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IRS Actions Prove Now is the Time for Electronic Communications Privacy Reform


Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Friday, May 10th, 2013, 4:32 PM PERMALINK


The IRS seems to know no bounds – they think they can read your email and now they target non-profits based on party affiliation.

Senator Mitch McConnell sent numerous inquiries to the IRS about its practices during the election season:

“… the IRS is requesting the names of donors and contributors to organizations that apply for tax exempt status.  In doing so, the IRS appears to be circumventing the statutory privacy protections that Congress has long provided donors.” 

In the IRS announcement today, Sen. McConnell now has his response.  His requests were not unfounded.  The IRS was abusing its authority, and McConnell plans to get answers.

“Now more than ever we need to send a clear message to the Obama Administration that the First Amendment is non-negotiable, and that apologies after an election year are not an sufficient response to what we now know took place at the IRS. This kind of political thuggery has absolutely no place in our politics.”

The House will also be investigating the IRS’ practices. House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa tweeted today “@GOPoversight will aggressively follow up on the #IRS IG report & hold responsible officials accountable for this political retaliation.”

A major reason for having an independent judiciary is to protect against political abuses from the executive branch.  These over reaches into American citizens privacy need an aggressive response.  Moving the Electronic Communications Privacy Reform delineated in the Leahy-Lee bill, S. 607, is a crucial step in providing citizens with a way to protect themselves from government overreaches into their private lives.

Some have suggested that federal agencies pursuing civil investigations should be able to go to a third party with a subpoena rather than their target, because they don’t have the ability to get warrants.  Clearly these agencies, the IRS, OSHA, FCC, EPA, need stronger guidelines as to what they can and cannot do.   

As of now S. 607 says that an IRS agent, an EPA investigator, OSHA or any other of the 300 federal agencies with subpoena power cannot get access to private information or proprietary records on their own say so.  They can subpoena their target, but they cannot go to the third party without the targets knowledge.  

ECPA reform has been moving steadily in the Senate and has picked up steam in the house as a result of IRS actions – Rep. Yoder and Graves released a house version of the Leahy-Lee bill on the same day as Rep. Salmon, and the Lofgren-Poe bill covers warrants for GPS location information in addition to warrant for electronically stored content.

The IRS is clearly out of control.  Legislators must move quickly to curb these abuses and pass the ECPA without exceptions for agencies pursuing civil investigations.

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