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Abstract

This article critiques the Fifth Circuit’s decision in the 1994 case of Steve Jackson Games v. United States Secret Service. When the Secret Service invaded the petitioner’s offices, seizing three computers, 300 computer disks, and other computer equipment essential to the company’s operations, the petitioner sued the Secret Service under the Privacy Protection Act, the Federal Wiretap Act, and the Stored Wire Act. The Western District Court of Texas awarded the petitioner damages under the Privacy Protection Act and the Stored Wire Act, but found that there was no cognizable claim under the Federal Wiretap Act – after which petitioner appealed to the Fifth Circuit. Ms. Giallonardo’s case note analyzes the holding of the Fifth Circuit, which found that the unread e-mails acquired as part of the sweep were not intercepted while in transmission, and thus were not taken in violation of the Federal Wiretap Act. The author argues that the Fifth Circuit overlooked an important exception located within the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and thus erred in ruling that the Secret Service did not violate the Federal Wiretap Act.

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