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US DOJ Say They Don't Need Warrants For E-Mail, Chats 457

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
gannebraemorr writes "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."
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US DOJ Say They Don't Need Warrants For E-Mail, Chats

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  • "split" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @02:53PM (#43667507)

    Keep knock'n back that cool-aid

  • Land of the free (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @02:54PM (#43667515)

    to be watched by the Government.

  • FOI Requests? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @02:57PM (#43667543) Journal
    Does the same logic mean that the government can not reject FOI requests for emails and can not redact anything in emails?
  • even if they did (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @02:57PM (#43667549)

    they would read them all and deal with lawsuits/getting warrants later...

  • Depends (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Murdoch5 (1563847) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:01PM (#43667575)
    If you can sniff the network and easily read what I sent then fine. If I secure my emails so they don't appear in plain text then I think you do. If you secure your communication then you should require a warrant, because otherwise anyone could read what I send and I should have no expectation of privacy with my communications.
  • by Bugler412 (2610815) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:04PM (#43667605)
    And the entirety of the 4th amendment is eliminated by storing your data on somebody else's system since it's no longer considered part of YOUR "persons, houses, papers, and effects" Still like "the cloud"?
  • Re:Oh wait! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:05PM (#43667617)

    It ends when you start sending prosecutors to jail for misconduct.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:07PM (#43667637)

    People keep claiming that they want to keep their guns because they need to protect themselves if their rights are taken away by the government...

    HELLO???? At what point do you start defending yourselves? Your rights are being slowly stripped away and have been over the course of the last 30 years, and nobody does anything?

    Even when the Stormtroopers are patrolling the streets, and curfew after dark is in place and people are afraid to speak against the government, or talk on their phones, with your neighbors turning each other in for 'treason'... you'll all still be sitting on your guns waiting for the government to take away your rights.

    Until they actually do something with those newfound "powers" there won't be much uproar. As long as the searches/seizures are discrete, everyone is happy because "it wont happen to them".

  • Re:Depends (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:08PM (#43667645) Homepage Journal

    If you can sniff the network and easily read what I sent then fine. If I secure my emails so they don't appear in plain text then I think you do.

    So basically your stance is - if you mail a letter in a sealed envelope, it's fair game, but if the letter is written in code, it's not.

    Strange philosophy you have there.

  • by funwithBSD (245349) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:09PM (#43667655)

    I think you got that backwards, or forgot the /sarcasm tag:

    Searches by government are by definition unreasonable, thus they need a warrent.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:10PM (#43667661) Homepage Journal

    "Pentagon spokesman George Little said, 'We have repeatedly stated that . . . our forces were unable to reach it in time to intervene to stop the attacks.'

    These are essentially the same people who had solid intel that could have prevented the 9/11/2001 attacks, but did nothing with it.

    Considering recent history, believing a word these vile fucks say is suckerdom to the n-th degree.

  • by Zcar (756484) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:20PM (#43667729)

    Safety deposit boxes are different since you have a lock on it.

    If I simply give you an unsealed packet of papers, I am assuming the risk you'll had those over to the government if they ask you for them even if I ask you not to. There's no 4th amendment protection under those circumstances. This is analogous to using a web mail provider like gmail, hotmail, etc. where you're asking them to store plain text emails. You've arguably lost the 4th amendment protections in this case. Any protections are statutory, not constitutional.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:24PM (#43667771) Homepage Journal

    Safety deposit boxes are different since you have a lock on it.

    If I simply give you an unsealed packet of papers, I am assuming the risk you'll had those over to the government if they ask you for them even if I ask you not to. There's no 4th amendment protection under those circumstances. This is analogous to using a web mail provider like gmail, hotmail, etc. where you're asking them to store plain text emails.

    OK, then go access my gmail account and post all the content therein online.

    Oh, wait, you can't, because that account has a fucking lock on it, that only I (and Google, supposedly) have a key to.

  • Re:Oh wait! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:26PM (#43667801) Homepage Journal

    It ends when prosecutors start sending prosecutors to jail for misconduct.

