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Begich Leads Bipartisan Effort to Prevent IRS From Conducting Warrantless Searches

Concerned with IRS Policy to Search Email Without Warrant

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich cited concerns about reports that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was undermining Alaskans’ right to privacy by claiming authority to conduct warrantless searches of Americans’ email.   

Begich joined Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) in leading a bipartisan group of 13 senators in letter to the IRS asking that they swiftly update their policies and internal rules to bar the agency from obtaining Americans' private electronic communications without warrants.  The bipartisan letter follows comments from IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller that the agency will no longer sidestep the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures:

The Senators write:

"We welcomed your testimony yesterday before the Senate Finance Committee regarding the U.S. Internal Revenue Service's authority under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act," the senators wrote in the letter.  "However, we remain troubled by press reports, indicating that until today, your agency claimed the authority to obtain citizens' private electronic communications, including emails, without a warrant.  We believe these actions are a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.  Accordingly, we urge the IRS to provide further details and a timetable for its plans to update policies to adhere to Americans' constitutional rights."

Miller told the Senate Finance Committee this week that the IRS will not attempt to access Americans' private electronic communications without a warrant.  His comments marked a departure from the language of internal IRS documents revealed last week.

The letter also asked the agency to update all manuals, opinions, and other forms of guidance provided to remove any ambiguity about IRS’ authority under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

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