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The New York Times reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and White House are about to reveal a

. . . 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.
After Internet companies and the Commerce Department objected to an FBI proposal to update the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) by forcing companies to build-in wiretapping capabilities into Internet-based communications services, now the FBI is proposing instituting hefty fines if companies do not allow the FBI access to customers' data.

Aside from the valid concerns that the new proposal would stifle innovation and, as Center for Democracy and Technology's Greg Nojeim said, "render Internet communications less secure and more vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves,” expanding the FBI's surveillance powers would be yet another completely unnecessary compromise of Americans' privacy, a word that appeared once in the whole article. Considering how much surveillance power Congress has dished out to the Executive branch since 9/11, privacy should no longer be an afterthought when the FBI proposes gaining still more access to Americans' communications.

The FBI already has broad-ranging power to obtain information on Americans without court orders (such as using National Security Letters) or using a standard less than probable cause (such as Section 215 of the Patriot Act, for which the Justice Department has a secret twisted interpretation that likely allows bulk collection of Americans' communications). The Electronic Frontier Foundation objected to the first attempts to "modernize" CALEA, accurately pointing out that:

Existing laws already permit law enforcement to place Internet users under surveillance regardless of what programs or protocols they are using to communicate.
If history is any lesson, when the Executive branch pushes to "modernize" a surveillance law, the result is a law like the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), which  legalized part of the NSA's previously illegal warrantless surveillance program. The FAA vastly expanded surveillance of Americans not suspected of any crime and retroactively immunized telecommunications companies who handed over customer data to the government in violation of FISA.

Meanwhile, while the White House and FBI propose more legal authority to collect Americans' data, former NSA crypto-mathematician Bill Binney has blown countless whistles warning that the NSA is already collecting and storing vast troves of Americans' data. Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller testified in March 2011 that the FBI already has access to databases that monitor domestic communications as they are happening:

We found that we could do a much better job at information sharing with
DOD . . .  we have put into place technological improvements relating to the capabilities of a data base to pull together past e-mails and future ones as they come in so that it does not require an individualized search.
If Internet companies are hesitant to hand over customers' data to the government, perhaps it is because there is substantial evidence that the FBI has misused the surveillance powers it does have. (For example, see Justice Department Inspector General reports here and here.).

Even Americans who "have nothing to hide" should be wary of the government's aggressive unending quest to find easier and easier ways to collect Americans' online data.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (27+ / 0-)

    My book, TRAITOR: THE WHISTLEBLOWER & THE "AMERICAN TALIBAN," is Amazon's #1 Best Seller in Human Rights Books for February 2012.

    by Jesselyn Radack on Wed May 08, 2013 at 06:42:16 AM PDT

  •  I'm also concerned about corporatons (10+ / 0-)

    having easier ways to collect  and sell online data to the highest bidder.

    Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

    by DRo on Wed May 08, 2013 at 07:06:38 AM PDT

  •  Given fiat to collect the data FOR the government (5+ / 0-)

    Sure makes me wonder what these corporate entities are going to do with all the data.

    This BS has got to stop.

    This is more the act of a government afraid of its constituency, than of one of National Security.

    Too bad Washington can't "grow a pair of [insert appropriate gonad here]" (I miss Pelosi as The Most Effective Speaker in Our History, and cry when I think she was replace by the Least Effective...ever)

    Since we use National Security to cloak the lies and shortcomings of our government (why it was created in the first place), why should we expect them not to give themselves greater power in the thought control department?

    Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance. Kurt Vonnegut

    by ToKnowWhy on Wed May 08, 2013 at 07:18:28 AM PDT

    •  It was Pelosi who brought FISA fiasco '08... (4+ / 0-)

      ... back to life AFTER it had been voted down by both houses of Congress.  That was the very same bill Obama said he would not vote "for" if it had telecom immunity intact.

      I watched the proceedings in both the House and the Senate with horror.

      She took it out of its ignominious grave early one Friday morning, limited "debate" to one hour, the House passed it before/by noon, and someone from the House hand-carried the bill to the Senate that day.  The only reason the Senate did not vote on it that same Friday afternoon is that most of them were out campaigning [this was the summer before the '08 election] and already out of town.

      The following Mon. or Tue. there was a funeral for one of the senators who had just died and the senators all went to that, so the Senate didn't get to it until Wed.  Kos himself was so steamed about Obama's unwise FISA vote he withheld a large donation to Obama's campaign fund (I don't remember if kos relented and still gave Obama's campaign the money or not).  

      Three days after the wrong-headed Senate vote, Obama told one of the reichwingnuttia Xian groups that he'd not only retain Dumbya's 'office of faith-based initiatives,' but he'd increase funding for it, too.

      Fancy that: a con law prof violating the US Constitution twice in one week: once by voting for FISA fiasco '08 with telecom immunity intact, a clear violation of the 4th Amendment, and a second time by saying he'd keep the 'office of faith-based initiatives' which is a direct violation of the 1st Amendment's separation of church and state.

      Now Obama and his pretzel-logic lawyers want to solidify and make "normal" a permanent violation of our right to privacy - a clear continuation of Dumbya's dunderheaded unconstitutional and illegal policies.

      I'm SO underwhelmed.

      I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

      by NonnyO on Wed May 08, 2013 at 08:31:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  And next they'll insist on glass houses (3+ / 0-)

    and transparent clothing. People will nod, "well if that's what it takes to keep us safe."

    I don't worry about criminals or terrorists. I worry about the control freaks and paranoids we have running this country. If they're sincere in their efforts to root out threats to our Democracy, I suggest they look in their mirrors.

    "The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice." Richard K. Morgan

    by sceptical observer on Wed May 08, 2013 at 08:37:55 AM PDT

  •  Jesselyn, I recall reading EFF's position against (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    these "modernizations" before.

    They said it would grant "backdoor access" to any and all computers...making the likelihood of a cyber attack more plausible.

    So, why are they pushing forward with this again?  So they can get CISPA or whatever bill they want through Congress when there is a real cyber attack CAUSED by their "upgrades"???

    -7.62; -5.95 The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.~Tesla

    by gerrilea on Wed May 08, 2013 at 09:54:21 AM PDT

  •  The pres. is against CISPA, but for this? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I don't get it...

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