“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.” ~Samuel Adams

Senator Leahy’s Pandora’s Box: Proposed Bill H.R. 2741 Violates Right to Privacy, Due Process, and the 4th Amendment

Senator Patrick Leahy

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has opened up a literal Pandora’s Box that poses a serious  threat to the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The 4th Amendment prohibits unreasonable search and seizure by the federal government and other state agencies.  The 4th Amendment is included in the Bill of Rights as the fourth of the original ten Constitutional guarantees.

Senator Leahy initially proposed his amendments to H.R. 2741 to limit cyber intrusion by the federal government and law enforcement.  However, after protests from law enforcement officials, the original proposed bill was quietly revised to allow gross violations of privacy and violations of the 4th Amendment on a massive scale.

Including the right granted to 22 federal agencies to a warrantless search of internet user’s private emails, facebook pages, twitter accounts, Google Docs, and other internet user records online. In some cases, permission would also be granted to the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to gain full access to private internet user accounts without so much as even notifying a judge, much less obtaining a warrant.

The right to privacy is not confined to one Constitutional Amendment, but it is guaranteed throughout the Constitution and the original Bill of Rights in a myriad of ways.

Including and not limited to, the 5th Amendment, which protects American’s from self incrimination in criminal cases, prohibits double jeopardy, and protects private property.

In addition, the 5th Amendment demands Due Process, and it’s protection prevents Government  from making laws that infringe upon the fundamental rights of Americans without Due Process of Law.  The 5th Amendment insures that no American can be deprived of a fundamental liberty without Due Process of Law. 

Fundamental liberties are rights summarized by the right to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, and those fundament rights were defined further and set down in the Constitution in the original ten amendments, as well as future amendments.  The original 10 amendments are known collectively as the Bill of Rights.

This would include the fundamental right to be protected from unreasonable search and seizure as guaranteed by the 4th Amendment, which was among the first of the original fundamental rights included in the Bill of Rights.

Due Process of Law was first enshrined in the 5th Amendment.  Due Process is also defined and protected under the later 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Justice Louis Brandeis

In the Supreme Court case, Olmstead vs. the United States (1928), Justice Louis Brandeis stated:

“The makers of our Constitution understood the need to secure conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness, and the protections guaranteed by this are much broader in scope, and include the right to life and an inviolate personality — the right to be left alone — the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. The principle underlying the Fourth and Fifth Amendments is protection against invasions of the sanctities of a man’s home and privacies of life.”

To sum it up, this is Cyber Big Brother on an unprecedented scale that has the ability to impact every American and destroy fundamental rights which are protected by the United States Constitution.

Furthermore, these are rights that our founders deemed so important, they have been protected as fundamental rights from the time our Constitution was first conceived, drafted, and made law of the land.

The Current Status of Leahy’s New Law

Following the original news report of CNET, Leahy was faced with an immediate backlash via wide spread protests from several powerful entities, as well as the general public.  Thus, the Senator seemingly once more flip flopped.

In the latest report from CNET, Senator Leahy tweeted a statement saying he would not support “warrantless access” in the revision of his bill which was created to placate law enforcement. A spokesman for Leahy did not respond to questions from CNET on what exactly the Senator did support.

And in an article the following day from PC World, Jim Dempsey, vice president of public policy at The Center for Democracy and Technology, has noted that Leahy may not support warrantless searches, but he is not the only Senator involved in this legislation.

It is commendable that Leahy does not support warrantless email searches (this seems to fluctuate).  But it is apparently still not known what he will or will not support, when the bill comes to the critical stage of a vote this Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Furthermore, now that Senator Leahy has opened this Pandora’s box, and apparently flip flopped on it not once, but twice, he has been unable to contain the damage.  It appears he has not prevented the possibility of the very grave consequences of his proposed law.

As Dempsey noted above, Leahy is not the only legislator who will be voting on this bill.  A bill that has the potential to become the law of the land. Freedomworks has launched a petition to halt this bill.

As H.R. 2741 quietly progresses to committee to be debated and possibly become final law, it ultimately has the potential to destroy fundamental rights secured by our founders and protected by the United States Constitution.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” ~Fourth Amendment, United States Constitution

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