The IRS argues it has the right to violate the Fourth Amendment under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986.
The Internal Revenue Service believes it is not beholden to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and can read your email without a warrant, according to documents released to the American Civil Liberties Union under a Freedom of Information Act request.
The documents reveal that the wealth confiscation agency thinks it’s OK to poke around in the electronic version of your papers and effects if you store them in an email cloud service like Google Mail.
The IRS argues it has the right to violate the Fourth Amendment under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. The act unconstitutionally permits government agencies to obtain emails older than 180 days without a warrant.
One IRS document released by the ACLU claims that “the government may obtain the contents of electronic communication that has been in storage for more than 180 days” without a warrant.
According a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in 2009, however, email enjoys “strong protection under the Fourth Amendment” and the government cannot simply demand access without a court-issued search warrant.
The agency has bent over backwards to justify its violation of the Fourth Amendment. In 2009, it produced a “Search Warrant Handbook” that stated it is not obliged to follow the Constitution and obey the law.
The IRS Criminal Tax Division’s general counsel said “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.”
Earlier this year, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced legislation to revamp the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act and require law enforcement and government agencies to acquire a search warrant instead of a subpoena when attempting to gain access to private electronic communications.
“Just think about the contents of your text messages and how much sensitive, personal and valuable information is contained there,” said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel in the Washington office of the ACLU said after the move by Lee and Leahy. “Imagine the government turning that into a permanent log that they, or private investigators or divorce attorneys, could look at any time in the future.”
Or, for that matter, the IRS snooping around looking for taxable income.