Edward Snowden and Attorney-Client Privileged Tribal Emails

According to Jurist:

American lawyers have been concerned for some time that the legally protected space for attorney-client communications is shrinking. But recent reports detailing massive electronic surveillance by the US government suggest truly confidential communications may largely be a thing of the past.

Documents leaked to the press over the past year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden reveal that the US government is sweeping up vast amounts of private data and communications, including confidential imagesinformation related to ongoing legal matters and privileged communications between attorneys and their clients. . . .

Concerns are especially pronounced in contexts where the US government is an opposing legal party. . . . As one prominent public interest lawyer put it, fear of government surveillance makes sense in part because the government that holds all of the surveillance information is also "the adversary we're worried about."

Should tribes be concerned that the United Sates has swept up confidential emails and other electronic communications between tribal clients and lawyers?

Tribes and tribal lands have too frequently been referred to as havens for organized crime and, more recently, for terrorism, especially by way of gaming and tobacco industries.  So I would not rule out NSA surveillance in Indian Country.

And with tribes now duking it out in federal court with the likes of the holier-than-thou FBI and ATF, I, too, would not rule out the possibility of DOJ gaining access to the data and using it for litigation advantage.

Tribal lawyers and leaders, take note, and take precaution.

Gabriel “Gabe” Galanda is the Managing Partner at Galanda Broadman. He is a citizen of the Round Valley Indian Tribes. Gabe can be reached at 206.300.7801 or gabe@galandabroadman.com.