The Feds Want To Spy On Everything

cce8wiretapping The Feds Want To Spy On Everything

Electronic privacy is all the rage in these
post-Petraeus days. Can the government really go pawing through our
email at will? Well,
pretty much so, it turns out, at least, until the Supreme Court
gets around to focusing a little bit of its attention on this
newfangled, electronic world of ours. But email isn’t the only data
we pass around in electronic form, and with all of our attention
focused on our in-boxes, we may be missing a larger world of
privacy perils—and the unlikely guardians who have been fighting a
rearguard action against official snoops.
As it turns out, the feds are very interested in tracking
all of our electronic communications, very concerned that
private industry isn’t assisting snooping efforts as much as
officials would like—and maybe not so eager to share that bit of
discord between the federal government and the telecommunications
industry with the world at large.
In a
letter addressed to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, dated
September 7, 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement FOIA Officer
Catrina M. Pavlik-Keenan explained that a number of documents sent
to the online civil liberties organization a year earlier were
actually exempt from freedom of information disclosure:

Please return any original copies of these documents to the ICE
FOIA Office at the address below. If these records were provided to
you on a disc, please return the original disc. You should also
destroy any electronic or paper copies of these documents.

What could have inspired such regrets in a federal agency that
it attempted the likely impossible task of retrieving inconvenient
documents from an organization generally dedicated to discomfiting
obstinate government agencies?
As EFF staff attorney Jennifer Lynch
The records show that companies like Comcast, Cricket
Communications, Metro PCS, Southern Linc Wireless, and T-Mobile
either pushed back on or failed to comply with specific requests
for information on their customers. For example, in response to one
of ICE’s pen register/trap and trace orders, Southern Linc said it
“did not like the wording of [the] order” and “would not give ‘real
time’ ping location for [the] phone, [it] would only give 1 hour
old history.” ICE also reported that it experienced “technical
issues . . . on almost a daily basis” trying to get data on a
suspect from Cricket Communications.” And Comcast gave ICE the
runaround for a month before it turned over IP log
EFF had requested documents from the government in response to
reports that the feds wanted to expand the reach of the notorious

Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which
mandates that telecommunications companies and equipment
manufacturers build-in wiretapping capabilities for ease of
government snooping. In this fast-moving world of ours, the FBI and
other other law-enforcers want to see CALEA applied to Skype,
Google, and other new forms of online communication. What EFF
received in return for its queries was evidence that
telecommunications companies that have long fallen under the
umbrella of the wiretapping law, and which have even been given

immunity to liability for their cooperation with legally
questionable snooping in alleged terrorism cases, are actually
often dragging their feet on complying with eavesdropping requests,
and sometimes even telling the feds to get lost—at least, until
they come back with better paperwork. The documents secured by EFF
were actually part of a
report compiling such incidents of “non compliance with a
lawful electronic surveillance order.”
That report was compiled to bolster the FBI’s “Going Dark”
initiative to enhance its powers to wiretap without being stymied
by intransigent private-sector types. As FBI General Counsel
Valerie Caproni
told a House subcommittee last year:

Any solution to the Going Dark problem should ensure that when
the government has satisfied a court that it has met the legal
requirements to obtain an order to intercept the communications of
a criminal, terrorist, or spy, the government is technologically
able to execute that court order in a timely fashion that is
isolated to the individual subject to the order.

That is, the FBI wants to expand not just its legal
reach, but its ability to satisfy its nosiness on its own, without
waiting on the assistance of third parties.
That the federal government is growing impatient with the way
individuals, organizations, and corporations deal with
matters-digital is no secret. Even as Sen. Joe Lieberman’s
(I-Conn.) far-reaching Cybersecurity Act, described by the EFF as a

potential conduit for private information to the National Security
Agency, was going down to defeat in the Senate, President Obama
was preparing, and then issuing,
Presidential Policy Directive 20, assigning the military broad
cybersecurity authority by fiat. Exacty how much authority isn’t
clear, since the White House has refused to reveal the details—a
move the Electronic Privacy Information Center is appealing
on freedom of information grounds.
More troubling, the president has apparently
prepared another directive that would implement Lieberman’s
failed bill by executive order, establishing “voluntary” standards
for cybersecurity and data-sharing between private industry and
government officials that few observers believe would remain a
matter of simple preference. As the Heritage Foundation’s David
cautions, the bill uses the word “voluntary,” but “then
requires that sector-specific agencies explain to Congress why they
haven’t made these standards mandatory.” A presidential directive
would take this controversial, twice-defeated legislation, and
impose it from on-high.
Ultimately, though, in an
Internet-connected world, federal agencies may find that they’ve
acquired long-sought powers, only to see their targets slip through
their fingers. The EFF cautions that expanding
government snooping power and forcing companies to incorporate easy
wiretapping into their products “will impair innovation and drive
Internet development offshore.”
That horse may already be out of the barn. This fall saw the
launch of
Silent Circle, a secure-communications company that includes on
its team Phil Zimmerman, the inventor of PGP encryption. The
company, helmed by a former Navy SEAL, deliberately based itself
outside the United States, and beyond the reach of American laws
and agencies.
Determined to corral or bypass communications services that
don’t cooperate as fully as they’d like, U.S. officials may simply
have inspired a new breed that don’t even have to pay them


The Feds Want To Spy On Everything

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