The FBI’s Ever Increasing Role In Domestic Surveillance

Even with recent revelations from the likes of Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, the American public hasn’t quite yet grasped the reality of the grand Stasi surveillance state we find ourselves in.

If you are one such American, please consider the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), passed in 1994 during the Clinton administration.

The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) is a United States wiretapping law mandating telecommunications carriers and manufacturers of telecommunications equipment modify and design their equipment, facilities, and services to ensure that they have built-in surveillance capabilities, allowing federal agencies to monitor all telephone, broadband internet, and VoIP traffic.

Its right there in the act! Every new electronic device you own is bugged and has been for at least 20 years!

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was central to CALEA’s creation. They claimed to be worried that increasing use of digital telephone exchange switches would make tapping phones at the phone company’s central office harder and slower to execute, or in some cases impossible.

Since the original requirement to add CALEA-compliant interfaces forced phone companies to modify or replace hardware and software in their systems, U.S. Congress included funding for a limited time period to cover such network upgrades.

In the years since CALEA was passed it has been greatly expanded to include all VoIP and broadband internet traffic. From 2004 to 2007 there was a 62 percent growth in the number of wiretaps performed under CALEA – and more than 3,000 percent growth in interception of internet data such as email.

By 2007, the FBI had spent $39 million on its DCSNet system, which collects, stores, indexes, and analyzes all telecommunications data.

Now, the FBI, not being one to rest on their laurels, is working to expand CALEA again.

The online industry has been working overtime to secure sites and create end-to-end encryption. Google and Apple announced new encryption mechanisms on their devices while enabling only users to unlock their phones. This safeguard for your devices has the FBI worried they won’t get the access they want.

master keyThe FBI wants Congress to change CALEA and force Google and Apple to give the FBI a ‘master key’ that could in essence, unlock and access every telecommunications device in the United States.

Last fall, officials with the FBI and the Obama Justice Department met with House staffers for a classified briefing to discuss the ‘dangers of encryption.’

FBI Director James Comey has openly called for having a such a ‘master key’ in a scathing plea to the American people to give up their privacy because the FBI “has real threats to fight.”

At an October 16 speech at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., Comey said “encryption threatens to lead all of us to a very dark place.”

“Encryption is nothing new. But the challenge to law enforcement and national security officials is markedly worse, with recent default encryption settings and encrypted devices and networks—all designed to increase security and privacy,” Comey said.

“With Apple’s new operating system, the information stored on many iPhones and other Apple devices will be encrypted by default. Shortly after Apple’s announcement, Google announced plans to follow suit with its Android operating system,”Comey added. “This means the companies themselves won’t be able to unlock phones, laptops, and tablets to reveal photos, documents, e-mail, and recordings stored within… The pendulum on privacy issues has swung too far against the government.”

But why stop at smartphones? The FBI could just as well demand that every device manufacturer build in backdoor access for the government. Imagine GM being forced to give backdoor access to vehicle On-Star so the FBI can follow your movements.

And the FBI doesn’t exactly have the best surveillance record to begin with. In a post-Snowden world, its the NSA that draws most of the ire of privacy advocates but the FBI has a history rich with abuses.

cointelproCointelpro was a series of covert, and at times illegal, projects conducted by the FBI aimed at surveying, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations between 1956 and 1971.

The counter intelligence measures targeted the personal communications of leading Americans who criticized the Vietnam War, including Senators, civil rights leaders, journalists, and athletes.

The FBI’s stated motivation was “protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order.”

Its hard to imagine these operations ever stopped or didn’t continue under a different name, but since 9/11, the FBI has been granted by Congress and assumed for itself the power to investigate and collect data about millions of people.

A report released in 2013 by the American Civil Liberties Union provides a comprehensive accounting of the bureau’s expanded post-9/11 investigative and intelligence collection authorities, their impact on civil liberties in the United States, and the FBI’s evasion of oversight that enables abuses to continue.

“Rather than aiding its terrorism prevention efforts, the FBI’s expanded investigative and intelligence powers have overwhelmed agents with a flood of irrelevant information and false alarms,” said Michael German, senior policy counsel at the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. “Instead of funding these ineffective and suspicionless intelligence collection programs, Congress should examine whether American communities could be made safer overall by spending that money to help state and local police solve violent crime.”

