Conservative Groups Ask Congress to Update the 4th Amendment Protections for the Digital Age

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April 15, 2011

On April 6, 2011, a coalition of ten conservative groups sent a letter to Congress asking them to protect private electronic information held by third parties against unwarranted law enforcement access.  According to the letter, laws protecting such information have been “eroded by technological change,” and Congressional action is needed to extend Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure of digital documents and other electronic information.

The letter asks Congress to require law enforcement to:
  • Obtain a search warrant before it can obtain private content stored online;
  • Obtain a search warrant before it can track the location of a mobile communications device;
  • Persuade a court that demands for information about the parties with whom an individual has communicated are relevant and material to a criminal investigation; and
  • Demonstrate to a court that the information it seeks through a bulk data request pertaining to an entire class of users is needed for a criminal investigation.
Groups signing the letter included TechFreedom, FreedomWorks, Campaign for Liberty, Washington Policy Center, Liberty Coalition, and the Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights.
Documents Obtained by EFF Reveal FBI Patriot Act Abuses
Documents obtained through multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests offer details about at least one possible FBI violation involving Patriot Act provisions. According to a March 31, 2011 Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) letter  to the Senate Judiciary Committee, heavily redacted documents released by the Department of Justice and Central Intelligence Agency offer evidence that the FBI monitored the conversations of “young children” for “approximately” five days after a roving wiretap was authorized. The roving wiretap is one of three Patriot Act surveillance provisions that are set to expire on May 27.