Skip to main content

The folks at the FBI seem to have figured that if the NSA can get away with bulk data collection they can too.

If You Used This Secure Webmail Site, the FBI Has Your Inbox

While investigating a hosting company known for sheltering child porn last year the FBI incidentally seized the entire e-mail database of a popular anonymous webmail service called TorMail.

Now the FBI is tapping that vast trove of e-mail in unrelated investigations.

The bureau’s data windfall, seized from a company called Freedom Hosting, surfaced in court papers last week when prosecutors indicted a Florida man for allegedly selling counterfeit credit cards online. The filings show the FBI built its case in part by executing a search warrant on a Gmail account used by the counterfeiters, where they found that orders for forged cards were being sent to a TorMail e-mail account: “”

Acting on that lead in September, the FBI obtained a search warrant for the TorMail account, and then accessed it from the bureau’s own copy of “data and information from the TorMail e-mail server, including the content of TorMail e-mail accounts,” according to the complaint (.pdf) sworn out by U.S. Postal Inspector Eric Malecki.

This of course gets into the legal arguments over whether holding personal communications and only accessing them with a court order is allowable under the protections of the 4th amendment. It also assumes a belief in the word of government agencies that the data won't be accessed. In the case of the NSA there are documented cases of numerous incidents when it was so accessed by "mistake".

What this seems to mean is that anybody who takes the trouble to make their communications more secure for whatever reason is taking on risk by using providers who offer higher levels of security. People who use such services as opposed to a free and insecure service like Gmail have a range of reasons for going to the additional trouble and expense. In some cases they are indeed engaged in illegal activity such as child porn or credit card fraud. However, there are entirely legitimate concerns such as protecting proprietary business information.

Up until now the focus of concern about the data of American citizens has been on the NSA. They have blanket authority to access data of non-citizens outside the US. They are supposedly subject to constitutional restrictions where citizens are concerned. There have been various efforts to get around those. This news makes it apparent that oversight of government data collection needs to be much broader.

The FBI has a long history of illegal snooping. J Edgar Hoover would be proud to know that his successors are keeping abreast of modern technology. In his day the best he could do was to plant taps on mechanical telephone systems. Isn't progress wonderful.  

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site