White House Seeks Easier FBI Access To Internet Records, Blocks Oversight Attempt… Just As FBI Caught Cheating On Exam To Stop Abuse

from the feel-safer? dept

We’re still at a loss to explain why there’s been so little outrage over the fact that the FBI got a total free pass for its massive abuse in getting phone records. As you may recall, reports came out about how the FBI regularly abused the official process for obtaining phone records, avoiding any of the required oversight, but right before that info came out the White House issued a ruling saying that it was okay for the FBI to break the law. That’s not how things are supposed to work.

And, it appears that since there was no outrage over all of this, the White House keeps pushing further. Three new articles highlight what a travesty this has become. First, the White House wants to quietly make it easier for the FBI to demand internet log file information without a judge’s approval.” Just as I finished reading that, I saw Julian Sanchez’s new writeup about how the White House blocked and killed a proposal to give the GAO power to review US intelligence agencies. The GAO is the one government operation that seems to actually focus on doing what’s right, rather than what’s politically expedient. Sanchez notes that, beyond the sterling reputation of the GAO, it’s also ready, willing and able to handle this kind of oversight:

The GAO has the capacity Congress lacks: as of last year, the office had 199 staffers cleared at the top-secret level, with 96 holding still more rarefied “sensitive compartmented information” clearances. And those cleared staff have a proven record of working to oversee highly classified Defense Department programs without generating leaks. Gen. Clapper, the prospective DNI, has testified that the GAO “held our feet to the fire” at the Pentagon with thorough analysis and constructive criticism.

Unlike the inspectors general at the various agencies–which also do vital oversight work–the GAO is directly answerable to Congress, not to the executive branch. And while it’s in a position to take a broad, pangovernmental view, the GAO also hosts analysts with highly specialized economic and management expertise the IG offices lack. Unleashing GAO would be the first step in discovering what the Post couldn’t: whether the billions we’re pouring into building a surveillance and national security state are really making us safer.

Oh, and just to make this all more comically depressing, just as I finished reading both of these stories, I saw a story about a new investigation into reports that FBI agents were caught cheating on an exam, which was designed to get them to stop abusing surveillance tools. Yes, you read that right. After all the reports of abuse of surveillance tools, the FBI set up a series of tests to train FBI agents how to properly go about surveillance without breaking the law… and a bunch of FBI agents allegedly cheated on the test that’s supposed to stop them from “cheating” on the law. And, not just a few. From the quotes, it sounds like this cheating was “widespread.” But, of course, it might not matter, since the requirements for surveillance are being lowered, oversight is being blocked, and apparently the White House is willing to retroactively “legalize” any illegal surveillance anyway.

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Comments on “White House Seeks Easier FBI Access To Internet Records, Blocks Oversight Attempt… Just As FBI Caught Cheating On Exam To Stop Abuse”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Get used to it...

“We’re still at a loss to explain why there’s been so little outrage over the fact that the FBI got a total free pass for its massive abuse in getting phone records.”

Part of it can be explained by the lack of coverage by the government’s partner, mainstream media. The idea that such an obvious crime could go so largely unreported in the most mainstream channels isn’t just appalling, it’s probably the best evidence for government/media collusion that’s plainly available. And since most people, particularly Americans, don’t consider information outside what is spoonfed them by Bill O’Reilly, Glen Beck, Chris Mathews, or any of the other mouthpieces that pretend they aren’t acting on a stage, the alternative information either doesn’t reach anyone’s ears or is dismissed as either alarmist in nature or mindless conspiracy theory.

I’m reminded of when I had some friends and family read my book Echelon to give me notes. One response I got was absolutely uniform:

“How did you come up with this stuff? I mean, a global communication sniffing system named Echelon? You’re so creative!”

After I was done peeling my palm from my face and explaining to them that I didn’t make that up, it’s 100% real, and even partially declassified, they would say they like the story but I should stop being so paranoid.

Have you ever facepalmed your recently facepalmed face? It really, REALLY hurts….

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t think this is really a real problem, technology advances and those old tricks are made obsolete.

How good is trying to track someone on an anonymous network?

The good thing about this is that it may flash some light onto the subject and make people realize that if they want privacy they will have to fight for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

i think it would be in every Americans best interest to sporadically use the FBI’s search terms in every communication we make. Use Whitehouse, bomb, plane, fire, ammonium nitrate, plastic, c4, jet fuel, jihad, kill…you get the idea to purposefully skew their snooping attempts. For all those that think this country is still in imminent danger. Grow the fuck up. Suicide killers with nothing to fear and a purpose will NEVER be stopped in any country. One will always get through. At best you can minimize collateral damage.

