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    Washington Post: Proposal would give FBI easier access to Internet data

    The Washington Post reports on a new proposal from the Obama administration that would make it easier for the FBI to get access to an individual’s activities on the Internet.

    The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual’s Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.

    The administration wants to add just four words — “electronic communication transactional records” — to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge’s approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user’s browser history. It does not include, as the lawyers hasten to point out, the “content” of e-mail or other Internet communication.

    But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters. These missives, which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret. They are the mechanism the government would use to obtain the electronic records. […]

    The use of the national security letters to obtain personal data on Americans has prompted concern. The Justice Department issued 192,500 national security letters from 2003 to 2006, according to a 2008 inspector general report, which did not indicate how many were demands for Internet records.

    A 2007 IG report found numerous possible violations of FBI regulations, including the issuance of NSLs without having an approved investigation to justify the request. In two cases, the report found, agents used NSLs to request content information “not permitted by the [surveillance] statute.”

    One issue with both the proposal and the current law is that the phrase “electronic communication transactional records” is not defined anywhere in statute. “Our biggest concern is that an expanded NSL power might be used to obtain Internet search queries and Web histories detailing every Web site visited, every file downloaded,” said Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has sued major phone companies for complying with the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program.

    He said he does not object to the government obtaining access to electronic records, provided it has a judge’s approval.

    One Response to “Washington Post: Proposal would give FBI easier access to Internet data”

    1. Ross Wolf Says:

      Last week the FBI asked for the power to obtain without warrants, Citizens’ “electronic communication transactional records” including addresses that persons sent email. The FBI’s request cannot be considered separately; because if anyone of numerous bills pending in Congress pass, the FBI would have even more power, to detain Americans without probable cause, on mere suspicion, based only on electronic communications the FBI obtained without warrants.

      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:
      assets.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/politics/ARM10090.pdf

      Following 9/11 Bush II set into motion counter-surveillance networks, that allowed NSA illegal wiretaps and surveillance of Americans’ private emails—allegedly to prevent terrorists attacking America. Subsequently U.S. Government counter-surveillance networks have become huge, supported by thousands of government employees and private contractors, many duplicating work. There are now tens of thousands of U.S. Government counter-surveillance agents, employees and private contractors monitoring U.S. Citizens’ private records and communications with no Congress or U.S. Citizens’ oversight. It is probable spies have already infiltrated private contractor industries stealing or buying vast amounts of intelligence information.

      What the Post report does not mention, in the U.S., government-private contractors and their operatives work so close with police exchanging information to arrest Americans and or share in the forfeiture of their assets, they appear to have merged with police. Similarly in 1933 after the German Parliament building was set afire, Hitler used the fire as vehicle to use taxpayer money to expand his private police, the Gestapo and increasing merged it with German national security. Even 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 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.

      Can History repeat itself? It is foreseeable that should there be a radical change in U.S. Government, many of the current government private contractors would continue working for e.g. a fascist U.S. Government; communist or other despot government against the interests of Americans. Consider the German police first worked for a democracy; then under Hitler worked for the Nazi Fascists; then worked for the Soviet Union running the East German Police (Stasi) believed to be the world most oppressive police force until the German Wall came down.

      Now consider the power Congress, perhaps negligently has given police and Black Box counter-surveillance entities; including private contractors to spy on U.S. Citizens. Under Bush II, NSA illegally wiretapped your phone, fax and private email communications: Now NSA will monitor your Internet. In 2008 Telecoms were granted government immunity after they helped U.S. Government spy on millions of Americans’ electronic communications. Since, Government has not disclosed what happened to NSA’s millions of collected emails, faxes and phone call information that belong to U.S. Citizens? Could those wiretaps perhaps illegal, become a problem for some Americans? Neither Congress nor the courts—determined what NSA electronic surveillance could be used by police or introduced into court by the government to prosecute Citizens.

      In 2004, former Attorney General John Ashcroft asked government prosecutors to review thousands of old intelligence files including wiretaps to retrieve information prosecutors could use in “ordinary” criminal prosecutions. That was shortly after a court case lowered a barrier that prior, blocked prosecutors using illegal-wire tap evidence in Justice Dept. “Intelligence Files” to prosecute ordinary crimes. It would appear this information, may also be used by government to prosecute civil asset forfeitures.
      See: http://www.securityfocus.com/news/5452

      Considering that court case, it appears NSA can share its electronic-domestic-spying with 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, fax, phone call or web post out of context to allege a crime or violation was committed to cause an arrest or confiscate someone’s assets.

      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 forfeiture laws, a person or business need not be charged with a crime for government to forfeit their property. Again, U.S., private contractors and their operatives work so close with police exchanging information to arrest Americans and or share in the forfeiture of their assets, they appear to merge with police.

      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 for government to forfeit property “A preponderance of Evidence”, it is problematic law enforcement and private government contractors will want access to NSA and other government wiretaps perhaps illegal, and Citizens’ private information U.S. Government agencies glean monitoring the Internet, to arrest Americans and to seize their homes, inheritances 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?

      Under the USA Patriot Act, witnesses including government contractors can be kept hidden while being paid part of the assets they cause to be forfeited. The Patriot Act specifically mentions using Title 18USC asset forfeiture laws: those laws include a provision in Rep. Henry Hyde’s 2000 bill HR 1658—for “retroactive civil asset forfeiture” of “assets already subject to government forfeiture”, meaning “property already tainted by crime” provided “the property” was already part of or “later connected” to a criminal investigation in progress” when HR.1658 passed. That can apply to more than two hundred federal laws and violations Government can forfeit property—requiring only “A Preponderance of Civil Evidence” little more than hearsay.

      Alarmingly the Obama Government recently employed a vendor to search Internet social networking sites to collect information about Americans that could potentially be used by this government to injure Americans, for example, if you apply for a federal job, your name might be crossed referenced by the Obama Government with comments you made at Websites against Obama; or if you make application at a bank for a loan the Government has control since the financial crisis, could your Internet comment(s) prevent you getting that loan? Obama’s monitoring of the Internet sites can too easily be used by Government to intimidate, coerce and extort Corporations and Citizens from speaking out.

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