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Why DOJ didn't need a 'super search warrant' to snoop on Fox News' e-mail

If attorney general Eric Holder wanted to perform even a momentary Internet wiretap on Fox News' e-mail accounts, he would have had to persuade a judge to approve what lawyers call a "super search warrant."

A super search warrant's requirements are exacting: Intercepted communications must be secured and placed under seal. Real-time interception must be done only as a last resort. Only certain crimes qualify for this technique, the target must be notified, and additional restrictions apply to state and local police conducting real-time intercepts.

But because of the way federal law was written nearly half a … Read more

Eric Holder: Government should get warrants to search e-mail

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder supports privacy changes that would require the government to seek a warrant based on probable cause to obtain cloud-stored e-mail, and other documents and files stored in the cloud.

"But the more general notion of having a warrant to obtain the content of communications from a service provider is something that we support," Holder added, noting that citizen privacy and the government's ability to access such data is "one of the most important conversations" to be had in this day and age.

He stated that there were "very … Read more

Senator demands DOJ, FBI seek warrants to read e-mail

Last month, Sen. Mark Udall and a handful of other privacy-focused politicians persuaded the IRS to promise to cease warrantless searches of Americans' private correspondence.

Now Udall, a Colorado Democrat, is taking aim at the Justice Department, which has claimed the right to conduct warrantless searches of Americans' e-mail, Facebook chats, and other private communications.

"I am extremely concerned that the Justice Department and FBI are justifying warrantless searches of Americans' electronic communications based on a loophole in an outdated law that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled was unconstitutional," Udall said in … Read more

DOJ: We don't need warrants for e-mail, Facebook chats

The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI believe they don't need a search warrant to review Americans' e-mails, Facebook chats, Twitter direct messages, and other private files, internal documents reveal.

Government documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union and provided to CNET show a split over electronic privacy rights within the Obama administration, with Justice Department prosecutors and investigators privately insisting they're not legally required to obtain search warrants for e-mail. The IRS, on the other hand, publicly said last month that it would abandon a controversial policy that claimed it could get warrantless access … Read more

Senators to IRS: Don't snoop on taxpayers' private messages

A dozen U.S. senators warned the IRS today against warrantless snooping on taxpayers' confidential e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter messages.

In a stiffly worded letter (PDF) to the tax collection agency, they asked the "IRS to confirm that it will immediately establish a warrant requirement when it wants to obtain e-mail and other electronic personal correspondence" from American companies.

The letter also asked the IRS to "provide a timeline" for updating its internal procedures to guarantee that the contents of electronic files would be accessed only after agents follow the privacy-protective traditional procedure of obtaining a … Read more

IRS chief: We'll rewrite our e-mail search policy

The head of the Internal Revenue Service said today the agency would abandon its controversial policy that claimed the right to read taxpayers' e-mail without first obtaining a search warrant.

Steven Miller, the IRS' acting commissioner, said at a U.S. Senate hearing that the no-warrant-required policy would be ditched within 30 days for e-mail, but he did not make the same commitment for other private electronic communications.

"We intend to do that" for e-mail, Miller said, in response to prodding from Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has become a frequent champion of civil liberties in … Read more

IRS claims it can read your e-mail without a warrant

The Internal Revenue Service doesn't believe it needs a search warrant to read your e-mail.

Newly disclosed documents prepared by IRS lawyers say that Americans enjoy "generally no privacy" in their e-mail, Facebook chats, Twitter direct messages, and similar online communications -- meaning that they can be perused without obtaining a search warrant signed by a judge.

That places the IRS at odds with a growing sentiment among many judges and legislators who believe that Americans' e-mail messages should be protected from warrantless search and seizure. They say e-mail should be protected by the same Fourth Amendment … Read more

Congressman endorses data retention law, then backs away

A historic lobbying effort today to update U.S. privacy laws for the 21st century seemed to be in danger of derailment by a law enforcement-backed proposal to require Internet companies and e-mail providers to keep records of what their users are doing online.

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, the chairman of a key House of Representatives subcommittee, said this morning that it was time to resuscitate the idea of the government mandating data retention. Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, had drafted a mandatory logging proposal seven years ago that included prison terms for company executives who failed to comply. A law … Read more

Cops: U.S. law should require logs of your text messages

AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and other wireless providers would be required to capture and store Americans' confidential text messages, according to a proposal that will be presented to a congressional panel today.

The law enforcement proposal would require wireless providers to record and store customers' SMS messages -- a controversial idea akin to requiring them to surreptitiously record audio of their customers' phone calls -- in case police decide to obtain them at some point in the future.

"Billions of texts are sent every day, and some surely contain key evidence about criminal activity," Richard LittlehaleRead more

Justice Department bends on (some) e-mail privacy fixes

The Obama administration has dropped its insistence that police should be able to warrantlessly peruse Americans' e-mail correspondence.

But at the same time, the Justice Department is advancing new proposals that would expand government surveillance powers over e-mail messages, Twitter direct messages, and Facebook direct messages in other ways.

It's a development that will complicate the political wrangling over Americans' electronic privacy rights, which are in large part protected by a 1986 privacy law written in the pre-Internet days of the black-and-white Macintosh Plus and dial-up computer bulletin board systems.

"It's like two steps forward and two … Read more