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IRS searches: We don't need no stinkin' warrant

The ACLU did a public service last Wednesday when it released 274 pages of documents showing that the IRS has read Americans' emails without bothering to get a warrant - and probably continues to do so.

The documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that not only did IRS investigators admit in court in 2010 to reading 27,000 emails without a warrant, but the IRS maintained that emails were not covered by the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and siezures. The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a case called United States v. Warshak, threw out the emails as evidence. But later documents suggest that warrantless reading continues.

The IRS documents obtained by the ACLU show that the IRS most likely continues to apply a ridiculous rule, which holds that emails more than 180 days old are not protected by the Fourth Amendment. It also might be acting under the Warshak decision only in the Sixth Circuit, and not in the rest of the nation (which would include New Hampshire).

The income tax forces Americans to give up a great deal of privacy. It empowers government to collect a specific percentage of your income; and to verify that you have given up that percentage the state is empowered to access all of your financial records. But nowhere does it empower the government to violate the Constitution by searching your communications without a warrant. Congress needs to make that clear by statute and not wait for a court case to confirm it.


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