Sens. Mike Lee and Rand Paul, both conservative stalwarts, unite with liberal Sen. Patrick Leahy on a bill that would require the government to get a search warrant before it obtains e-mail and other electronic communications.
“When you give your government power, it’s for always. It’s not just for when your team is in office,” said conservative activist Grover Norquist, who loudly criticized the domestic surveillance programs when they became public during the Bush years. “And when you give people power, it demands to be used. . . . Obama was continuing and building on powers the Republicans demanded the government should have.”
Qualms like that have produced some unusual alliances.
Vermont’s Patrick J. Leahy, the liberal Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, has teamed with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a tea party champion, on a bill that would require the government to obtain a search warrant, based on probable cause, before it obtains e-mail and other electronic communications. (The current law, written in the pre-Internet era, allows e-mail older than 180 days to be more easily accessed with a subpoena.)
Although the bill was blocked last fall by Judiciary Committee Republicans, it sailed through the committee in April. On Thursday, the ardently libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced that he was joining as a co-sponsor.