Bipartisan Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Require Disclosure of Government Electronic Searches (Free Preview)

Bipartisan Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Require Disclosure of Government Electronic Searches (Free Preview)
Photo by Daniel Olah on Unsplash

This is the free version of yesterday's post on legislation to reform how United States (U.S.) prosecutors and law enforcement agencies can keep secret their access to electronic communications.

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A bipartisan group of United States (U.S.) lawmakers have introduced legislation to require U.S. courts to reveal orders they issue allowing law enforcement agencies to conduct surveillance of Americans and residents of the U.S. This bill was prompted, in part, by the use of court orders to seek the communications of U.S. journalists during the Trump Administration. The legislation would remove the disparity in U.S. law that allows for some searches and seizures of communications and other materials, especially electronic versions, to be indefinitely kept secret with standing orders made to the communications provider not to inform the subject.

Last year, the New York Times, CNN, and the Washington Post revealed they have been fighting efforts by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) under both the Trump and Biden administrations to stop the execution of court orders to access the work email of journalists. The New York Times made a compelling case in this article the inquiry started because former President Donald Trump wanted to see if former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey had divulged classified information to journalists, which is a federal crime. The Washington Post claimedthe DOJ was interested in email from the period in 2017 when its reporters were investigating Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election and contact between Russia and Trump campaign officials. Nonetheless, the Biden DOJ ceased litigating to execute the orders in mid-2021 after continuing along the Trump DOJ’s path.

Moreover, while the DOJ did not succeed in getting many of the emails, the DOJ succeeded in obtaining from third party providers, likely major internet service providers (ISPs) or telecommunications providers, information about the journalists’ phone communications and metadata. CNN said that the DOJ “had also been sweeping other electronic accounts” in addition to the work email and communications they wanted. Most likely the DOJ utilized the provisions of the Stored Communications Act (SCA), which is part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

Other Developments

Photo on Flickr by Truque da Banana

Australia’s Parliament has passed the “Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure Protection) Bill 2022,” and the Governor General granted the royal assent, meaning it has been enacted.

Lord Michael Grade has been confirmed as the United Kingdom’s new head of the Office of Communications for a four year term.

The United States (U.S.) Department of State announced that the Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy (CDP) “began operations.” The new bureau “will address the national security challenges, economic opportunities, and implications for U.S. values associated with cyberspace, digital technologies, and digital policy” and “will be led by a Senate-confirmed Ambassador-at-Large.”

Further Reading

Photo by ewe neon on Flickr

Amazon workers in NYC vote to unionize in historic labor win” By Haleluya Hadero, Anne D'innocenzio and Bobby Caina Calvan — Associated Press

UK ministers quietly approve Chinese microchip factory takeover” By  Eleni Courea — Politico EU

Biden administration is studying whether to scale back Trump-era cyber authorities at DOD” By  Suzanne Smalley — cyberscoop

Group backed by tech giants claims thousands of members. Many have never heard of it.” By Emily Birnbaum — Politico