Does the U.S. government read your email? It's a simple question, but apparently there's no simple answer. And the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service are reluctant to say anything on the topic.
In March, the American Civil Liberties Union caused a nationwide stir when the advocacy group released the results of its year-long investigation into law enforcement use of cellphone tracking data. After issuing hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests, the ACLU learned that many local police departments around the country routinely pay mobile phone network operators a small fee to get detailed records of historic cell phone location information. The data tell cops not just where a suspect might have been at a given moment, but also create the possibility of retracing someone's whereabouts for months. In most cases, law enforcement obtains the data without applying for a search warrant; generally, subpoenas are issued instead, which require law enforcement to meet a lower legal standard.
ACLU lawyer Catherine Crump, who ran the cellphone location data investigation, is at it again. This time, she has filed similar Freedom of Information Act requests with several federal agencies, asking about their policies and legal processes for reading Internet users' emails.
"It's high time we know what's going on," Crump told msnbc.com. "It's been clear since the 1870s that the government needs a warrant to read postal mail. There's no good reason email should be treated differently."
is anyone going to be surprised if it turned out they are doing so on a regular basis without warrants? as the article states they've already done so:
There are hints that it is being treated differently, however. In a landmark 2010 case, United States v. Warshak, government investigators acknowledged that they read 27,000 emails without obtaining a search warrant, violating both the suspect's privacy and the privacy of everyone who communicated with the suspect, according to Crump.
Evidence obtained during that email search was thrown out on appeal by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but that ruling applies only to four U.S. states.