    FTFY, and identified the real problem at the same time.

    If self-policing worked, we wouldn't have need for police, you know?

  • Re:Depends (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lakitu (136170) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:27PM (#43667809)

    It's not strange at all. Isn't this a technical site?

    Email is sent plaintext over the wire. There's no envelope.

    It's like complaining about someone being able to hear your radio broadcasts in plain language. Or overhear your conversation in a restaurant.

  • by Zcar (756484) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:29PM (#43667831)

    Hell, Boston proved that the Fourth Amendment is no obstacle to searching people's houses without a warrant. Not only did the people there let them do it, but they were happy to let them do it.

    Yes. And there's no violation of the 4th Amendment if you willingly wave that right and say, "Come right on in and look around!" The 4th is only about coerced searches.

  • by MrHanky (141717) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:30PM (#43667837) Homepage Journal

    Slashdot: where obvious jokes are lost.

  • by Meeni (1815694) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:39PM (#43667953)

    Voice over phone line is in "clear", and ATT could listen to it. Yet it is still required to have warrant to bug the line. I fail to see what is different with my emails. They are traveling "the infrastructure" in clear, that doesn't mean they are intended to be read by every bystander. As a matter of fact, somebody got a very harsh sentence for intruding onto S. Palin's mailboxes and revealing the content of these emails, so it seems to be quite clear and settled that emails are not to be considered public by default.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:40PM (#43667993)

    The Sarah Palin email hack occurred on September 16, 2008.... The incident was ultimately prosecuted in a U.S. federal court as four felony crimes punishable by up to 50 years in federal prison.[3][4] The charges were three felonies: identity theft, wire fraud, and anticipatory obstruction of justice; and one optional as felony or misdemeanor: intentionally accessing an account without authorization.

    If emails etc are not expected to be private, why is it a felony crime to access someone else's email?

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:41PM (#43667999) Homepage

    Why isn't all email encrypted yet?

    All we need is email programs that perform a Diffie-Hellman key exchange during the first few emails you exchange with anybody (add an attachment the the email which the user never sees). After two or three emails exchanged, you're encrypted. Why isn't it being done?

    I'm guessing the men in black SUVs pay visits to anybody who attempts it. What's the explanation if not...?

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@aol.cTWAINom minus author> on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:42PM (#43668025) Journal

    When your government starts telling you that, it is a sign that you are having a crisis and need to swap out your government for a new one before it becomes impossible to do so.

    It may already be too late.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:51PM (#43668131)

    Corporations are people, humans aren't.
    Money is speech, writing isn't.
    Democracy has sold out.

    Didn't you get the memo?

    movetoamend.org if you don't like it.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:53PM (#43668143) Homepage Journal

    Bullshit - my papers and effects are my papers and effects, regardless of where I keep them.

    Could you imagine how hard it would be for banks to sell safety deposit space, if there was no guarantee other people weren't able to rifle through your shit?

    It comes down to the legal argument over an expectation of privacy. You expect a bank to keep the contents of a safety deposit box private. Arguing unencrypted emails, facebook posts, tweets, etc.

    False equivalence - An email is a direct communication between two parties, whereas facebook posts and tweets are publicly posted.

  • by netwarerip (2221204) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:53PM (#43668145)

    ....... What's the explanation if not...?

    Likely because 99.86% of the people that use email can't even pronounce Diffie-Hellman, let alone know what it is.

  • by swb (14022) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @04:00PM (#43668231)

    Of all the bullshit propagated in the most recent drive for gun control the one thing that always strikes me as the most outrageous and unproven is the claim that the NRA is a "gun manufacturer's rights organization."

    I'm sure this started out the way that most left wing propaganda starts out, with some ideology theorist claiming that because the NRA isn't a "hunting" organization, they really only represent the evil capitalist gun manufacturers who make non-hunting guns.

    While I reject that line of reasoning in totality, it's the only logical way that the claim they are only a "gun manufacturer's rights organization" even makes sense. Anything else just seem either totally illogical (ie, why support gun makers if no citizen can buy their product?) or just an attempt to paint gun makers as some kind of evil Wall street plot.