Entitled, “Unleashed and Unaccountable: The FBI’s Unchecked Abuse of Authority,” the first half of the report documents how Congress, the attorney general, and the White House provided the FBI with new authorities in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 in an effort to prevent another terrorist attack inside the United States.

patriotactWith the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001 and the FISA Amendments Act in 2008, Congress provided the FBI with increasingly powerful tools that the bureau has used in violation of the First and Fourth Amendments, according to the ACLU report.

Other powers the FBI simply assumed for itself by revising internal guidelines that govern the FBI’s investigative and data collection authorities. These revisions have provided the FBI with increasingly broad powers, allowing its agents to investigate and collect information on Americans with no factual basis to suggest wrongdoing.

The second half of the report reveals how these powers have led to widespread abuse, both domestically and internationally, without public accountability.

Since 9/11, the ACLU has uncovered and documented persistent evidence of FBI abuse, including warrantless wiretapping, racial and religious profiling, biased counterterrorism training materials, politically motivated investigations, abusive detention and interrogation practices, and misuse of the No-Fly List to recruit informants.

“The list of abuses is long and demonstrates that Congress must do a top-to-bottom review of FBI policies and practices to identify and curtail any activities that are unconstitutional or easily misused,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “The time for wholesale reform has come.”


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Asa J

works primarily as an independent advertising consultant employing grass roots strategies to raise awareness about businesses in their local communities. He has an Associates of Arts Degree and is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Communications/Advertising Degree at Appalachian State University. He is Founder of Police State Daily. His work has been referenced in places like The Washington Post and Esquire Magazine.
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  • JC

    If you don’t like it, lobby to get it changed. This is the world we live in. Terrorists, unstable foreign governments, and the list goes on.

  • RAD

    Lobby to get it changed? Are you serious? The constitution says you shall be secure in your effects; what is lobbying going to do when they openly disregard the legal scriptures as they are written?

  • RAD

    The rule of law is a myth. What it really means is for you to obey the government while they blatantly flout their own laws.

  • JC

    If you don’t like it, lobby to get it changed

  • Yankeefan

    which has what to with the cops following the constitution/law?

  • keepitreal

    You forgot serial farm animal abusers.

  • ymygody

    why haven’t you stopped breathing yet. soon.

  • ymygody

    no law enforcement agency cares about protecting people. the only purpose of the FBI, CIA, general Police Department is to gather revenue.

  • ymygody

    there is no such thing as terrorists, and governments are perfectly stable. there you go opening your mouth again and stupid just falls out. it’s like you can’t keep the idiot inside you from spouting off. that’s probably because there’s only the idiot and nothing else.

  • Robert Burnett

    WE changed it in 1776, JC. the Constitution is still in effect, ANY officer or agent that participates is nothing more than a traitor to our nation. They are the criminals to be locked up.

  • steve

    You are nothing but a minion a fool that ran foul and never made it home.

  • t

    Not to defend JC…..
    but it has EVERYTHING to do with Constitutional law.
    It’s kinda the point of a representative democracy. Look at the “free state project” in New Hampshire. Bunches if those idiots moved there…..and it has gone for not. They can unite and run candidates for office and make a difference. Except there aren’t enough of them as everyone else hates them.

    The Constitution lays out the authority to the various branches of the Federal Governmnet and reserves authority to the states as well.
    It works.
    But that doesn’t mean that you are gonna get what YOU want. It means that if you can inform and get enough backing…you can change things.

  • Yankeefan

    I think what you said is a good piece of work but this is not about community/state activism. This about the federal government, under the guise of terrorism, increasing their watching of the American people. The F.B.I. is using this technology called stingray for example. Local Law enforcement is signing non disclosure agreements and in 1 example listed, a Baltimore Detective refused to answer judges questions in court. There have been op eds written by judges talking about this. The NSA domestic spying programs that are very real. NONE of this will change un less the law enforcement culture changes

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  • Chris Rickard

    Okay, excuse me while I dip into the hundreds of millions of dollars I have to lobby for political decisions. Are you daft?

  • JC

    Then stop bitching about it. If you are going to take the initiative to change a law etc…. then stop bitching about it because there is nothing you can do about it.

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