Anonymous Coward says:

To say that this so-called surveillance is just the tip of the iceberg, is an understatement beyond the extreme.

I am a target/victim of biological,chemical and electronic assaults, carried out through the coordination supplied by 24/7 advanced surveillance of what a trusted official said was a “government program,” an obviously unjust and illegal by any reasonable account, “government program.”

*They* have the audacity to call these attacks “less lethal” and “harassment.” Nothing could be further from the truth. These attacks are assaults, torture and obvious violations of civil rights

I was turned in by an *insider*, because I became a potential witness against this person, *if* a felony trial were to be launched. I see this as an absurd assumption on their part, but they attacked just the same with the full force of the “anti-terrorism” machine that was formed after the 911 incident.

You could be next.

Ross Wolf says:

One cannot consider separately the FBI’s request to obtain without warrants, Citizens’ “electronic communication transactional records” including addresses persons sent email, without also considering the affect of pending federal legislation that may pass.

For example, Sen. McCain on March 4, 2010 introduced The “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.” McCain’s bill would eliminate several Constitutional protections allowing Government to arbitrarily pick up Americans on mere suspicion—with no probable cause. Your political opinions and statements made against U.S. Government could be used by Authorities to deem you a “hostile” “Enemy Belligerent” to cause your arrest and indefinite detention. Under S.3081 government may use an individual’s phone call and email information to allege without probable cause “suspicious or hostile activity against the United States or civilians to detain Americans.” U.S. activists and individuals under S.3081 would be extremely vulnerable to detention and or prosecution, if (charged with suspicion) of “intentionally providing support to an Act of Terrorism”, for example American activists can’t control what other activists might do illegally—they network with by email domestically and overseas. Government under S.3081 would need only allege an individual kept in detention, is an Unprivileged Enemy Belligerent suspected of; having engaged in hostilities against the United States; its coalition partners; or Civilians or (has) purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States; its coalition partners or U.S. civilians.

More recently Obama gave a speech in May 2010 that asked Congress to pass legislation to give the President, power to detain any person in the U.S. that government deems a “combatant” or likely to engage in a violent act in the future. President Obama wants the power to incarcerate U.S. Citizens not on evidence, but for what they might do. Obama wants the power to override the U.S. Constitution. If Obama’s proposed legislation is passed, the President will have the power to detain indefinitely any American without probable cause or evidence, based on conjecture someone might do something violent in the future.

It is problematic, if the FBI is allowed warrant-less access to Citizens’ “electronic communication transactional records” including persons’ addresses that Citizens sent email and McCain or Obama’s legislation, or similar legislation is passed, Citizens’ ’”electronic communication transactional records” will be used by the FBI and other government agencies to pick up and indefinitely detain Americans without probable cause.
See: Obama Sound-Video as for the power to detain people without probable cause at: http://www.brasschecktv.com/page/630.html
See McCain’s 12-page Senate bill S.3081 The “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010 at:

Liquid (profile) says:

The Cold War Revisited

This all reminds me of stories heard from the peak of the cold ware era. Me being a child of the 80’s only remembers the last years of the cold war. The use of wire tapping phone, and listening to millions of peoples conversations all over the US to weed out potential criminals that may side with the enemy is nothing new to hear.

It’s just now the government can have a data centers listening to millions of phone calls all day, and night then wait for an alert to pop up in their email with the information of the caller who said something that might go against the government. The reason you don’t see any news reports on this is that no one wants to stir up a wasps nest of trouble, and get the general populace scared that their neighbors could potentially be terrorists. Even through in past history this was covered on a large scale, and every one was told to watch each other through government propaganda. Or the media just frankly doesn’t care since the government has been doing this for years.

One thing that no one has mentioned out of all of this is that this might potentially be the first major steps of the government regulating the US’s portion of the world wide network just like china. Soon we will only be able to consume information that the government wants us to consume. Mull that over while eating your bowl of lucky charms with marshmallows.

Rwolf says:

FBI Wants To Real Your Email

The FBI recently asked for the power to obtain without warrants, Citizens’ “electronic communication transactional records” including email addresses Americans used to send communications. While there is much press and debate concerning the FBI’s request for warrant-less Internet surveillance of Citizens’ Internet Activity, one obvious point has been overlooked: If the FBI gets this warrant-less power: every time someone receives an email from some idiot that mentioned anything that might allude to anything illegal, the receiver of the email will have to notify police to avoid the potential of federal conspiracy charges.

