Back to News & Commentary

VIDEO: Is Law Enforcement Reading Your Email Without a Warrant?

Noa Yachot,
Former Senior Editor,
Share This Page
May 10, 2013

The FBI doesn’t think it needs a warrant to read emails and other electronic communications – despite the fact that a federal court has ruled that doing so violates the Fourth Amendment. Ben Wizner appeared today on Democracy Now! to discuss this and other ACLU revelations regarding government surveillances practices.

The ACLU this week released documents that paint a disturbing picture of the authority the government claims to access a wide range of our communications – from emails to Facebook messages and much more. These latest developments reinforce what has long been clear: it is well past time to modernize ECPA, the egregiously outdated law that governs our electronic privacy but hasn’t been updated since 1986, before the World Wide Web was even invented. As Wizner said:

There’s no reason why your emails should have different constitutional protections than a letter that you write. People expect when they send an email to someone that it is private, that it shouldn’t be treated as some kind of business record that the government can obtain without good reason.

Wizner also discussed FBI plans to vastly increase its online surveillance capabilities by requiring that companies build in to their systems the capacity to comply with wiretap orders. Beyond the fact that “our government wasn’t created to make sure that law enforcement can spy on every single communication,” the cybersecurity implications of such a plan are enormous (and quite terrifying). Watch the video in full to learn more:


Privacy statement. This embed will serve content from

The FBI isn’t alone – the ACLU recently revealed the IRS also claims the authority to read your emails without a warrant. Read more about that here, and join our call to Congress to update ECPA.

Learn more about surveillance and privacy and other civil liberty issues: Sign up for breaking news alerts, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Learn More About the Issues on This Page