Vermont Senator Pushes Warrants for Email Searches

It's not quite gonna stop the PRISM program, but it's still an important step in the right direction. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy is pushing to fast-track a bill that would make it illegal for police to go through emails without a search warrant, The Hill reports.

The bill is co-sponsored by Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, and has already garnered unanimous support from Democrats. In April, the Senate Judiciary Committee also approved Leahy's bill and right now he's negotiating with Republicans — including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the Judiciary Committee's ranking member — to address any concerns.

The Vermont Senator is hoping that the bill will pass before the August recess roles around, but even if that fails, his office claims they have more than enough to stop a filibuster.

The bill's support has been boosted by Edward Snowden's leaks, which prompted greater scrutiny into the legality of various internet surveillance techniques.

"Revelations about NSA spying have made members of Congress very concerned about privacy," said an official from the Center for Democracy and Technology. "I think a lot of members are eager to vote for privacy legislation, and this provides that opportunity."

As it stands, the law only requires only that police have a subpoena (issued without a judge's ok) to make Internet companies give them emails that have been opened, or that are older than 180 days. Apparently, the legislation dates back to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986, when online storage was limited and so lawmakers assumed that if people hadn't read or deleted their messages in six months, then they could be considered abandoned.