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How the government reads your emails without a warrant

 
 
 
 
 
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Worried that the US government might be able to read your emails? Don’t be — they already can! The American Civil Liberties Union is asking the feds to come clean on why — and what — they do with the personal correspondence of its citizens.

The ACLU has filed request under the US Freedom of Information Act in hopes of learning more about the powers the government has granted itself to snoop through the emails, texts and instant messages of Americans. Being able to browse through correspondence without a warrant is a power that the government has had for ages, but with the Internet making sending mail as easy as a click of a button, the ACLU says it is about time the feds fix their current policies.

The organization writes in a recent press release that they are going after the FBI, US Justice Department, IRS and US Attorneys Offices around the country with the intent of figuring out why the government is so interested in sticking its nose in the inboxes of millions of Americans. They have sent FOIA requests to all of those agencies in which they ask “about the government’s policies, procedures and practices for accessing the content of private electronic communications.”

In the long run, the ACLU hopes for a law change.

The ACLU note that, since the 1870s, the government has been able to leer at the personal letters between Americans as long as they are older than 180 days, all without a warrant. Such legislation is also applied to electronic communication, but with ever expanding technology allowing Internet users to essentially keep communiqué on file for an eternity, this allows for not just impressively large “unread message” counts on inboxes across America — it also gives the government at even large cache of correspondence to call their own — without a warrant.

“In an era when everyone stores their email forever, this rule makes no sense and puts a great deal of personal information at risk,” writes the ACLU. “Unfortunately, the government continues to take advantage of an outdated law to read Americans’ private electronic communications without a warrant.”

The ACLU adds that the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit wrote in 2010 that “By obtaining access to someone’s email, government agents gain the ability to peer deeply into his activities,” acknowledging the privacy violations could be brought up by government intervention in emails and texts. In the meantime, however, the government at large hasn’t addressed the issue.

“The appeals court got it right, but its decision is only binding in a few states, and it’s not clear that the government follows its guidance in much of the country,” adds the ACLU. “Once we hear back from the government, we will share what we learn.”

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  • godsofold

    Reading emails and listening to phone calls won’t matter when everything falls apart. Then what will they read?

    https://allroadsleadtofema.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/entry-1/

  • Rwolf

    Canada, Britain & U.S. Government want to Spy On Its Citizens’/ Electronic Communications?

    The Canadian (Commons recent Bill C-30) would—give any Canadian police officer without a warrant—the power to request Internet service providers turn over customer information (see section 17 of C-30) cause the same loss of electronic privacy and civil liberties that British Government recently proposed—to spy on Brits’ electronic communications. Is it coincidence the British and Canadian proposals appear to mirror legislation U.S. Government said it wanted passed in 2011 to spy on U.S. Citizens?

    Overlooked by mainstream media is that Britain and Canada signed with the U.S Government an array of (Asset Forfeiture Sharing Agreements) to share with Canadian and British Police/Governments assets seized from Brits, Canadians and Americans that resulted from e.g, evidence or information gleaned from electronic surveillance of Citizens’ communications, e.g., emails, faxes, Internet actively, phone records including GPS tracking.

    Compare with U.S. Government’s proposal to electronically monitor, spy on Americans without a warrant—with Canada’s recent eavesdropping (Bill C-30) and British Government’s plan to spy on its Citizens’ electronic communications.

    U.S. Government wants the power to (introduce as evidence) in criminal prosecutions and government civil trials, any phone call record, email or Internet activity. That would open the door for Police to take out of context any innocent—hastily written email, fax or phone call record to allege a crime or violation was committed to cause a person’s arrest, fines and or civil asset forfeiture of their property. There are more than 350 laws and violations that can subject property to government asset forfeiture. Government civil asset forfeiture requires only a civil preponderance of evidence for police to forfeit property, little more than hearsay.

    If the U.S. Justice Department has its way, any information the FBI derives from circumventing the Fourth Amendment, i.e. (no warrant searches) of Web Server Records; a Citizen’s Internet Activity, personal emails; fax / phone calls may be used by the FBI for (fishing expeditions) to issue subpoenas in hopes of finding evidence or to prosecute Citizens for any alleged crime or violation. Consider that neither Congress nor the courts—determined what Bush II NSA electronic surveillance, perhaps illegal could be used by police or introduced into court by government to prosecute Americans criminally or civilly. If U.S. Justice Department is permitted (No-Warrant) surveillance of all electronic communications, it is problematic state and local law enforcement agencies and private government contractors will want access to prior Bush II NSA and other government illegally obtained electronic records not limited to—Americans’ Internet activity; private emails, faxes and phone calls to secure evidence to arrest Americans, assess fines and or civilly forfeit their homes, businesses and other assets under Title 18USC and other laws. Of obvious concern, what happens to fair justice in America if police become dependent on “Asset Forfeiture” to help pay their salaries and budget operating costs?

    The “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000” (effectively eliminated) the “five year statue of limitations” for Government Civil Asset Forfeiture: the statute now runs five years (from the date) police allege they “learned” an asset became subject to forfeiture. It is foreseeable should (no warrant) government electronic surveillance be approved; police will relentlessly sift through business and Citizen’s (government retained Internet data), emails and phone communications to discover possible crimes or civil violations. A corrupt despot U.S. Government can too easily use no-warrant—(seized emails, Internet data and phone call information) to blackmail Americans, corporations and others in the same manner Hitler utilized his police state passed laws to extort support for the Nazi fascist government, including getting parliament to pass Hitler’s 1933 Discriminatory Decrees that suspended the Constitutional Freedoms of German Citizens. A Nazi Government threat of “Property Seizure” Asset Forfeiture of an individual or corporation’s assets was usually sufficient to ensure Nazi support.

    Under U.S. federal civil forfeiture laws, a person or business need not be charged with a crime for government to forfeit their property. Most U.S. Citizens, property and business owners that defend their assets against Government Civil Asset Forfeiture claim an “innocent owner defense.” This defense can become a criminal prosecution trap for both guilty and innocent property owners. Any fresh denial of guilt made to government when questioned about committing a crime “even when you did not do the crime” may (involuntarily waive) a defendant’s right to assert in their defense—the “Criminal Statute of Limitations” past for prosecution; any fresh denial of guilt even 30 years after a crime was committed may allow Government prosecutors to use old and new evidence, including information discovered during a Civil Asset Forfeiture Proceeding to launch a criminal prosecution. For that reason many innocent Americans, property and business owners are reluctant to defend their property and businesses against Government Civil Asset Forfeiture.

    Re: waiving Criminal Statute of Limitations: see USC18, Sec.1001, James Brogan V. United States. N0.96-1579. U.S. See paragraph (6) at:
    http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/96-1579.ZC1.html

  • Jack Longchamp

    Yeah well I am not so concerned about anyone reading my mails,
    not even my wife ;)
    Also my computers do not last forever and email proggies do crash,
    sometimes losing data.
    Terrible ! Lost to humankind forever !
    Can the NSA restore the stuff (all mails 1998-2009) I lost when that
    terrible crash happened to me three years ago ?
    I would PAY for it !

    Even if I was a terrorist or some other archfiend of sorts
    I doubt that more than the tiniest part of all the junk I turn out
    (and more, receive) could interest even a machine/program –
    certainly not a slightly intelligent one.

    But lets feed them some nonsense “eggs will be delivered
    at Grand Central Station to be blown out at 11:58” here and there
    so they have something to sink their stubby fangs into.

    As for the rest, we blind them anyway – with marketing, nonsense
    and philosophy.

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