    I think what pisses off gun control advocates is how well organized and vertically integrated gun rights support is among gun owners, sportsmen and businesses engaged in gun-related products. Gun owners support the NRA, gun makers support the NRA, ammo makers support them and retailers support them. In many cases, a gun maker will SUBSIDIZE an NRA membership if you aren't a member and buy their product. Many retailers support the "round up for the NRA" program making it easy for buyers to round-up their purchase price to the nearest dollar and send it to the NRA. And the businesses put their money where their mouth is and put millions of dollars into the NRA to keep our gun rights secure.

    Nobody would say boo if, for example, all the PC makers made it easy to support the EFF the way that gun makers do for the NRA.

  • by defaria (741527) <Andrew@DeFaria.com> on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @04:09PM (#43668343) Homepage
    Because it's difficult to understand and difficult to use and most people don't know and don't care about encryption. You don't need to put on your beany hat and start conspiracy theories with men in black SUVs - I tried to use encryption and by and large the people I tried it with were nothing but confused and couldn't see the value in it.
  • by DrJimbo (594231) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @04:10PM (#43668347)

    The GP said:

    when the government does it, that means that it is not unreasonable.

    Richard Milhous Nixon (who was forced to resign from the presidency of the United States due to his many flagrantly illegal acts) said:

    Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.

    Please don't speak for me and please don't include me in the group "everyone". I don't think the GP was being fucking retarded and counterproductive. Even though this is Slashdot, the GP's wit was not lost to all readers.

  • by ewieling (90662) <eric&fnords,org> on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @04:25PM (#43668489)
    Wouldn't the solution to "the e-mail problem" be to store your e-mail in a country with decent privacy protections and access it using SSL/TLS? It won't won't prevent the US government from accessing your e-mail if they really want to, but it is a start.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @04:43PM (#43668681)

    Why isn't all email encrypted yet?

    Because its useless for most people. If the encryption is truly end to end, then the common web mail providers can't read it, and thus can't use it for targeting ads, so there is no reason for them to provide email at all. If the web mail provider holds the keys, then the government can just ask them for the email.

    For this to have any hope, we need everyone to stop using free web mail. Note that this reasoning regarding ad targeting is invalid for paid services (and personal mail servers obviously)

    Hey Google: I'll gladly pay a subscription to have my g-mail client side encrypted and decrypted. Problem solved.

    Ok, I likely could use a third party mail client, and overlay the encryption, but wouldn't it be nice if g-mail offered (on by default) encrypted email, and if you were willing to pay, only you held the keys? They could well integrate it, and with their user base, g-mail to g-mail would be common enough to get it started and supported elsewhere.

  • by quarrelinastraw (771952) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @04:44PM (#43668691)

    Because many email providers -- such as gmail, hotmail, yahoo, etc -- want to read your email to serve you ads. Encryption runs counter to the profit motive.

  • by dinfinity (2300094) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @04:45PM (#43668695)

    Because major webmail providers don't really want email to be encrypted.
    Google/Gmail could easily push it and make it happen, but they would just be throwing money away by not being able to profile their users anymore.

    If everybody were still using Outlook Express and/or Thunderbird and ISP provided email accounts, there would have been loads of easy install plugins that would allow cross-client encryption.

  • by pollarda (632730) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @04:49PM (#43668743)

    The gun issue not withstanding, the Government's attack on the Second Amendment is horrific and sets up really bad precidence for the Fourth Amendment, First Amendment, as well as others.

    FOURTH AMENDMENT
    Just think: In order to exercise your Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, the Government needs to perform a background check on you to ensure that you are an upstanding citizen.

    FIRST AMENDMENT
    In order to exercise your First Amendment rights, you are subject to a three day waiting period. You may only use media types approved by the Government. Discourses conducted through media not sanctioned is a felony.

    etc.

  • by Zcar (756484) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @04:51PM (#43668757)

    OK, then go access my gmail account and post all the content therein online.

