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Government Surveillance

133 Days and Counting: When Will the White House Oppose Warrantless Snooping?

The White House has promised it will respond to any petition on its website that receives over 100,000 signatures. Recently, the White House responded to a petition to deport teen pop sensation Justin Bieber. In the past, it found time to respond to a petition to build a Death Star.

But a petition to end warrantless snooping on Americans? Silence.

As I’ve previously noted, last December, over 100,000 Americans signed a petition asking the Obama Administration to support legislation to end warrantless email snooping. But the White House has remained mum.

The unheeded petition calls for an update to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), a 1986 law that says the government can access digital communications, like email, without a warrant. With concern over digital privacy at an all time high after Edward Snowden’s revelations, this should have been an easy one for the Obama Administration. In the House of Representatives, over 200 Members have cosponsored a bipartisan bill to update ECPA. In the Senate, the same bipartisan bill has passed the Judiciary Committee.

Yet with all of this growing support in Congress, the White House is not backing a commonsense reform giving email the same protections as postal mail, despite the fact that even the Department of Justice has admitted ECPA needs a fix.

So often, frustration at Washington’s inability to get things done is directed at Congress, but in this instance, Congress is forging ahead; it’s the White House that is dragging its feet.

Today, in response to the White House’s continued silence, Digital 4th—a coalition of the ACLU, Americans for Tax Reform, Center for Democracy & Technology, and Heritage Action—is launching, a site with a very simple message: The White House must support an end to warrantless snooping on Americans’ email.

To spotlight the White House’s failure to stand up for Americans’ privacy, features a running clock counting the number of days, hours, minutes, and seconds the White House has failed to respond to the ECPA petition.


The White House’s silence is particularly troubling given the recent push from the SEC to block reform in order to get a special exception allowing itself and other agencies like the IRS to seize private communications without a warrant. It’s time for the White House and President Obama to lead on this issue and take a firm stand against the SEC’s power grab.

We encourage everyone to visit and to share the site with your friends. If enough of us keep the pressure on the White House, we can fix this broken law. With momentum steadily building, we’re closer than ever.

We also encourage everyone to call their Members of Congress to tell them to get on board the ECPA reform bandwagon. You can use to find out if your Representative is cosponsoring the Email Privacy Act – if they’re not, use the site to give them a call and urge them to support our online privacy.