IRS Can Read Your Email Without A Warrant

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The Internal Revenue Service claims that it has the right to read the private emails, text messages and other electronic communications without a warrant because, the agency claims, Americans have no reasonable expectation of online privacy.

The revelation comes from a Freedom of Information Act request for information pertaining to the IRS policy for conducting investigations of tax crimes. In a 247-page response, the IRS provided a vague answer to the question of whether it conducts warrantless searches of email inboxes and other electronic communications, which erred on the side of “yes.”

The outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) distinguishes between email that is stored on an email provider’s server for 180 days or less and requires a warrant for searches and email that is older or has been opened and does not require a warrant for searches.

In 2010, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided in United States v. Warshak that the government must provide obtain a warrant for any search; but the IRS doesn’t specify whether it follows the ruling.

From the American Civil Liberties Union:

The documents the ACLU obtained make clear that, before Warshak, it was the policy of the IRS to read people’s email without getting a warrant. Not only that, but the IRS believed that the Fourth Amendment did not apply to email at all. A 2009 “Search Warrant Handbook” from the IRS Criminal Tax Division’s Office of Chief Counsel baldly asserts that “the Fourth Amendment does not protect communications held in electronic storage, such as email messages stored on a server, because internet users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications.” Again in 2010, a presentation by the IRS Office of Chief Counsel asserts that the “4th Amendment Does Not Protect Emails Stored on Server” and there is “No Privacy Expectation” in those emails.

The most current version of the IRS handbook states expressly that the agency still concedes that it isn’t required to obtain a warrant in order to search emails older than 180 days.

The ACLU sent similar requests for information about warrants and electronic communication to the FBI and the Justice Department, but no reply has been received.

Currently, Congress is working on updating the ECPA in order to secure Americans 4th Amendment rights in electronic communications.

Personal Liberty

Sam Rolley

Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After covering community news and politics, Rolley took a position at Personal Liberty Media Group where could better hone his focus on his true passions: national politics and liberty issues. In his daily columns and reports, Rolley works to help readers understand which lies are perpetuated by the mainstream media and to stay on top of issues ignored by more conventional media outlets.

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  • Chester

    What good does it do to have regulations when the agency in question doesn’t believe it has to follow them?

    • ONTIME

      True, the problem is our politicians allow agencies to make their own rules and thus avoid facing the constituency..we pay these people far to much for what they don’t do.

      • GALT

        Let’s see…..there are 11 million illegal immigrants…..what is the cost to locate and deport each one according to the rule of law?

        What is the budget of the INS?

        oops…..there are those pesky little FACTS which makes sharing
        your opinion a complete waste of time.

        Which of the following do you believe:

        1.) The framers of the Constitution opposed a strong central government.

        2.)The framers hated taxes.

        3.)The framers were impartial statesmen, above interest driven politics.

        4.) The framers were guided by clear principles of limited government.

        5.) James Madison sired the Constitution.

        6.) The Federalist Papers tell us what the Constitution really means.

        7.) The Founding Fathers gave us the Bill of Rights.

        8.) By discovering what the framers intended or how the founding generation understood the text, we can determine how each provision of the Constitution must be applied.

        Was it GOOD for YOU?

    • Jana

      Or half of the people that Obama has chosen to be as his advisers or secretaries of —pick the position.


    No doubt the IRS will be reading this because I am not a fan of the world’s most efficient tax collection system, it is a overbearing, intrusive bureaucracy a brutal policing force who has all your money in their hand and can pummel you should they take a dislike to you, they are the ever growing US government’s ogre.
    All due respect to the IRS, they have a lousy job and a earned image but were I king the national sales tax would be my choice to replace the IRS. By doing so and putting this tax on the national ballot every ten years WTP would be able to budget properly and accountably, the end of tax discrimination and social warfare would become a moot point, the left would lose one of their best tools and parasites would be involved in paying national taxes, the 47% would not exist, the anxiety that accompanies tax season would end and just think of how much money could be saved by reducing the IRS to a small agency that verified the overall income taken in by the use of a NST……

  • Wendel N Jessica Hiland

    What is all the bitching? This is big brother…This is just a sample of things to come. What did you think would happen when you voted for the big government dictator most commonly known as Obama? The I.R.S is doing this for the good of the PEOPLE. How dare you complain. You are sounding like enemies of the state and opposed to the common good. And what is this about your constitutional rights being infringed upon? The government is in the process of dismantling the constitution as we speak. First is the Second Amendment…. with others to follow. I guarantee it!