20 November 2012

Journalists Who Should Be Working as Pastry Chefs

Declan Mccullagh, everyone's favorite "Draw by crayon Libertarian,"* has a scoop.  That Senator Pat Leahy had an amendment to the privacy bill in his committee that would allow warrantless access to your electronic communications by a big honking number of federal agencies.

One small problem though, he got his hands on an out of date draft that had never been seriously considered, and was not put forward by Leahy:
This would be particularly disturbing in the wake of the scandal surrounding Generals Petraeus and Allen, whose emails were exposed during a wide-ranging and questionable FBI investigation and have brought the discussion of limits on the surveillance state to the fore. But when reached by phone, Patrick Leahy’s spokesperson David Carle bluntly said the article was “wrong.”

The version of the bill that Declan McCullagh excerpts in his report appears to be one of many that have been drafted and passed around, but is not a version that would be considered seriously at a hearing to review the bill next week.

“Senator Leahy does not support broad carve outs for warrantless searches of email content,” says a Senate Judiciary aide. “He remains committed to upholding privacy laws and updating the outdated Electronic Privacy Communications Act.”

A person who has been privy to conversations about the impending bill intended to update privacy protections around digital communications for the modern age said that this was a “snapshot of a discussion point” and that it’s inaccurate to say it’s the version being pushed forward. This particular draft of the bill incorporates amendments suggested by Senator Chuck Grassley who has expressed concern that too much privacy protection for our email could negatively impact safety tasks.
OK, That's a bit of an oops.

So, he accused Pat Leahy of trying to take away our privacy rights on the basis of a draft from Charles Grassley. ……… Oops.

What is Mccullagh's response to all of this? He claims that his story forced Leahy to change his bill:
Sen. Patrick Leahy has abandoned his controversial proposal that would grant government agencies more surveillance power -- including warrantless access to Americans' e-mail accounts -- than they possess under current law.

The Vermont Democrat said today on Twitter that he would "not support such an exception" for warrantless access. The remarks came a few hours after a CNET article was published this morning that disclosed the existence of the measure.
Not even a mention of reports that it was never a real amendment, and that Chuck Grassley was the author of the draft.

So, he took a draft from a Republican, one that is consistent with that Senator's history, and ascribed it to a Democrat, because, you know, Democrats are evil!

Not surprising.

Declan McCullagh was one of the chief promoters of the "Al Gore invented the Internet meme."

His editors need to smack him upside the head with a clue-by-four, and tell him to get the facts straight.

*Not my bon mot. It's from the always entertaining Andrew Orlowski of The Register.


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