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New Documents Detail FBI Eavesdropping On Americans' Emails, IMs and Phone Calls

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Author Topic: New Documents Detail FBI Eavesdropping On Americans' Emails, IMs and Phone Calls  (Read 26 times)
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« on: April 08, 2008, 05:25:11 pm »

New Documents Detail FBI Eavesdropping On Americans' Emails, IMs and Phone Calls
More revelations of government spying in the panopticon society

Steve Watson
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
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Fresh documents reveal that the FBI is actively engaged in the monitoring of electronic communications and cell phone calls of American citizens without the prior approval of a court.

The latest documents were released under the Freedom of Information Act to the advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, and obtained by the Washington Post.

"Different versions of the system are used for criminal wiretaps and for foreign intelligence investigations inside the United States. But each allows authorized FBI agents and analysts, with point-and-click ease, to receive e-mails, instant messages, cellphone calls and other communications that tell them not only what a suspect is saying, but where he is and where he has been, depending on the wording of a court order or a government directive." The Post reports.

The protections of the Fourth Amendment dictate that wiretaps to obtain the content of a phone call or an e-mail must be authorized by a court upon a showing of probable cause.

However, the FBI gets around this by classing the information it intercepts as "transactional data" about a communication, that is from whom the communication originated, to whom it was sent, how long it lasted and the like.

The bureau can collect this information under current law by asserting that it is relevant to an official investigation. It can administer a subpoena known as a national security letter (NSL).

As the Post reports, according to the Justice Department's inspector general, the number of NSLs issued by the FBI soared from 8,500 in 2000 to 47,000 in 2005.

(Article continues below)

Last week separate Pentagon documents, obtained by the ACLU, revealed that the military is using the FBI as a go between in order to "skirt legal restrictions" on domestic surveillance and obtain private records of Americans' Internet service providers, financial institutions and telephone companies.

The DoD is not authorized to obtain e-mail and phone records or lists of web sites that people have visited as it is illegal for the military to engage in domestic investigations, so it has been using the FBI to obtain the information via national security letters, hence the more than 500% increase in NSLs in recent years.

These revelations indicate that the FBI is as fully immersed within the program to spy on the communications of American citizens as its military counterpart, the NSA, and should demand more immediate and decisive action on behalf of those in Congress who continue to dither and debate over possible modifications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which governs federal surveillance.

Late last year, reports circulated that the NSA, has increasing control over SSL, now called Transport Layer Security, the cryptographic protocol that provides secure communications on the internet for web browsing, e-mail, instant messaging, and other data transfers.

In other words the agency is capable of intercepting and reading your emails and instant messages in real time. It is now beyond doubt that the NSA's "terrorist surveillance program" now extends to this.

Last week the ACLU also uncovered details pertaining to a secret Justice Department memo from October 2001 that reveals the Bush administration effectively suspended the Fourth Amendment where domestic counter terrorism operations are concerned.

It is almost certain that the memo was written to provide a legal basis for the NSA to begin its warrantless wiretapping program, which was initiated in the same month.

Another set of documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) last June showed that US telco AT&T allowed the NSA to set up a 'secret room' in its offices to monitor internet traffic.

Recently, the lawyer for an AT&T engineer alleged that "within two weeks of taking office, the Bush administration was planning a comprehensive effort of spying on Americans” That is BEFORE 9/11, before the nation was embroiled in the freedom stripping exercise commonly known as the "war on terror" had even begun.

In the wake of the allegations, CNET reported that both Google and Microsoft refused to say if they have provided users private data to the federal government under the warrantless wiretapping program.

However, it is clear where Google's interests lie given that the company is supplying the software, hardware and tech support to US intelligence agencies in the process of creating a vast closed source database for global spy networks to share information.

Earlier this year came the announcement that US National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell is drawing up plans for cyberspace spying that would make the current debate on warrantless wiretaps look like a "walk in the park".

The plan would mean giving the government the authority to examine the content of any e-mail, file transfer or Web search.

In addition, late last year, new programs of internet monitoring were announced by a freshly created department branch of Homeland Security called the National Applications Office

"Mr. Chertoff also plans soon to unveil a cyber-security strategy, part of an estimated $15 billion, multiyear program designed to protect the nation's Internet infrastructure. The program has been shrouded in secrecy for months and has also prompted privacy concerns on Capitol Hill because it involves government protection of domestic computer networks." The Wall Street Journal wrote.

Essentially the program allows the DHS to regulate and control access to the internet in the name of "protecting" national security.

With further revelations last week of state run "fusion centers" collecting information and working in conjunction with NORTHCOM under the DHS, it is becoming clear that the panopticon program extends its tentacles across agencies and between branches of government.
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