The DOJ has questioned whether Congress should make it more difficult for law enforcement agencies to gain access to electronic communications. ECPA helps law enforcement agents track terrorists, computer hackers, drug traffickers and other criminals, James Baker, associate deputy attorney general at the DOJ, said during a hearing in September 2010.
Leahy's proposed amendments to H.R. 2471 would implement the ECPA reform he's advocated in the past, according to information from the Judiciary Committee. Leahy's amendment would prohibit an ISP from "voluntarily disclosing the contents of its customer's email or other electronic communications to the government," according to a summary provided by the committee.
In addition, the Leahy proposal would subject the disclosure of email and other communications to "one clear legal standard -- a search warrant issued based on a showing of probable cause," the summary said.
The Center for Democracy and Technology, one of the groups calling for stronger protections for electronic communications, sees no change in Leahy's position on warrants for email, said Jim Dempsey, CDT's vice president for public policy. Leahy "remains very committed to the warrant standard," he said.
However, other members of the Judiciary Committee, including ranking Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, have resisted changes to ECPA, Dempsey said. Leahy has tried to find compromise, but the debate "remains very much in flux," he said.
People with concerns about ECPA subpoenas "should be concerned about what the other members of the committee think," Dempsey said. "Do other members of the committee recognize the critical importance of the warrant standard?"
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is email@example.com.