Good day all, I’m a bit late to this, but better late than never. Last week CNET.com came out with a story about the Federal Bureau of Investigation asking major software companies not to oppose their plan to force back doors into assorted web sites.
The FBI has a long and sordid history of spying on the American People. It was at its worst under J. Edgar Hoover1, the first director of the FBI. Because of his files on political leaders and their shenanigans, Hoover was able to get away with serious abuses of office. It wasn’t just extortion of presidents, it was his ability to provide information on a sitting president’s political enemies. When Hoover died, Congress finally had the opportunity to rake the FBI over the coals and put in place some much needed reforms. However, the secret police mindset still exists in the agency.
The article on CNET goes into great detail on what the FBI wants:
FBI: We need wiretap-ready Web sites – now
CNET learns the FBI is quietly pushing its plan to force surveillance backdoors on social networks, VoIP, and Web e-mail providers, and that the bureau is asking Internet companies not to oppose a law making those backdoors mandatory.
The FBI is asking Internet companies not to oppose a controversial proposal that would require firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google, to build in backdoors for government surveillance.
The reason the FBI wants this ability to hook into web sites is simple. They can’t easily monitor the encrypted traffic on these sites. (Which is the point you idiots) Here’s more from CNET:
FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni will outline what the bureau is calling the “Going Dark” problem, meaning that police can be thwarted when conducting court-authorized eavesdropping because Internet companies aren’t required to build in back doors in advance, or because technology doesn’t permit it.
Gee, life’s tough isn’t it? One of the reasons web sites and internet services have been adding encryption protocols is to avoid having people snoop on their users traffic.
The FBI general counsel’s office has drafted a proposed law that the bureau claims is the best solution: requiring that social-networking Web sites and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly.
“If you create a service, product, or app that allows a user to communicate, you get the privilege of adding that extra coding,” an industry representative who has reviewed the FBI’s draft legislation told CNET. The requirements apply only if a threshold of a certain number of users is exceeded, according to a second industry representative briefed on it.
One of the problems with the FBI’s desire to spy on people and force companies to aid them is that the user base of these companies and services will simply stop using them. They may move to other applications where the source code is available for examination and compiling, (Such as Sourceforge.net) or to services based in countries that won’t help the FBI or demand similar backdoors.
The FBI’s proposal would amend a 1994 law, called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, that currently applies only to telecommunications providers, not Web companies. The Federal Communications Commission extended CALEA in 2004 to apply to broadband networks.
FBI Director Robert Mueller is not asking companies to support the bureau’s CALEA expansion, but instead is “asking what can go in it to minimize impacts,” one participant in the discussions says. That included a scheduled trip this month to the West Coast — which was subsequently postponed — to meet with Internet companies’ CEOs and top lawyers.
In other words, Mueller is telling these companies to stay out of the way while the FBI grabs more power. Unfortunately for Mueller, it appears that Silicon Valley isn’t cooperating.
A further expansion of CALEA is unlikely to be applauded by tech companies, their customers, or privacy groups. Apple (which distributes iChat and FaceTime) is currently lobbying on the topic, according to disclosure documents filed with Congress two weeks ago. Microsoft (which owns Skype and Hotmail) says its lobbyists are following the topic because it’s “an area of ongoing interest to us.” Google, Yahoo, and Facebook declined to comment.
Google has a history of caving in to authoritarian regimes, not to mention certain anti-trust issues, Yahoo is in the process of collapsing and Facebook is in the middle of an IPO. You better believe that the FBI will “put a bug in the ear” of various agencies that can make life very difficult for them. Microsoft has gone through this ringer several times and may have just about had enough.
In addition to the FBI’s legislative proposal, there are indications that the Federal Communications Commission is considering reinterpreting CALEA to demand that products that allow video or voice chat over the Internet — from Skype to Google Hangouts to Xbox Live — include surveillance backdoors to help the FBI with its “Going Dark” program. CALEA applies to technologies that are a “substantial replacement” for the telephone system.
The FCC may want to think twice about that. The FCC is still in hot water over the Lightsquared fiasco. There is also some question about the FCC’s authority to regulate the internet in any case. (They have none as they have been told time and time again) I firmly believe we have reached the point in this nation where we have to start cutting back on these law enforcement agencies. In my opinion, we have way to many federal law enforcement agencies and they are now a proven threat to the Constitution and our freedoms. This wiretapping business is just more proof that they can NOT be trusted.
If this makes it to capital hill, you need to call your representatives and tell them, in no uncertain terms, NO! In fact, I think we should start pushing to have most of these agencies disbanded. Why do we need them? Several, (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Agency, Travel Security Administration) are well known for abusing citizens rights2. All these agencies should be disbanded with the exception of the US Marshals3. They should be completely reorganized and retrained to be the sole agency for Federal law enforcement. The FBI should be stripped of their privilege of arrest and become a true investigative service. They would investigate crimes and could be called in by the States to handle forensic and laboratory work. If a federal crime is discovered, they could investigate that and then hand it off to the Marshals for enforcement and arrest.
As for all the other federal agents, retire them if they are close to that point, lay off the rest. For the very best agents, (There are some), they can apply to the Marshal service. I would even strip the treasury agents in the Secret Service of any authority to arrest people. Yes, as part of their duties, they would be armed and yes they would have several deputy marshals with them, but lets be honest. The Secret Service is really there to stop bullets, nothing more. They don’t need to be able to arrest people in order to do that.
At this point I would sign off with “Thatisall” but this is not the end. I have little doubt I will be revisiting this down the road. I’ve also been considering adding an SSL certificate to the Angry.net domain. I haven’t done so due to the costs and annoyance of setting it up. Yes, this is a very low trafficked site and wouldn’t be covered under the new laws, but why take chances? I’m going to look into this again.
~The Angry Webmaster~
Report: FBI Wants to Wiretap Facebook, Twitter, Google – NewsPlurk
FBI reportedly pressing for backdoor access to Facebook, Google | e …
Related External Links
- John Edgar Hoover [↩]
- DEA forgot UCSD student in holding cell for 4 days [↩]
- United States Marshals Service [↩]