Just fucking great:
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has claimed that agents do not need warrants to read people’s emails, text messages and other private electronic communications, according to internal agency documents.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request, released the information on Wednesday.
In a 2009 handbook, the IRS said the Fourth Amendment does not protect emails because Internet users “do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications.” A 2010 presentation by the IRS Office of General Counsel reiterated the policy.
The 2010 presentation is critical because it took place after the Warshak decision said that people do have an expectation that e-mails will be private. The ACLU is still awaiting FOIA requests to see if other agencies are similarly thumbing their nose at Warshak.
Congress is supposedly working on legislation to put a warrant requirement on e-mails but they really shouldn’t need to. When you think about it, this should have been the subject of a 9-0 Supreme Court decision at some point. If the IRS broke into my house and confiscated letters, no one would tolerate it (we hope). But let an e-mail be stored on a server and suddenly it’s open season.
This is worse than it sounds, actually. Our government agencies will charge people with conspiracy and lying to investigators in circumstances where no actual crime was committed. So if they snoop through your e-mails and find an exchange with your accountant that looks suspicious, you could end up charged with a crime without actually having evaded any taxes based entirely on evidence obtained without a warrant.
(The IRS has issued a non-denial denial claiming they don’t “use emails to target taxpayers”. That careful wording avoids the point. We’re interested in why they target a taxpayer; we’re interested in what they do once they’ve targeted him.)
At some point, we have to stop putting up with this crap … in any context. Liberals can’t ignore this one because it’s the IRS getting tax cheats. Conservatives can’t ignore other contexts because it involves drug dealers or terrorists. No government agency should be allowed to read the entire contents of my spam folder without a warrant. Period.