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FBI Wants More Surveillance Power

As if the National Security State was not intrusive enough, the FBI is now demanding even more ability to listen in to our conversations. And it looks like they’re gonna get it, with the backing of both parties in Congress and — of course — President Obama as well.

The Obama administration, resolving years of internal debate, is on the verge of backing a Federal Bureau of Investigation plan for a sweeping overhaul of surveillance laws that would make it easier to wiretap people who communicate using the Internet rather than by traditional phone services, according to officials familiar with the deliberations.

The F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, has argued that the bureau’s ability to carry out court-approved eavesdropping on suspects is “going dark” as communications technology evolves, and since 2010 has pushed for a legal mandate requiring companies like Facebook and Google to build into their instant-messaging and other such systems a capacity to comply with wiretap orders. That proposal, however, bogged down amid concerns by other agencies, like the Commerce Department, about quashing Silicon Valley innovation.

While the F.B.I.’s original proposal would have required Internet communications services to each build in a wiretapping capacity, the revised one, which must now be reviewed by the White House, focuses on fining companies that do not comply with wiretap orders. The difference, officials say, means that start-ups with a small number of users would have fewer worries about wiretapping issues unless the companies became popular enough to come to the Justice Department’s attention.

Oh of course, the concern should be about those poor technology companies, not for actual people or the Bill of Rights. The FBI says that this capability would only be used to collect information pursuant to a judge issuing a warrant, but you’ll forgive me for being skeptical.

Comments

  1. matthewhodson says

    Will there also be a proposal to reduce their word counts on online dictionaries? It would make word finds double quick.

  2. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Meh, if you don’t / aren’t do(~ing) anything wrong I wouldn’t be too worried, right?

  3. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    The FBI says that this capability would only be used to collect information pursuant to a judge issuing a warrant, but you’ll forgive me for being skeptical.

    Sure.

    But would the FBI lie to us?

    Or really be interested in stuff outside of specific situations which are of preventative benefit to everyone?

  4. D. C. Sessions says

    Ed, you’re crying wolf again.

    After all the complaints about the Surveillance State, we would have seen some proof by now of surveillance abuse by this conspiracy. And yet, although there have been countless allegations not one has stood up in court.

  5. Ichthyic says

    Same exact thing is happening here in New Zealand this month, with our version of the FBI.

    coincidence?

  6. Ichthyic says

    And yet, although there have been countless allegations not one has stood up in court.

    I truly hope that was a good bit of sarcasm on your part.

  7. Ichthyic says

    Meh, if you don’t / aren’t do(~ing) anything wrong I wouldn’t be too worried, right?

    and then they burned the witches…

  8. bumperpuff says

    So now the FBI wants companies to intentionally make their data unsecured? Will the FBI accept all liability when hackers use these built in flaws to steal data and money from everyone? Furthermore why shouldn’t law biding citizens have access to truly secure and private communications?

  9. says

    Anyone concerned with this topic must read Weiner’s “Enemies” – which documents based on public sources, exhaustively, the FBI’s long-term and uninterrupted domestic surveillance. Even the founding of the FBI was illegal, and it went downhill from there.

  10. says

    But would the FBI lie to us?

    I know you’re joking, but it would – seriously – be easier to enumerate the occasions on which they have told the truth.

  11. D. C. Sessions says

    I truly hope that was a good bit of sarcasm on your part.

    But you can’t tell for sure, can you? Mission accomplished.

  12. llewelly says

    Drown them in data. If there is too much for them too usefully analyze, they will do less harm.

  13. typecaster says

    Furthermore why shouldn’t law biding citizens have access to truly secure and private communications?

    Well, first you need to prove that you’re actually law-abiding. Which requires letting them look at your communications, of course. That’s logic.

    That’s the worst thing about the surveillance state – it can’t possibly work if you start with a presumption of innocence. Everyone’s guilty, until close examination indicates that they aren’t. This time.

  14. zmidponk says

    I wonder what would happen if large groups of people simply started ending any online message with random ‘red flag’ words, like putting ‘bomb’ ‘White House’ and ‘President’ together?

  15. kantalope says

    Anyone remember when the reason we had to fight the communists was because they would spy on their own people? Now I wonder what they real reason was.

    I wonder if the people at FBI and CIA find it odd that they are the new STASI.

  16. matty1 says

    @19 I can’t believe anyone actually fell for that. It was always obvious the United States fought communism because it was a way their main rival the Soviet Union gained influence in third countries. It was always about power politics not principle.

  17. Lofty says

    If you got everyone to type “plans for a nuclear bomb” into their posts the FBI would go critical within minutes.

  18. says

    I wonder what would happen if large groups of people simply started ending any online message with random ‘red flag’ words, like putting ‘bomb’ ‘White House’ and ‘President’ together?

    It would be as easy to filter as viagra spam and penis enlargement offers, for exactly the same reason.

    But it might get you put on a list of wiseasses who need to be audited, restricted from flying, or otherwise targeted for closer analysis. By the way, the current terrorism watch-list is over 900,000 people. You can join it, if you want. The trick would be getting near the top. That might be an exciting hobby. Try it out and let us know how it works out for you.

  19. says

    I wonder if the people at FBI and CIA find it odd that they are the new STASI.

    Considering that the FBI was founded to be the US Gestapo, Hoover wouldn’t have found that odd, in the slightest. Unless it was to complain that those ivan-come-latelies in the STASI were copying from his playbook.

    American citizens really need to understand the history of the FBI better. Most of us have no idea how thoroughly corrupt it has always been. CIA is worse, but less competent.

  20. DaveL says

    Drown them in data. If there is too much for them too usefully analyze, they will do less harm.

    Here’s the problem with that strategy: you don’t have to actually surveil millions of people in order to abuse the system. More than likely, it will be used to target specific people. The hope would be that those people would be criminals, and the surveillance would be used to build a legitimate case against them. But it could also be used to scrutinize every moment of a political dissident’s life, waiting for them to do something that puts them in technical violation of one of thousands of obscure laws.

  21. says

    From a few news reports I’ve skimmed, it appears that the FBI with terribly deficient abilities were able to winkle out some information about the unlamentedly late Mr. Tsarnaev that might have proven valuable to the Boston PD. Unfortunately their phones weren’t working, or something.

  22. Pierce R. Butler says

    Marcus Ranum @ # 23: … the FBI was founded to be the US Gestapo…

    Eh what? [In 1909] … the Office of the Chief Examiner was renamed the Bureau of Investigation…

    Whereas H. Goering didn’t launch the G-guys until about 24 years later (though J.E. Hoover added the “Federal” two years after that).

  23. says

    @Pierce R. Butler
    I didn’t mean the name of the Gestapo. I couldn’t think of another recognizable secret police/skullduggery organization that fit, at that time.

    Its first real mission was to beat down radicals and communists, so I suppose it would be more appropriate to say the Gestapo was a copy of the DOJ’s ‘radical squad’ not the other way around.

  24. Pierce R. Butler says

    Marcus Ranum @ # 27: I couldn’t think of another recognizable secret police/skullduggery organization that fit…

    Hmmm. Roman/Spanish Inquisitions? The Cheka?

  25. says

    The Girl Guides? I would denounce my neighbor for a box of thin mints. And have, even when there were no Girl Guides around. I had to. They have ears everywhere. I’ve said too much.

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