The FBI’s request for warrant-less Internet surveillance can’t be viewed separately: if pending bills in Congress pass, the FBI could use warrant-less Internet surveillance of Internet Activity, including sent or received emails to arrest and indefinitely detain Americans on (mere suspicion) not evidence. Information the FBI gleans from warrant-less searches of email headers—could be used by U.S. Government to target anyone for arrest without evidence. The FBI would need only subpoena the contents of someone’s email having circumvented the Fourth Amendment against warrant-less searches.

See McCain’s 12-page Senate bill S.3081 The “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010 that would allow arrest and indefinite detention of Americans in Military Custody on mere suspicion; without evidence, probable cause or the right to an attorney. See:

The recent Washington Post Report (Secret America) did not mention in the U.S., government-private contractors and their operatives work so close with U.S. law enforcement, exchanging information to arrest Americans and or share in the forfeiture of their assets, they appear to have merged with police. Similarly in 1933 Hitler merged his private police the Gestapo with German national security. Before the Gestapo was consolidated with the German Government, the Gestapo arrested Citizens and confiscated private property with no legal authority. However U.S. Government has already granted that power to private U.S. contractors. In 1939 all German Police agencies including the Gestapo were put under the control of the “Reich Main Security Office” the equivalent of U.S. Homeland Security.

Obama gave a speech in May 2010 that asked Congress to pass legislation to give the President power, to detain any person in the U.S. that government deems a “combatant” or likely to engage in a violent act in the future. President Obama wants the power to incarcerate U.S. Citizens not on evidence, but for what they might do. Obama wants the power to override the U.S. Constitution, to detain indefinitely any American based on conjecture her or she might do something violent in the future. If Obama’s proposal to detain Americans without probable cause is approved, and the FBI is granted warrant-less searches of the Internet, it is foreseeable Government could use anyone’s Internet activity including emails to claim an individual or lawful organization might do something violent in the future to order their indefinite detainment. See: Obama Sound-Video asking for power to detain people without probable cause at:

If FBI warrant-less Internet Spying is approved, it is problematic the FBI will share its spying with law enforcement, government contractors and private individuals that have security clearances to facilitate the arrest and forfeiture of Americans’ property—-to keep part of the bounty. Police too easily can take an innocent person’s hastily written email, Internet fax, phone call or web activity out of context to allege a crime or violation was committed to cause an arrest or confiscation of someone’s property. There are over 200 U.S. laws and violations mentioned in the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 and the Patriot Act that can subject property to civil asset forfeiture. Under federal civil asset forfeiture laws, a person or business need not be charged with a crime for government to forfeit their property.

Rep. Henry Hyde’s bill HR 1658 passed, the “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000” and effectively eliminated the “statue of limitations” for Government Civil Asset Forfeiture. The statute now runs five years from when police allege they “learned” that an asset became subject to forfeiture. With such a weak statute of limitations and the low standard of civil proof needed, little more that hearsay for government to forfeit property “A preponderance of Evidence”, it is problematic law enforcement and private government contractors will want access to FBI, and other government Internet surveillance, including wiretaps perhaps illegal to arrest Americans, to seize their homes, assets and businesses under Title 18USC and other laws.

Of obvious concern, what happens to fair justice in America if police and government contractors become dependent on “Asset Forfeiture” to pay their salaries and operating costs?

David Summers says:

American Rights slowly being destroyed

Our own paranoid government has been chipping away at the Declaration of Independence, I am an average “JOE” citizian and one day I googled ammonium nitrate to read about it and see how they could sell this dangerous oxidizer on ebay as exploding targets, I thought I could find a god supplier and sell those same targets that everyone else seemed to be making money on, well this was 7 months ago, I stopped the research when I found out that you had to order HUGE lot’s of 250lbs. of to metric tons of the stuff. well time went by and I get a knock at my door, two FBI agents wanting to talk to me about my inquiry about ammonium nitrate? I was flabergasted to think our government is in such piss poor shape that they have to send agents out to follow up leads for people just inquiring? Give me a fricken break>?, I could see if maybe I had ordered some than that would be justifiable cause to persue it. But it’s getting pretty lame to live in this country when they are so overly paraniod about everything! they better start to hire more man power because I am going to solicite this to all the news forums to get people to inquire with all the major suppliers about large quantities just to keep them busy, because it’s pretty damn obvious that they have way to much time on there hands and are looking for any hard working persons life to screw up permanently.

morris wise says:

Dissidents are drawn toward the Internet like a bee toward honey. They cannot keep their thoughts to themselves and must share their ideas on the Internet. Intelligence agencies are offering millions for a software program that could send juice through the wiring, reaching the enemies computer and electrocuting the infidel or apostate.

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