The Internal Revenue Service believes it doesn’t need permission to root through emails, texts or other forms of electronic correspondence, according to recently released internal agency documents.
The documents, which were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union, reveal that tax department agents have been operating under the assumption that they can bypass warrants. The ACLU claims this would in turn violate the Fourth Amendment.
According to a 2009 IRS employee handbook, though, the tax agency said the Fourth Amendment does not protect emails because Internet users don’t “have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications.”
A lawyer for the agency reiterated the policy in 2010. And the current online version of the IRS manual says that no warrant is required for emails that are stored by an Internet storage provider for more than 180 days.