If attorney general Eric Holder wanted to perform even a momentary Internet wiretap on Fox News' e-mail accounts, he would have had to persuade a judge to approve what lawyers call a "super search warrant."
A super search warrant's requirements are exacting: Intercepted communications must be secured and placed under seal. Real-time interception must be done only as a last resort. Only certain crimes qualify for this technique, the target must be notified, and additional restrictions apply to state and local police conducting real-time intercepts.
But because of the way federal law was written nearly half a century ago, Holder was able to obtain a normal search warrant -- lacking those extensive privacy protections -- that allowed federal agents to secretly obtain up to six years of email correspondence between Fox News correspondent James Rosen and his alleged sources.