Latest Abuse: Feds Reading Emails Between Prisoners And Their Lawyers

from the because-they-can dept

Another day, another story of abuse by federal prosecutors. The latest is that they're now regularly reading the emails between inmates and their lawyers. These are the kinds of things that most people believe should be part of confidential attorney-client privilege. And, for quite some time, prosecutors respected that. However, now they're claiming that since prisoners using the prison email system agree to a notice upfront saying their communications may be monitored, they gave up that right.
Inmates’ calls to or from lawyers, however, are generally exempt from such monitoring. But across the country, federal prosecutors have begun reading prisoners’ emails to lawyers — a practice wholly embraced in Brooklyn, where prosecutors have said they intend to read such emails in almost every case.

The issue has spurred court battles over whether inmates have a right to confidential email communications with their lawyers — a question on which federal judges have been divided.
The "divide" from judges seems pretty ridiculous. Some judges say it's okay in part because inmates have other ways to communicate privately with their lawyers, but everyone with a basis in reality notes that those "other ways" (mainly letters) take forever and really hamper the ability of an inmate to work with his or her lawyers. But, some courts just don't care.
The judge overseeing that case, Allyne R. Ross, ruled on Thursday that the government was allowed to review the emails. “The government’s policy does not ‘unreasonably interfere’ with Mr. DiFiore’s ability to consult his counsel,” she wrote.

In Dr. Ahmed’s case, the judge, Dora L. Irizarry, ruled against the government last month, barring it “from looking at any of the attorney-client emails, period.”
This certainly seems like one of those issues that's destined for the Supreme Court in the near future.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anon E. Mous (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 9:15am

    And here I thought that the heir spying, I doubt this Government had missed some type of communications they wanted to violate a persons rights to.

    If you were wondering just how out of hand the Government has gotten, I don't even think that this ranks that high.

    I can't wait to seem how many people that are incarcerated are going to be filing appeals due to their rights being violated. I am sure that the ABA is going to have a shit when their suspicions have now being confirmed.

     

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  2.  
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    Anon E. Mous (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 9:24am

    " This certainly seems like one of those issues that's destined for the Supreme Court in the near future "

    While that would be nice, the U.S. Supreme Court seems to be content with the Government and it's agencies breaking all kinds of laws and violating constitutional rights.

    It's not like they have no idea what's going on, they just seem to be afraid to rule against the government or set down rulings against this mess that are based on law, the constitution and peoples rights.

    If there isn't interference from the White House and it's spy agencies going on, I would be shocked

     

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  3.  
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    Raging Alcoholic, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 9:31am

    Re:

    No doubt. The government, in its efforts to get what it wants, seems to be willing to violate some of our most fundamental right. Attorney-client privilege is, perhaps, more important than priest-penitent or doctor-patient privilege.
    They are willing to invade our privacy with illegal listening. The FBI seems to be creating conspiracies for itself to stop. The DEA won't back off on its drug busts and the IRS does nasty stuff to the political opposition of the president. Then there is Hillary Clinton and Benghazi.

    It is pretty scary. I mean, when you don't know if you can trust the authorities you are really in mess. All the stuff I mentioned above are Gestapo like tactics.

    I am no fan of Bill Clinton but wouldn't it be nice to just have a horny frat boy to worry about.

    The government we have now is terrifying. These guys don't even know what they are doing is wrong. They just don't get it.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 9:34am

    Re: Re: Trust the authorities

    I mean, when you don't know if you can trust the authorities you are really in mess.
    You're in luck! Based on this, we know that we cannot trust the authorities, so it is not the case that you don't know if you can trust them.

     

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  5.  
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    LduN (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 9:35am

    "However, now they're claiming that since prisoners using the prison email system agree to a notice upfront saying their communications may be monitored, they gave up that right. "

    Does that mean I can put a sign up in my offce saying "those that enter agree I can punch them in face without replique" and totally get away with that?

    Or do I need to be the government for that work...

     

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  6.  
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    Baron von Robber, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 9:46am

    I'm ok with government reviewing lawyer-client emails so long as they can in return read government emails tween detectives and prosecutors.


    no?

