Can the FBI read my emails before I am given any prior form of notification?

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Can the FBI read my emails before I am given any prior form of notification?

I recently had a visit from 2 FBI agents and they wanted to know about an email inquiry that I had sent to a company about what their minimum order was for tech grade ammonium nitrate. Of course I understand that this common fertilizer was used to make the bomb that destroyed the Oklahoma Federal Building years ago, but I was inquiring to make exploding binary targets that people sell on Ebay and make money. They said that I would get something by registered mail pertaining to their right to invade on my privacy and read my email. Is this still America? Never did get anything by reistered mail.

Asked on October 21, 2010 under Criminal Law, Florida

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Yes, this is America.  And yes, they can look at the emails.  They can even monitor the sale of potentially volatile material - such as muriatic acid - from hardware stores and inquire from the purchaser as to the intended use.  Why? Because there is a "greater good" argument used here that does seem to encroach upon Constitutional rights of individuals.  But our world is not the same world as when our Constitution was written and although I do not advocate what appears to be an invasion of your privacy, I can not help but to bring myself to a rationalplace where one could state that if the benign inquiry flushes out one in ten as a terrorist plot then they have really done their job to all of us as Americans.  Sorry for the soap box and watch the sales on Ebay.  I think that could be an issue here as well.   


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