Congressman reverses on law enforcement-backed law requiring storage of text messages and more

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Madison Ruppert
Activist Post

While Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, originally indicated that he agreed with a law enforcement-backed data retention proposal to be attached to a revised version of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), his aides now say that he misspoke.

Sensenbrenner is a noted crusader for widespread government surveillance based on an absurd fear of terrorism and has been unrelenting in his fight against privacy.

This has most recently been shown in his apparent backing of a data retention requirement to be added to the ECPA which was endorsed by various law enforcement organizations and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Department of Justice also sought to expand government surveillance powers in some ways to cover everything from text messages to e-mails, Twitter direct messages, Facebook messages and more while limiting it in some minor ways.

However, aides later told CNET that “their boss had misspoke and was talking about data preservation in response to law enforcement requests — not about a new data retention proposal.”

An anonymous source close to the situation told CNET that the reversal came in response to pressure from lobbyists who support ECPA reform.

“I have long opposed data retention and do not believe that any ECPA reform package should include such a mandate,” Sensenbrenner said in a subsequent statement. “Data retention requires a provider to retain information about the Internet use of all of its customers. A data retention mandate raises privacy concerns because it affects all users, not just bad actors.”

The statements made by Sensenbrenner earlier in the day had some major players including Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter quite concerned.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t so much due to the massive privacy problems inherent in such data retention but because “if the data retention mandate is attached to the ECPA reform bill, it will amount to a poison pill that will doom the legislation,” according to CNET.

This type of reversal is hardly surprising coming from Sensenbrenner. In 2006 Sensenbrenner drafted data retention legislation and just two days later backed away from it.

According to Nate Cardozo, an Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney, data retention shouldn’t even be considered ECPA reform.

“ECPA reform is about bringing the statute into line with the Fourth Amendment, and there’s no reason to trade retention requirements in exchange for ensuring existing constitutional rights,” Cardozo said.

The American Civil Liberties Union similarly opposes data retention along with the Center for Democracy and Technology.

“The ACLU has always opposed mandatory data retention,” said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the ACLU. “We have no plans to revisit that policy.”

“CDT wouldn’t support a bill with a data retention mandate,” said Mark Stanley, a spokesman for the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Sensenbrenner said today that creating legislation that “allows law enforcement to do their job, particularly against people who use the Internet for criminal purposes, is kind of going to be a tough nut to crack.



“We tried it in the last Congress and we weren’t able to get the ball over the goal line,” Sensenbrenner added.

It remains to be seen if that will happen and how much privacy will be lost in the process.

Did I forget anything or miss any errors? Would you like to make me aware of a story or subject to cover? Or perhaps you want to bring your writing to a wider audience? Feel free to contact me at [email protected] with your concerns, tips, questions, original writings, insults or just about anything that may strike your fancy.

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This article first appeared at End the Lie.

Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. He is available for podcast and radio interviews. Madison also now has his own radio show on UCYTV Monday nights 7 PM – 9 PM PT/10 PM – 12 AM ET. Show page link here: http://UCY.TV/EndtheLie. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at [email protected]

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