The answer to that question can be given in two short words and an initial: David H. Petraeus. Almost lost amidst the speculation surrounding former CIA Director David H. Petraeus‘ extramarital affair is the question of how the FBI was able to hack Petraeus’ private emails without breaking the law.
As I listened to Judge Andrew Napolitano summarize the incident during a recent Fox News appearance, the FBI could only have set about the process of intercepting Petraeus’ emails in three different ways.
1) The FBI would have needed a search warrant from a federal judge and to obtain it would have had to demonstrate that Petraeus possessed information related to a crime or was involved in a criminal activity.
2) The FBI would have had to write up their own search warrant under the Patriot Act in which case they would have had to demonstrate that Petraeus was involved in terrorist activity.
3) The FBI hacked into Petraeus’ CIA computer to obtain the emails, which would have been a criminal offense.
While we know just how easy it is to intercept emails floating through the atmosphere, how would they hack emails that were never sent?? It has now been confirmed that Petraeus and his mistress Paula Broadwell used draft emails stored in a shared email account to communicate with each other. The circumstances clearly indicate that the FBI illegally hacked Petraeus’ computer and email account in order to obtain the emails.
Does this prove that our emails are no longer safe? (If they ever were) With governments now trying to introduce powers to monitor email communications in real time, whatever shred of online privacy that remains is about to be decimated.