- Donald Rumsfeld has ‘no idea’ if he paid taxes correctly
- Bradley Manning named honorary grand marshal of San Francisco Pride parade
- Look out PayPal: Facebook working toward mobile payments system
- U.S. rebukes Iran’s U.N. envoy pick over 1979 embassy attack
- Stoned mom avoids jail after driving 12 miles with baby on roof
- More than 100 ‘inappropriate’ encounters between NYC school staffers, students since 2009: report
- Joe Biden to Boston bombing survivors: ‘America will never, ever stand down’
- FBI failed to throughly vet Boston bombing suspect after Russian lead, report finds
- Atlanta Braves flooded with Hank Aaron hate mail: He’s a ‘scumbag’
- University: Help, our campus is too white
IRS to taxpayers: We don’t need a warrant for email snooping, GPS tracking
IRS attorneys have asserted in internal documents that the Fourth Amendment does not protect email and that a warrant is not needed to plant a GPS location tracker on a car in its owner's driveway.
In documents obtained from the IRS by the ACLU under the federal Freedom of Information Act and posted on the website Wednesday, the agency's attorneys adopt an extremely aggressive posture toward the requirements the Fourth Amendment might place on its criminal investigators who want to read email or text messages, or use GPS location tracking.
"The Fourth Amendment does not protect communications held in electronic storage, such as email messages stored on a server, because Internet users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications," states a 2009 "Search Warrant Handbook" from the IRS Criminal Tax Division's Office of Chief Counsel.
A slide presentation the following year by the IRS Office of Chief Counsel asserts that "placing tracking device on car while in driveway does not violate Fourth Amendment."
Later it adds, "Fourth Amendment Does Not Protect Emails Stored on Server" and there is "No Privacy Expectation" in those emails.
That analysis dovetailed with the requirements of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, which says that a warrant is not required for email more than 180 days old or that has been opened.
But at the end of 2010, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a case called Warshak, that the requirements of the Fourth Amendment, trumping the provisions of the 1986 ECPA law, mean a warrant is required to read email — no matter where it is stored or how old it is.
"The key question our [document] request seeks to answer is whether the IRS's policy changed after Warshak, which should have put the agency on notice that the Fourth Amendment does in fact protect the contents of emails," said ACLU staff attorney Nathan Freed Wessler.
"So does the IRS always get a warrant? Unfortunately, while the documents we have obtained do not answer this question point blank, they suggest otherwise," he added.
In 2011, the agency issued a series of amendments to the IRS manual, but they didn't change what manual — the agency's "bible" — said about warrants and email.
The current version still maintains that a warrant is not required for stored email more than six months old, said Mr. Freed, who is with the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.
No one at the IRS was immediately available for comment.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...
- Senator's memo shows Iran links in Homeland Security's troubled immigration program
- Help wanted: Homeland Security plagued by vacancies at the top
- Dems back bill to fix problems in investor visa program
- Democrats proceed with Mayorkas vote despite pending investigation
- Game players don't think peace has a chance in Syria
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By returning to goodness, the nation can achieve greatness once again
- Fuel-filled wings, ability to swarm: Pentagon offers glimpse at future of drone fleet
- Secret U.S. assessments show Afghanistan not ready to govern on own
- U.S. military on high alert as Ukraine troops trade gunfire with pro-Russian militants
- Russian fighter jet buzzes U.S. Navy destroyer in Black Sea
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- Kirsten Dunst: Actress sparks feminist ire: 'You need a man to be a man'
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- WEBER: Obamacare cuts home healthcare for millions of seniors
- PHILLIPS: What did Harry Reid know and when did he know it?
- Nevada Bundy ranch standoff could leave dirt on Harry Reid reputation
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.
Chaos as Manhattan building explodes