WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. House today passed H.R. 387, the Email Privacy Act, co-sponsored by Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), which updates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 to protect Americans’ privacy from unwarranted government snooping while providing law enforcement with the tools needed for its investigations. This is the same legislation which passed the House by a vote of 418-0 last April, when Scalise made the following statement on the House floor:
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to thank Chairman Goodlatte for moving this bill through his committee, and I’d especially like to thank Congressman Yoder of Kansas for bringing this bill forward, and for being bold enough to say let’s modernize a law that’s so outdated, it goes back to 1986, yet governs email communication. Why do we want to do this? We want to do it because federal agencies are abusing this law to invade the privacy of hardworking law-abiding citizens all across this country.
“Mr. Speaker, this is a document from the Internal Revenue Service, titled ‘Search Warrant Handbook.’ In this document by the IRS, their protocol says, ‘the Fourth Amendment does not protect communications held in electronic storage, such as email messages stored on a server, because internet users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications.’ The IRS has made it clear that they don’t believe that American citizens have a Fourth Amendment protection of privacy for their email communications. The IRS has gone further and is actually reading emails of American Citizens. No one across the country knows about it unless the IRS finds something that then they are going to go after you criminally on.
“So they are reading emails — the private emails, Mr. Speaker — of American citizens every single day and they have been doing it for years and it’s time for this abuse of power to end. We need to pass this bill with strong bipartisan support, send it over to the Senate, and get it to the President’s desk so that American citizens have real protections — privacy protections that they deserve and think they have. But they don’t Mr. Speaker, because federal agencies like the IRS today are reading the private emails of American citizens and using it against them. It’s wrong. They ought to go get a warrant, but they should not be reading our private emails when people haven’t done anything wrong. Let’s pass this bill. I yield back the balance of my time.”