IRS Might Be Peeking at Emails Without Warrants

ACLU calls for a clear explanation of policy

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 10, 2013 4:22 PM CDT

(Newser) – It's probably not wise to talk about all your deep, dark tax-dodging secrets via email, but if you do, know that the IRS might be poking into them without a warrant. So says the ACLU, which complains that it can't get a straight answer from the agency about its policy, reports Salon. When the ACLU posed the question, it says it received 247 pages of records in response, which, despite the volume, still managed to avoid providing a clear answer. The ACLU's best guess is that the agency thinks warrants are unnecessary in most cases.

The issue is muddled because the IRS is apparently following a 1986 law declaring that government officials need only a subpoena, not a warrant, to read people's emails. But email today is obviously much different than it was back then, and a federal court ruled in 2010 that police violated a suspect's constitutional rights by reading his emails without a warrant, notes the Hill. The IRS, however, doesn't seem to have updated its policy. "This question is too important for the IRS not to be completely forthright with the American public," writes the ACLU. "The IRS should tell the public whether it always gets a warrant to access email and other private communications in the course of criminal investigations. And if the agency does not get a warrant, it should change its policy to always require one."

  (Shutterstock)
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