Leahy scuttles his warrantless e-mail surveillance bill

Senator Patrick Leahy has abandoned his controversial proposal that would grant government agencies more surveillance power — including warrantless access to Americans’ e-mail accounts — than they possess under current law.

The Vermont Democrat said today on Twitter that he would “not support such an exception” for warrantless access. The remarks came a few hours after a CNET article was published this morning that disclosed the existence of the measure.

A vote on the proposal in the Senate Judiciary committee, which Leahy chairs, is scheduled for next Thursday. The amendments were due to be glued onto a substitute (PDF) to H.R. 2471, which the House of Representatives already has approved.

Leahy’s about-face comes in response to a deluge of criticism today, including the American Civil Liberties Union saying that warrants should be required, and the conservative group FreedomWorks launching a petition to Congress — with more than 2,300 messages sent so far — titled: Tell Congress: Stay Out of My Email!

A spokesman for the senator did not respond to questions today from CNET asking for clarification of what Leahy would support next week — via redwolf.newsvine.com

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