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What the General Petraeus Scandal Should Remind Everyone in Pennsylvania

According to reports, the National Security Agency (NSA) routinely collects 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and communications every single day. What you write in an email can be recorded, stored and recovered with relative ease by third parties, like the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. The NSA doesn't need a search warrant to record your most private conversations writes Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (OH-D) in a recent post on his website.

If the most revered military commander in recent history and current CIA Director, General David Petreaus, can be forced to resign because his email communications with his mistress Paula Broadwell were recovered by law enforcement without either his consent or a search warrant, then your emails can be recorded, stored and recovered with relative ease by third parties, too.

According to reports, a woman in Tampa receved some emails. The emails said "Who do you think you are?...You parade around...You need to take it down a notch."

These emails triggered a federal investigation. The FBI began by determining the source of the anonymous emails quoted above. This led them to Paula Broadwell, the biographer for General David Patreaus, who until his recent resignation was the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and former NATO Commander in Iraq and later Afghanistan before accepting the post as head of our spy agency. When they reviewed her emails, they discovered other emails. Then they tracked down where those emails came from. These emails led them to the retired four star general and the Director of the CIA, General Petreaus. These emails were sent from his unsecure gmail account. And these emails revealed the affair and prompted his resignation.

All of this was accomplished without a search warrant or probable casue that criminal activity was afoot. "How is that possible?" you ask while reading this article on your home or work computer or handheld device. The FBI and NSA can track you and find your location. They can look at your IP address and determine what websites you visit and what accounts you access. They need a warrant to read any email that is less than 180 days old, but they don't need probable cause to read older emails. They need only a court order, but are not required to offer any probable cause in support of their request.

So, we are reminded (again) about the lack of privacy we have while online. When we draft an email, we should think before tapping the "send" box. If what the Director of the CIA sends on his gmail account (or even saves as a "draft" according to some reports) can be stored, recorded, read and transmitted to others without his permission or probable cause or a search warrant, then ours can, too.

Tim George is a lawyer in Erie Pennsylvania who represents people in Erie, Warren, Venango, Clarion and Meadville, Pennsylvania who face criminal charges or DUI allegations. Mr. George also represents people in catastrophic car or truck accident and medical malpractice cases. You can read more about Tim here or to schedule a private, no obligation consultation, by calling toll free (888) 748-9909.

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