Aside from the juicy details of the Petraeus sex scandal, the case raises some serious questions about the ease of government surveillance and individual privacy. Scott Shane at the New York Times:
The F.B.I. investigation that toppled the director of the C.I.A. and now threatens to tarnish the reputation of the top American commander in Afghanistan underscores a danger that civil libertarians have long warned about: that in policing the Web for crime, espionage and sabotage, government investigators will unavoidably invade the private lives of Americans.
On the Internet, and especially in e-mail, text messages, social network postings and online photos, the work lives and personal lives of Americans are inextricably mixed. Private, personal messages are stored for years on computer servers, available to be discovered by investigators who may be looking into completely unrelated matters.
According to the Associated Press, a major lesson from the Petraeus scandal is that “your inbox may not be that hard for authorities to access.”
Your emails are not nearly as private as you think.
The downfall of CIA Director David Petraeus demonstrates how easy it is for federal law enforcement agents to examine emails and computer records if they believe a crime was committed.
…Under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, federal authorities need only a subpoena approved by a federal prosecutor — not a judge — to obtain electronic messages that are six months old or older.
…“Technology has evolved in a way that makes the content of more communications available to law enforcement without judicial authorization, and at a very low level of suspicion,” said Greg Nojeim, a senior counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology.
Chris Soghoian, Senior Policy Analyst at the ACLU put it succinctly: “When the CIA director cannot hide his activities online, what hope is there for the rest of us?”
In addition to how easy it is for the government to snoop on your electronic communication while following legal protocol, there is also the pressing issue of illegal, warrantless surveillance which the Obama administration has fought tooth and nail to preserve.