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Senator probes privacy law after Obama phone record breach

Patrick Leahy asks Justice Department how effective the Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act is after President-elect Barack Obama's cell phone records were breached.

In light of the recent breach of President-elect Barack Obama's cell phone records, a senator on Monday sent a letter (PDF) to the Justice Department asking how many investigations or prosecutions the department has undertaken for violations of the Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) sent the letter to Matthew Friedrich, acting assistant attorney general, noting that "data privacy breaches involving the sensitive phone records of ordinary Americans are occurring with greater frequency."

The Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act, which Leahy sponsored and Congress passed in 2007, prohibits telecommunications carriers from obtaining confidential phone records by accessing customer accounts through the Internet without permission. Along with information about prosecutions and investigations, the letter asks whether the department has found the law effective in protecting Americans' privacy.

Obama's cell phone records were improperly accessed earlier this month by Verizon Wireless employees who were subsequently fired.