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FBI Doesn't Think It Needs a Warrant to Read Citizens' Email

Offbeat  (tags: abuse, usa, rights, computers, investigation, police, protection )

- 2235 days ago -
Americans may think their email is private, but federal investigators may not agree. Documents uncovered by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) suggest the FBI is using subpoenas, not warrants, to read email.


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Abdessalam D (145)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 12:11 am
By Andrea Peterson on May 9, 2013 at 10:30 am

(Credit: Wikipedia)
You may think your email is private, but federal investigators may not agree. Documents uncovered via Freedom Of Information Act requests by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) suggest the FBI is not obtaining warrants to read email, citing an outdated federal computing law from the 1980s. According to an excerpt from the 2012 FBI Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide:
“In enacting the [Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA)], Congress concluded that customers may not retain a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in information sent to network providers…[I]f the contents of an unopened message are kept beyond six months or stored on behalf of the customer after the e-mail has been received or opened, it should be treated the same as a business record in the hands of a third party, such as an accountant or attorney. In that case, the government may subpoena the records from the third party without running afoul of either the Fourth or Fifth Amendment.”
ECPA, the law governing access to email and cloud stored data, was passed at a time when the cost of online storage was so high it seemed unthinkable that anyone would store data there indefinitely, so anything left on networked storage for longer than 180 days was considered abandoned and required only an administrative subpoena to access. But in the time since it became law, the price of online storage went down and many people started to rely on free cloud based email solutions like Gmail or Yahoo! Mail as digital storage lockers.
There have been numerous efforts to update ECPA to be more in line with current consumer behavior and the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unwarranted searches and seizures, but none as of yet have succeeded. The most recent attempt to update the law to clearly require a probable cause warrant hit a major milestone in April when S.B. 607, a standalone fix, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) introduced a companion bill to the House on Tuesday, although a similar proposal was already introduced by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Ted Poe (R-TX) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA) earlier this year.
But while the law has not yet been updated, the courts and tech companies are adapting to the way consumers use these services in the modern era. In the 2010 case United States v. Warshak, a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals panel including two Republican-appointed judges ruled email providers cannot be compelled to turn over the content of messages without a probable cause warrant regardless of how long it has been stored in the cloud, but that ruling only applies to the four states in the Sixth Circuits’ jurisdiction. Earlier this year a number of tech companies including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Yahoo announced they go beyond ECPA and require warrants for email content data on Fourth Amendment grounds.

Darren Woolsey (218)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 12:22 am
Federal Bureau of Idiocy... First, the Data Protection Act, secondly, the Human Rights Act. Thirdly, you can politely ask...

Anders Jonsson (0)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 12:27 am

Parsifal S (96)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 12:35 am
Federal bureau of intimitation.
What you describe Sir Abdessalam is not just related to the Police State America.

It is part of the War On Terror and did not stop before ANY country in the world.

As Globalization is not limited to parts of the world

Sherri G (128)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 12:46 am
Since the George W presidency Americans have been losing more and more of our freedoms. The Supreme Court too often sides with corporations including letting them be counted as a private citizens so they can give billions to buy Congress. The patriot act allows our government to take you, hold you without any rights or even notifying your family. All this and emails too become government property all under the guise of protecting us from terrorists. Noted and Thank You Abdessalam for sharing.

Genoveva M (328)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 1:38 am
They are going to be very bored reading my emails.
I have nothing to fear so if they want to read my emails, they are going to be surprised, I have no material of interest for the FBI, if they ever come and get me is going g to be because I speak my mind, that's all.
We live in a world of criminals starting by the government, they fear and sneak around because they have much to hide, just like any other criminal. They think getting away with everything is or should be included in the constitution, what they over look is; They are who they are because WE THE CITIZENS are allowing them to be, so for that shame on them and shame on us.
On the other hand we can't blame them for doing that, just look in the world we are living and bringing up our kids, so if we don't like them "Investigating" then we shouldn't ask for help when need it. All to controversial, that is why i hate politics because is a waste of my time on lies and liars.
Thanks Abdessalam for this information.

P A (117)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 3:49 am
America used to be a bastion of freedoms envied by a lot of the world - no longer.

If citizens don't inform themselves of what is going on with the multinationals and the plutocrats that own them and their lobbyists influencing governments disproportionately, they will wake up one day and find themselves effectively enslaved. Democracy only works well if citizens inform themselves about what government is doing and WHY and we all take part in decisions. This requires a bit of work and effort on our part - as in finding out what lies behind politicians promises and comparing them with what they promised the last time round - and what REALLY happened to those promises! Oh dear.... people seem just too lazy or just don't have enough time...

The multinationals (Haliburton for just one) have been making govts like George W's dance to their tune - and are now so strongly entrenched that it will take massive efforts to shift them. A climate of fear enables them to rule us more strictly - and misinform us more easily - the FBI's desire to avoid due process and the laws and rights of the USA appears to be part and parcel with that. Thanks Abdessalam - i tried to give you another star but the computer said not just yet - sorry!


Angelika R (143)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 5:56 am
Yes, this and more, much much more. Assumingly most of it they learned from Israel.. Thx for this post Abdessalam, which strongly reminds me of Israel's custom and immigration practice at the airport when entering the country. (

Arthur Riding (32)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 7:19 am
Sad but why am I not surprised. Freedom in the 'land of the free' is disappearing at a fast rate and I'm afraid to say that at the present rate people will only be free to say what those in power want them to say. 'In Power' of course does not just mean the Government but also the 2 other main centres of 'power' the mass media and (as Pat A points out) big business. Well, in reality they are becoming one and the same thing – not completely yet, but getting that way. Always of course loss of freedom is because of 'national security' but that is the most over-used excuse for the exercise of oppression in the history of the human race. The US is not the first, indeed all totalitarian states use that excuse. I just hope that enough citizens will see that and stand up to this erosion of freedoms before it is too late.

