Mass Government Surveillance Dragnet Goes Into Overdrive
FBI unit to spy on all communications, including skype conversations
May 24, 2012
As if the government were not engaging in enough surveillance of law abiding Americans already, two major developments just ensured that the snooping will increase exponentially.
Firstly, the FBI is about to launch a huge new surveillance unit that will have the ability to monitor all internet and wireless communications, including internet Skype conversations.
The incredibly Orwellian titled Domestic Communications Assistance Center, will “assist” local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies in spying on the American people.
After reviewing a multitude of government documents and interviewing sources involved with the FBI unit, Declan McCullagh of CNet reports:
“DCAC’s mandate is broad, covering everything from trying to intercept and decode Skype conversations to building custom wiretap hardware or analyzing the gigabytes of data that a wireless provider or social network might turn over in response to a court order. It’s also designed to serve as a kind of surveillance help desk for state, local, and other federal police.”
McCullagh notes that the unit has been in the pipeline for years and that spearheading it will be the FBI’s massive wiretapping project, which was allocated $54 million by a Senate committee last month.
McCullagh has also extensively reported on the FBI’s push to make it law to require social-networks and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail to build in backdoors for government surveillance.
The Bureau is reportedly urging Internet and communications companies not to oppose the move.
We want to “be able to obtain those communications,” FBI Director Robert Mueller said last Wednesday. “What we’re looking at is some form of legislation that will assure that when we get the appropriate court order that those individuals — individual companies are served with that order do have the capability and the capacity to respond to that order.”
The second major development on the government surveillance front is that a Senate Panel has voted this week to extend the government’s authority to engage in warrantless wiretapping.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted to extend through to June 2017 the 2008 provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
The provision would allow the government to continue monitoring e-mails and phone calls of those it considers to be “terrorism suspects.”
The Washington Post reports:
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit challenging the 2008 law, arguing that it allows dragnet surveillance that could pick up Americans’ communications. But many current and former administration officials disagree, saying any collection of communications by Americans would be incidental and subject to procedures to shield their identities.
In a joint statement, committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and ranking Republican Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) said the law’s provisions have provided necessary intelligence to fight terrorism and understand adversaries’ intentions around the world. “These authorities cannot be allowed to expire, and we urge quick action by the Senate and the House,” they said.
The FISA provision introduced in 2008 was merely a confirmation of activity that government spy agencies, such as the NSA, have been engaging in for years.
The ACLU recently released an infographic (below) detailing how the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program has grown in gargantuan proportions and now intercepts 1.7 billion US electronic communications every single day. Those communications will soon all be funneled through the top secret $2 billion spy center in the Utah desert, which the NSA has refused to provide Congress with details of.
The surveillance dragnet just got a hell of a lot bigger, and rest assured that while the government says its official targets are “terrorists”, snoops are using these powers to go after Americans exercising their constitutional rights.