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The Obama DOJ’s warrantless demands for e-mails

The Obama DOJ’s warrantless demands for e-mails

Salon
April 15, 2010


I want your emails.

A very significant case involving core privacy protections is now being litigated, where the Obama Justice Department is seeking to obtain from Yahoo “all emails” sent and received by multiple Yahoo email accounts, despite the fact that DOJ has never sought, let alone obtained, a search warrant, and despite there being no notice of any kind to the email account holders:

    In a brief filed Tuesday afternoon, the coalition says a search warrant signed by a judge is necessary before the FBI or other police agencies can read the contents of Yahoo Mail messages — a position that puts those companies directly at odds with the Obama administration.

As part of a case conducted largely under seal and thus hidden from public view, the DOJ demanded these emails from Yahoo without any effort to demonstrate probable cause to believe the email user was involved in the commission of any crime, but instead merely based on the vague claim that there is “reasonable grounds to believe” the emails “are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.” If the DOJ position were accepted, Americans would have substantially less privacy protections in their email communications.

Federal law is crystal clear that a search warrant is required for the Government to obtain any emails that have been stored less than 180 days — one that requires a showing of probable cause and that the documents sought to be described with particularlity. In contrast to the nation’s largest telecoms’ eager cooperation with Bush’s illegal surveillance programs, Yahoo — to its credit — refused to turn over any such emails to the Government without a search warrant. As a result, the DOJ is now seeking a federal court Order compelling the company to comply with its demands, and a coalition of privacy groups and technology companies — led by EFF and including Google — have now filed a brief supporting Yahoo’s position. Both Yahoo and that coalition insist that federal law as well as the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure protection bar the Obama DOJ from acquiring these emails without a search warrant.

Read Full Article Here

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