How The FBI Actually Does Much Of The NSA's Spying, But Is Keeping That Quiet

from the like-they-don't-have-a-history-of-abuses? dept

For all the focus on the NSA of late, a few folks have been trying to remind everyone that the FBI is heavily involved in all of this and, in many ways, has an equally bad if not worse record in abusing the rights of Americans. Many of the programs discussed were to retrieve information by the FBI or the NSA, and it turns out that the FBI often does much of the dirty work for the NSA, including interfacing with various companies to get access to data. We’d mentioned recently how the FBI was pushing tech companies to install “port readers” at both telco and tech companies (though, many tech firms were resisting), and also that the FBI had been ramping up their use of malware.

Shane Harris, over at Foreign Policy has a nice profile on the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit, or DITU, who handles most of this work. It repeats the story of the port readers, but adds how the DITU is often the unit that works with tech companies and then passes info along to the NSA — so some companies don’t even realize they’re dealing with the NSA, believing it’s just via the FBI (not that this would make things any better). It also notes that the DITU tends to be made up of a lot of ex-telco guys who know very specifically how the telco networks work, something that at least some people at the telcos may be uncomfortable with the government knowing (though, again, the telcos seem much more willing to open up to the government than the tech companies).

It’s an interesting profile all around, but at the end it gets even more interesting, as an ex-law enforcement source that Harris talks to highlights that without investigating what the DITU is up to, Congress’ exploration of what’s going on will be very incomplete.

The former law enforcement official said Holder and Mueller should have offered testimony and explained how the FBI works with the NSA. He was concerned by reports that the NSA had not been adhering to its own minimization procedures, which the Justice Department and the FBI review and vouch for when submitting requests to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

“Where they hadn’t done what was represented to the court, that’s unforgivable. That’s where I got sick to my stomach,” the former law enforcement official said. “The government’s position is, we go to the court, apply the law — it’s all approved. That makes for a good story until you find out what was approved wasn’t actually what was done.”

That makes it sound like even more bad behavior is going to be revealed eventually…

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “How The FBI Actually Does Much Of The NSA's Spying, But Is Keeping That Quiet”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Jay (profile) says:


I thought people understood that the law enforcement officials have been at this game for centuries…

If the police doing executions and having them sanctioned later, the DoJ willing to hesitate to put Greenwald, a journalist, into jail, the CIA doing corporate espionage on friendly countries, the NSA willing to spy on anyone and everyone, the extrajudicial killings of drone strikes by the president, or the many other myriads of problems weren’t an indicator that things are wrong…

I don’t know how to show you that America has some deep structural problems it can’t quite face.

Anonymous Coward says:

We all know that congress has no interest whatsoever to dig into this issue because it will make them all look bad, this is not BP screwing up this are multiple law enforcement and security agencies fucking it up with he blessing of a blind congress that consider the public as the enemy.

Yes they do, how else you explain the amount of secret deals being done that are mostly just to keep the public out of any discussion that would affect them.

RJ (profile) says:


We shouldn’t be surprised — didn’t Congress pass a law that specifically exempted telcos from any prior illegal cooperation, while at or near the same time the intelligence agencies were given the ability to compel future telco cooperation under seal? If I were the head of a major telco and believed that my job was to maximize return to shareholders, why wouldn’t I cooperate? Where is the downside?

I think it’s a craven and — in the best sense of the word — unpatriotic position, but unfortunately the reality “on the ground” doesn’t surprise me in the least.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Predictable

It has already been determined by the courts that the “ex post facto” technique is an unconstitutional application of law. Congress has no legal authority to pass any such law, but congress has demonstrated a complete and utter disregard for the constitution, in addition to doing everything in it’s power to keep invalid laws of this type from ever reaching the courts – not that it would matter, seeing as they also ensure corruption of judges in any court that’s relevant.

Anon-Y-Mouse says:

Re: eBook is vaporware

With the current design of the internet, and computers, privacy is a lost cause. Computers need to be changed. They need security designed in at the processor level. So does the base networking system on the internet. Even with highly secure computers, there will still be the human factor. The software we create to run on them needs to be fully audited for flaws. It also needs to be designed so that clueless users don’t compromise the system.

Emily Justice says:

Inside The Inner Circle

@Anon-y-mouse: Strikes me that a lot of the basic user security issues were described perfectly in Bill Landreth’s “Inside The Inner Circle”. Simple stuff: proper passwords (which you don’t put on post-its), not giving a PHB superadmin access just because he’s a boss, compartmentalising info properly, that sort of thing. It’s a great security primer?

?which was written in 1985. So while tech has moved on in the last 30 years, user training and admin practices are still stuck in the days of Whitesnake, Quattro and dayglo legwarmers.

Capt Kirk says:

Point of facts

They have no lawful charter to even exist,,as pointed out ny the work of Private AG Paul Mitchell….Look him up!! Also,,,,Rod Class has proven WITH 4 COURT RULINGS! they are all NOT GOVT!! They are independent contractors!! The Daily Paul has on website!!No jurisdiction has EVER BEEN LAWFULLY GRANTED TO THEM OUTSIDE OF THE DISTRICT OF CRIMINALS!!TITLE 26!

Capt Kirk says:

Theres more goodies

The reason why all this anarchy exists is that we have no Dejure legal system….Our Judges are NOT JUDGES!! They are ADMINISTRATORS OF CORP TRIBUNALS,,,as they are running a closed union shop,,a private club so to speak,,as the lawyers have no State issued law licenses,,its the private bar assn located in the State..So they are members of that private club with laws that are copywritten under THE CROWN BY THEM!!We also have no permission to use them in our defense,,,and when we hire an ESQUIRE FOREIGN AGENT,,,,we are deemed wards of the State and incompetent..Now,,,have a Nice Thanksgiving!!See Peoples Rights Group in Del,,,,or THE AMERICAN BULLETIN IN OREGON,,,for clarification

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...