180Days.org, offers a humorous and informative take on the very serious issue of electronic privacy. Three measures that would close the loophole have been introduced in Congress. United Liberty has covered two of them, ECPA Amendments Act (Leahy-Lee) and the Email Privacy Act (Polis-Yoder-Graves).

House committee approves email privacy reform

If there is any good to come out of revelations about the NSA broad surveillance of Americans, it’s that there is a new push inside Congress to ensure that the Fourth Amendment is being protected.

Though the NSA is most infamous example of a government snooping of its citizens, the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service claimed that they could read Americans’ emails, instant messages, and search their cloud data without a warrant. The FBI wanted even more authority than currently allowed to conduct surveillance.

But that may soon come to an end. Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved an amendment that would require agencies that receive funding through the annual Financial Services spending bill to obtain a warrant before accessing Americans’ email information.

Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), who offered the amendment in committee, called its adoption a step in the right direction.

“The IRS, SEC, and other government agencies have stated Americans don’t have an expectation of privacy with their email. I completely disagree,” said Yoder in a statement through his office. “By passing this amendment, the Appropriations Committee is taking a critical step towards ensuring all Americans are protected by the Fourth Amendment – their mail, documents on their desks at home, and now their private emails.”

House members urge reform to protect e-mail privacy

Most Americans don’t realize that their e-mail messages, chats, and documents stored on cloud servers aren’t protected by current privacy laws. There have been efforts pushed in Congress and by groups from all across the ideological spectrum to reform these laws, but there has been little to show for it.

Even before the revelations about the NSA spying scandal became public knowledge, the Justice Department and IRS claimed that they could read Americans e-mails and web-based instant messages without obtaining a warrant, as the Fourth Amendment requires. The FBI wants even more authority than statutes currently allow to access online data.

Three members of the House — Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Tom Graves (R-GA), and Jared Polis (D-CO) — made the case yesterday for the Email Privacy Act, a bipartisan measure that would protect Americans’ electronic communications and cloud data, in an editorial at Wired:

Simply put, this bipartisan legislation would affirm what most Americans already assume — and have every constitutional right to believe — that their privacy is protected from unwarranted government intrusion.

Bipartisan Push to Prevent Phone Record Seizure Without Court Order

Associated Press

The Department of Justice came under fire this past week for its subpoena of Associated Press phone records without any notice to the news agency or targeted reporters. While Attorney General Eric Holder claims that the action was a response to a national security threat, it was actually part of the Obama Administration’s continuing war on whistleblowers and, as many see it, a shot directly at the free press, which is protected by the First Amendment.

The controversy has brought new attention on the need to protect Americans from this sort of government overreach. on Thursday, Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), and Jared Polis (D-CO) joined together to introduce H.R. 2014, the Telephone Records Protection Act, which would protect all Americans from this sort of government overreach:

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