Schiff Releases Phone Records of Journalist

This week in the impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, released his report on the inquiry to date. The report included records of telephone calls of President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and another man, Lev Parnas, who was reportedly assisting Giuliani in his investigation of alleged activities in Ukraine or by Ukrainians to interfere in the 2016 election. These records included calls allegedly with Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the ranking minority member on the Intelligence Committee, and John Solomon, a prominent journalist.

Americans began querying how Schiff could have obtained the phone call records for the report. Some speculated that a secret warrant had been sought for them, that someone at the carrier (AT&T) had leaked them, that the National Security Agency had been tasked with obtaining them, or that a federal agency had issued a “natsec” letter to acquire them for the intelligence committee.

In reality, the government can obtain these records without taking any such extraordinary measures — and no judge even need be involved for Congress to get them. It can simply send a subpoena to the carrier.

This seemingly astonishing explanation exists because under current law, these records are not protected by any warrant requirement. First, based on Supreme Court precedent, obtaining these records is not a “search” under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

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