IRS: We can read your emails without a warrant
Did you know the Internal Revenue Agency believes it can read your emails without a warrant?
Last year, the ACLU sent a FOIA request to try and figure out how the IRS dealt cases that involved emails, text messages and other electronic correspondence – which, soon enough, will be nearly all American correspondence.
The IRS responded with 247 pages of records that laid out the policies and practices it employs in criminal investigations. As the ACLU points out, in a 2009 handbook the IRS asserts that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t protect emails because Internet users “do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications.” (We don’t?!) The IRS Office reiterated the policy again in 2010.
The IRS had an opportunity to officially reconsider its position when it issued edits to the Internal Revenue Manual in March 2011. But its policy stayed the same: the Manual explained that under ECPA, “Investigators can obtain everything in an account except for unopened e-mail or voice mail stored with a provider for 180 days or less using a [relevant-and-material-standard] court order” instead of a warrant. Again, no suggestion that the Fourth Amendment might require more.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2010 case, U.S. v. Warshak, that the government needs a probable cause warrant, before forcing email providers to hand over the messages. The IRS is still adhering to the antiquated Electronic Communications Privacy Act, allowing it to access to email that’s been stored in a server for more than 180 days through a subpoena rather than a search warrant.
And let’s not forget, the IRS not only collect your taxes, it will soon be enforcement arm of Obamacare.
Follow David Harsanyi on Twitter @davidharsanyi.