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 10:02am

    Re:

    Dunno, stores seem to think they can "reserve the right to search you" (or at least your bags).

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 10:10am

    I'm sure letters, phone calls, and any other form of communication is probably "monitored" because the inmates have "agree to a notice upfront saying their communications may be monitored".

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 10:38am

    Re:

    Professional boxes get punched in the face, legally. So yea, someone can agree to that tho I think one would need to actually AGREE to the boxing terms not simply read a sign.

    If the inmates AGREE to monitoring to USE the email system then they agreed to monitoring. If they want private communications use the private methods.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 11:26am

    "This certainly seems like one of those issues that's destined for the Supreme Court in the near future."

    so that's like what 5yrs-never?

     

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  11.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 11:28am

    Tell them they surrendered their souls to the companies when they agreed with th ToS even if it throughly destroys their rights. See if they agree with it. I'm inclined to think they'll flip and go angry about it. But hey, it's prisoners, they can go to hell because obviously they are horrible humans.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 11:36am

    "Some judges say it's okay in part because inmates have other ways to communicate privately with their lawyers"

    There's always carrier pigeons.

     

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  13.  
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    LduN (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 11:41am

    Re:

    that works... as long as you don't have to agree to a similar ToS for the pen/pencil and paper

     

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  14.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 11:56am

    Re: Re:

    They say that, but given that I always decline to have my bags searched and they've never pressed the issue, I'm thinking that they know they can't really do it.

     

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  15.  
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    Anon E. Mous (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 12:14pm

    Re:

    Do lawyers understand charades and mime techniques?

     

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  16.  
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    ethorad (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 12:46pm

    Re:

    Or if they really want to communicate privately with their lawyers they can wait until they are released then go round to the lawyer's offices.

    Easy.

     

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  17.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 1:08pm

    If you know your emails are being watched, put misleading information in them. For example, talk about an insanity defense in emails while you work on your alibi for real.

     

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  18.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 1:32pm

    Re:

    Yes, this! Most swords can cut both ways. Surveillance can be used to sow disinformation.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 10:04pm

    Prison Break

    To: Lawyer
    Cc: Inmate Prison Break Group #1 of 20

    The breakout will be at 10pm Friday night in the south east corner, directly opposite the laundry. Please have getaway vehicle and change of clothes ready. To the guards reading this - haha, hope you enjoy missing your friday night football game.

    Yours Sincerely
    Inmate Prison Break Group #1

     

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  20.  
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    Rekrul, Jul 26th, 2014 @ 6:01am

    Re: Re:

    The government, in its efforts to get what it wants, seems to be willing to violate some of our most fundamental right.

    Americans don't have rights, they have government granted privileges, which can be withdrawn at any time.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2014 @ 1:36pm

    What if you don't agree up front to have your email monitored? Do you get to go home?

     

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  22.  
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    BernardoVerda (profile), Jul 27th, 2014 @ 9:03pm

    I really don't care for this decision -- the thinking behind it is very troubling. It's as if prisoners are considered to not have any basic rights in practice, regardless of any theory to the contrary...

    On the other hand, I do wonder how the e-mails between prisoners and their legal counsel are supposed to be segregated from the rest of their e-mail communications (which I presumes are understandably subject to monitoring). I really don't see any methods beyond

    a) encryption (which I'm pretty sure that prisoners aren't/won't be allowed to use)

    b) the honour system (which in effect means that the same authorities can be trusted to resist the temptation to not peek, even though they know it won't leave any trace visible to the prisoner or the lawyers).

    All of which leads to yet one more issue... At this point one has to ask: how do we really know that physical mail communications between prisoner and counsel are not being intercepted?

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2014 @ 12:40am

    Some judges say it's okay in part because inmates have other ways to communicate privately with their lawyers

    By this reasoning, prisons should be able to ban paper and pencils and only allow inmates to communicate via stone tablet and chisel. I'm sure this slower, more inefficient means of communication won't put the defense at any disadvantage compared to the prosecution, who have unfettered access to email.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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