Obama to Seek Increased Wiretapping on Internet Communications

The Obama Administration intends to introduce a bill next year that will make it easier for feds to wiretap your internet communications.

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.


Apparently, CALEA, the 1994 bill that required phone companies to employ technology that would enable them to comply with wiretap orders didn't apply to online service providers.

The F.B.I.’s operational technologies division spent $9.75 million last year helping communication companies — including some subject to the 1994 law that had difficulties — do so. And its 2010 budget included $9 million for a “Going Dark Program” to bolster its electronic surveillance capabilities.

I think there's a big difference between intercepting phone conversations and text messages. It's not true that the same probable cause showing for a wiretap of phone conversations will suffice for interception of text messages. Even DOJ acknowledges a separate probable cause showing is required.

But an even bigger issue I think is minimization. When a phone call is intercepted and the listening agents realize it's either privileged or not about the criminal activity subject to the wiretap order, they have to stop listening. (They can go back to spot monitor and ensure the conversation hasn't turned to a discussion of criminal activity.) With text messages, if the agents at the monitoring receive the messages directly, they are viewing the non-criminal related and privileged ones as well as the ones the wiretap order authorizes them to obtain. The wiretap orders should require "a wall" between the monitoring post and the agents, so that text messages go to an independent monitor who then provides law enforcement only with the ones that are subject to interception under the order. That would cost a pretty penny.

Those who are pushing this bill say it's no big deal.

“We’re talking about lawfully authorized intercepts,” said Valerie E. Caproni, general counsel for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “We’re not talking expanding authority. We’re talking about preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to protect the public safety and national security.”


< Structural Unemployment: Americans Lack Farm Labor Skills | McChyrstal: Afghanistan in "Post-Apocalyptic Nightmare" >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    WSWS: Big Brother Obama (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Andreas on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 01:48:03 AM EST
    The Obama White House is backing new regulations that would compel popular Internet messaging services like Facebook, Skype and Blackberry to open up their systems to FBI surveillance, the New York Times reported Monday, citing federal law enforcement and national security officials.

    The threat to democratic rights goes far beyond anything envisioned by the Bush administration. The goal is to make all forms of electronic communication that use the Internet subject to wiretapping and interception by federal police agencies. ...

    This is the same stance taken by dictatorial governments from China to the Middle East. The governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates only last month threatened to bar Blackberry services in their countries because Research in Motion refused to allow the local intelligence services to monitor and intercept messaging.

    Big Brother Obama: US to spy on Internet messaging
    Regulations to target Skype, Facebook, Blackberry
    By Patrick Martin, 28 September 2010

    sigh (none / 0) (#1)
    by Peter G on Mon Sep 27, 2010 at 10:38:30 PM EST

    I don't watch TV news except when (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 01:01:51 AM EST
    the TV's at McDonald's are tuned to CNN on Monday after school (tutoring night).  Today the headlines were about this issue and the soldiers on trial for allegedly murdering civilians in Afghanistan.  Kind of encouraging CNN is emphasising these two stories.