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How Federal Agents Illegally Force Twitter, Google, and Banks to Turn Over Private Customer Data Without a Proper Warrant

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How Federal Agents Illegally Force Twitter, Google, and Banks to Turn Over Private Customer Data Without a Proper Warrant

Private companies are fighting the federal government in court over the Patriot Act’s “National Security Letters,” which violate the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

Earlier this week, FBI Director James Comey gave an interview to 60 Minutes during which he revealed a flawed understanding of personal freedom. He rightly distinguished what FBI agents do in their investigations of federal crimes from what the NSA does in its intelligence gathering, when the two federal agencies are looking for non-public data.

The FBI requires, Comey correctly asserted, articulable suspicion to commence an investigation and probable cause to obtain a search warrant. It does this because its agents have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution, and their failure to comply with that oath may very well render the evidence obtained by unconstitutional means useless in court.

The NSA, as we know, makes no pretense about presenting probable cause to a judge. Rather, it asks a judge on a secret court (so secret that the judges themselves are kept from the court’s files) for general warrants. A warrant based on probable cause must specifically describe the place to be searched and the person or thing to be seized. General warrants, which the Constitution prohibits, permit the bearer to search wherever he wishes and seize whatever he finds.

http://reason.com/archives/2014/10/16/unconstitutional-patriot-act