Angelika R (143)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 8:01 am
Arthur's words are concise and spot on-can only second that, ...and..there IS NOT MUCH TIME LEFT..!
"Too late" usually comes faster than one might anticipate.

Terrie Williams (798)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 8:32 am
Are we liking our FASCISM yet??????? NOT.......
All this crap is forcing me to flashback to the days of my youth in a Totalitarian country. Now it is here and it is all happening again. Wake up America, you are no longer free. You haven't been free since the Patriot Acts and the War Commissions Act. Everything else is just afterbirth...and it will get more rancid and foul as the years progress. Sociopaths know no depravity and they commit them with impunity against us all. And here we sit, waiting for the final axe to fall.

What then?

Theodore Shayne (56)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 8:35 am
The locals don't call them the feebles for nothing. Welcome to Animal Farm.

Gloria picchetti (304)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 8:50 am
I don't like it but I am not a criminal.

Sandra ;atterson (59)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 8:56 am
Well somebody should go into their emails to read as they are the ones with secrets,not me..noted

Winn Adams (179)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 9:21 am
No surprise here . . . .

Effie Ligon (57)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 9:57 am
The greater the technology, the greater the ability to spy.

Past Member (0)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 10:47 am
What came to mind was the anthem: America the Beautiful.

"Everything will be all right in the end. If it's not all right, then it's not the end".

Michela M (3964)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 10:49 am

M B (62)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 11:05 am
"Terror"-"ism" is their big excuse. They spy without consience, without borders at all. The cold war is harmless in comparison to now. It's much more advanced than the U.S. vs Russia.

Kerrie G (116)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 11:21 am
Noted, thanks.

Henriette Matthijssen (154)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 1:03 pm
We have never been free & it will get worst before it gets better, evil government thinks it has all the power behind them to do as they please! We are all considered terrorist in their eyes so they believe they are protecting us from ourselves! How more ludicrous does it get! They will be bored reading my e-mails, I hide nothing therefore I have nothing to hide, but I do speak my mind. Thanks Abdessalam.

Elizabeth Fuller (134)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 2:17 pm
Here in Canada, when you configure your email you can go to the advanced tab in properties of any chosen account and check the boxes at the bottom that say to remove emails from the server after a specified time or they can be removed from the server after you empty the deleted items folder...I am not sure if it actually obliterates them or if they are somewhere in cyberspace...I delete mine always and have the server delete after I do. One can never be too careful and I do not like having a bunch of old mail cluttering my hard drive anyway. I think if the government wants to be "nosey: they will find many ways to do so without our knowledge. I think it's a big waste of time on their part and could lead to mistakes. Their tactics for justice will become unjustified and lead to injustice for all.

Sunday May 12, 2013, 1:01 am
noted with thanks

Robert O (12)
Sunday May 12, 2013, 1:21 pm
Our civil liberties and rights to privacy are shrinking and being infringed upon with each passing day it seems. Sad, but not at all surprising.
Thanks Abdessalam.

Sheryl G (359)
Wednesday May 15, 2013, 8:48 pm
"Our Republic is Lost" said by, Lawrence Lessig is the director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University, and a professor of law at Harvard Law School.

"Let me simplify this and not just to be rhetorical: A coup has occurred. I woke up the other day realizing, coming out of sleep, that a coup has occurred. It’s not just a question that a coup lies ahead with the next 9/11. That’s the next coup, that completes the first." said by, Daniel Ellesberg Former military strategist helped strengthen public opposition to the Vietnam War by leaking secret documents known as the Pentagon Papers. The documents contained evidence that the U.S. government had misled the public regarding U.S. involvement in the war.

Once again, Gravel shows Americans that he may be almost 80, but he knows what's going on.

The following is his answer to a question from the audience at a CNN sponsored YouTube debate:

"I was wondering if any of the other candidates had a problem with the same two families being in charge of the executive branch of government for 28 consecutive years, if Hillary Clinton were to potentially be elected and then re-elected."

COOPER: Thirty seconds, Senator Gravel. Do you have a problem with it?

GRAVEL: Well, yes, I do, a serious problem. The Democratic Party used to stand for the ordinary working man. But the Clintons and the DLC sold out the Democratic Party to Wall Street.

Look at where all the money is being raised right now, for Hillary, Obama and Edwards. It's the hedge funds, it's Wall Street bankers, it's the people who brought you what you have today.

Please wake up. Just look at the New York Times of the 17th of July that analyzes where the money's coming from.

COOPER: Time's up.

GRAVEL: It comes from the bankers on Wall Street and of course hedge funds, which is code for bankers on Wall Street. And they're lock, stock and barrel in their pocket.

Almost 70 years ago, a great American leader was assassinated for pointing out the same fact.


Abdessalam D (145)
Wednesday May 15, 2013, 11:35 pm
Sending a Green Star is a simple way to say "Thank you"
You cannot currently send a star to Dandelion because you have done so within the last day.

Gary L (138)
Saturday May 18, 2013, 2:12 pm
Thank you I have known for a long time that we live in the shadow of a monolith, which will snuff out a dissent in a heart beat
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