Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), one of the original sponsors of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2015, withdrew the bill today from the Senate Judiciary Committee's agenda after a proposed amendment threatened to override one of the key tenets of the proposed legislation.
Also known as the Email Privacy Act, the original legislation recently passed 419-0 in the House, and was designed to change current law so that government investigators would be required to obtain a search warrant before compelling tech companies to turn over customers' electronic communications, even if the records are more than 180 days old. But an amendment recently introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) would have granted exceptional powers to the FBI to continue making these requests via national security letters.
“Such an expansion would swallow up the protections this bill offers to the American people. While there are other concerns we had hoped to negotiate, the national security letter amendment is something I cannot in good conscience have attached to this bill,” wrote Lee in a statement explaining why he pulled the legislation.”
Adam Brandon, CEO of conservative, libertarian group FreedomWorks, said in a statement sent to SCMagazine.com, “It's disappointing that the important reforms contained in ECPA have been derailed by a handful of senators who are trying to use this vital legislation to undermine Americans' privacy by expanding the FBI's ability to access communications without a warrant.”
Cornyn, however, defended his position. “It strikes me as odd,” he said, according to a report by Morning Consult. “I believe the amendment enjoys the support of the majority of this committee.”