    Oh, wait, you can't, because that account has a fucking lock on it, that only I (and Google, supposedly) have a key to.

    But Google has access to them. And the Third Party Doctrine, endorsed by the US Supreme Court, doesn't extend your 4th Amendment rights to information of yours held and accessible by others.

    If you give me something which would incriminate you in the clear and I put it in a safe (say a letter in an unsealed envelope), all that's needed to require me (under the 4th) to turn that letter over to the government is a subpoena, not a search warrant. If it was in your safe, it would require a search warrant. Having an email in plain text sitting on someone else's hard drive is analogous.

    I'm not saying I agree with this doctrine (I don't), but that's the current state of the law in the US: once your information leaves your possession you've pretty much lost 4th Amendment protections to it from anyone else who obtains it turning it over.

  • by spire3661 (1038968) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @06:32PM (#43669863) Journal
    People who have read the Constitution, thats who.
  • by pollarda (632730) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:16PM (#43670299)

    You missed my point. The right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed by the Constitution. (Yes, we are on agreement on that, I know.) However, any law which is used to curtail the right to keep and bear arms and is upheld by the courts can be used as a precedent for future courts to rule on similar laws applying to other constitutionally guaranteed rights. So for example laws that require a background check to keep and bear arms (that are upheld by the courts) can be used by later courts as precedent for ruling that background checks can be required to exercise other constitutionally guaranteed rights.

    Sometimes people forget when they think a specific law would be "a good idea" how that will play into the larger legal framework. The courts today are ruled not by original intent (as they were up until the 1920's -- as I recall) but by precedent and laws which infringe on one right can be used to infringe on others. So in the case of firearms, background checks on firearms can be used to create similar laws for background checks elsewhere.

    It is important to keep in mind that what politician say when they create laws is very different than what they do with them. They created RICO laws to combat organized crime -- which sounds great. However, RICO laws are now used for all sorts of crimes intentional and unintentional so that they can "get" whoever they want to "get". Someday, that may be you, me, or someone one of us cares about.

  • by spire3661 (1038968) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:39PM (#43670499) Journal
    Did you somehow skip this part? "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.[1]"

    Considering all email as searchable is certainly an unreasonable overstepping of authority.
  • by jc42 (318812) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @09:56PM (#43671393) Homepage Journal

    Did you somehow skip this part? "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.[1]"

    Ah, but you forgot the extension to all US laws that applies in this case: "... except when a computer is involved."

    A well-established principle in US (and most other) law is that if there's a computer involved, all precedent is forgotten, and the lessons of centuries of legal progress must be learned all over again.

    That clause in the US constitution was there because so many previous governments had done exactly what the US government is now doing with "computerized" communication. The folks who wrote that constitution wanted to prevent the abuses that governments had always foisted on their citizens. But modern people seem to accept the "except when there's a computer involved" qualification, so all those old abuses are being re-implemented online, and we'll have to fight all those old battles again before such safeguards are extended to the digital parts of our modern world.

  • by Eugriped3z (1549589) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @10:26PM (#43671517)
    Get this straight. There is no attack on your second amendment rights, you thumb sucker. Furthermore, even if there is a national gun registry, as all you paranoid 4F jackasses seem to believe, it wouldn't abridge your right to own a gun anymore than the requirement for a concealed weapons permit. I hear real estate in Idaho is appreciating rapidly. Perhaps you'd better look into to it before the Ruby Ridge Gated Home for Minute Minds is beyond your means.
  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @11:54PM (#43671897)

    you have it backwards.

    why do the 'watchers' think THEY are so important that they get to violate our privacy?

    yes, right to have your papers and posessions secure from undue seizure and search. its written. go look it up!

  • Gun Clutchers... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Uberbah (647458) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @12:29AM (#43672063)

    The gun issue not withstanding, the Government's attack on the Second Amendment is horrific

    ...need to get the hell over themselves and come back to reality. What attack on the Second Amendment. The Senate can't even expand background checks FFS.

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