Senate bill proposes to close e-mail wiretapping "loophole"

Two senators are hoping to close what they call a "loophole" in U.S. wiretapping law that led to an acquittal last year of a man charged with e-mail interception.

In that case, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Bradford Councilman, a former executive for an online bookseller, did not violate federal wiretap laws by allegedly snooping on e-mail that Amazon.com sent to customers through accounts Councilman provided. (The appeals court currently is reconsidering its earlier ruling.)

The legislation, introduced Thursday by Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and John Sununu, R-New Hampshire, tweaks federal wiretapping law that gives Internet service providers substantial leeway in what they can do in terms of customers' incoming correspondence.

"Our bill would restate and underscore Congress' intent and restore the law to its full purpose," Leahy said in a statement.

Their bill, called the E-mail Privacy Act, follows in the footsteps of a similar, unsuccessful measure introduced in the House of Representatives last year. But no bill is likely to go anywhere until the outcome of the court case is clear.

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About the author

Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.

 

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