"The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post."

That's how the article in the Washington Post begins. The companies allowing direct government access to their servers for warrantless surveillance of their customers and users are Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. Dropbox is mentioned as a forthcoming addition.

Those were just the companies listed in the top secret document obtained by the Washington Post. There is no reason to think the NSA and FBI activities are limited to the one program mentioned in the one document, or that the participating companies are necessarily limited to the ones on this list. 

Case in point: all voice and data telecommunications carriers have been required by law to build government-enabled surveillance capabilities into their equipment since 1996.

Until now we only knew for sure the NSA was into the wires: all of them. Now we know they're into damn near everything else too. After reading this report from the post, would you be surprised to find out that Microsoft, Apple, and Google have built back-doors into Windows, Mac OSX, and Droid? If they denied it would you still believe them? Indeed, several companies on the list denied participation in warrantless surveillance even after the Post confronted them.

The article refers to the tracking of foreign targets but don't let that ease your mind one little bit. The Internet is not a circuit-switched network like the old phone networks where you could trace just one call. To monitor a packet-switched network like the Internet, you have to do deep inspection of every packet: all of the traffic, all of the time. 

It's tantamount to FedEx, UPS, DHL, and the USPS opening every letter and package, denying it all the while, and then saying sure we opened everything, but we only actually LOOKED when we found letters and materials of interest to foreigners. 

I was waiting for a story like this to break. There hasn't been enough information available to prove what Uncle Sam was up to until now. Now we'll see what kind of big ACLU lawsuit will come out of it. There is absolutely no way a warrantless, planet-sized dragnet that sweeps everything into it is legal.

Tags: Civil, Domestic, FISA, NSA, Rights, Spying

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From the facts I have so far read, not the hysterical and political simplifications and omissions. were there a successful terror attack and these things were not done there would be justifiable outrage.

OTOH Congress has not criminalized these things for a reason.

From the facts I have so far read, not the hysterical and political simplifications and omissions. were there a successful terror attack and these things were not done there would be justifiable outrage.

OTOH Congress has not criminalized these things for a reason.

Imagine the Washington Post had just announced that all the big US auto makers had every car since 1996 made with microphones, cameras, and GPS tracking devices secretly installed. The FBI has monitored every person, object, conversation, and mile ever driven in every car, in total secret, without warrants, ever since.

Then they get caught and the explanation of our democratically-elected Constitutionally-obligated government officials is: sure it's illegal, but if we didn't do it, and there was a terrorist attack, just imagine all that justifiable outrage!

I'd say the justifiable outrage is just beginning.

Why the runaround of the Constitution? They can't run the program with judicial oversight?

The government is running this program with judicial oversight, where such oversight amounts to millions of secret and top secret warrants that most Americans will never see. Those secret warrants won't be made public for decades.

Here are the requirements for getting a warrant for a wiretap under the Wiretap Act. Note this process is required for every single wiretap.

Law enforcement submits an application to the Court that specifies a complete statement of facts about:

(1) The crime that has been, is being, or is about to be committed.

(2) The place (house, office, phone company, ISP, etc.) from which the communications are to be intercepted.

(3) A specific description of (a) the communications to be intercepted, (b) the identity of the persons committing the crime (if known)

(4) The identity of the person whose communications are to be intercepted.

(5) A full and complete statement of whether other investigative procedures have been tried and have failed or why they appear unlikely to succeed or are too dangerous.

(6) A full and complete statement of the period of time for which the interception is to be maintained.

(7) A full and complete statement about all previous wiretap applications concerning any of the same persons, facilities, or places.

The Court is permitted to issue the wiretap order if and only if it finds probable cause to believe that:

(1) A person is committing one of the crimes listed in the Wiretap Act.

(2) Communications concerning that crime will be obtained through the interception.

(3) The facilities from which the communications are to be intercepted are being used in connection with the commission of the offense.

(4) Normal investigative techniques have failed, appear unlikely to succeed, or would be too dangerous.

Is it humanly possible for law enforcement to apply for (and for the courts to approve) warrants for wiretaps of specific Americans by the million? Are we supposed to believe there is probable cause that so many Americans are involved in criminal activities?  I'm not buying that one.

Also Holo, the article at the link you posted includes this statement:

"People have sued. But challenging the legality of secret wiretaps is difficult because, in order to sue, you have to know you've been wiretapped. In 2006, for instance, a federal judge in Detroit declared the NSA warrantless wiretapping program unconstitutional. But the ruling was overturned when an appeals court that said the plaintiffs — civil rights groups, lawyers and scholars — didn't have the authority to sue because they couldn't prove they were wiretapped."

This has been the Achilles heel of legal challenges to the wiretapping: not any doubt that warrantless wiretapping is illegal, but rather the secrecy surrounding the wiretapping. It makes it difficult to prove the surveillance is occurring at all, or the government asserts 'state secrets' and the courts dismiss the case.

This is one reason why the top secret documents obtained by the Washington Post may be a game-changer. Presumably the Post has proof that they are authentic or they would never have gone public with the story. And now that it's public, it's no longer secret.

Get ready for a fresh round of lawsuits in addition to Center for Constitutional Rights v. Bush and Shubert v. Obama.

Funny enough matt but i have heard the chinese government making similiar claims of its spying on their population.

Here is a link from an old "Sunday School" post. (It is also posted on Unseen's blog). It is worth a read.

Around the early 80's there was a book that circulated around my high school called "The Anrchists Cookbook" (misspelling intentional) which outlined ways to kill and blow up buildings and such. It included diagrams and suggestions on how to support such activities with drug sales, etc. 

I heard later that by ordering that book, you apparently ended up on a list somewhere with Uncle Sam. Whether it is true or not, my eyes were opened and I kept at the back of my mind for any transaction ever. I do, though, think that web spiders have been scouring the net ever since ARPNET (the reason for my earlier misspelling). These days I don't fuss about it, if they want me, they can come and get me.

I think the future is worse (or better) than you think. With nanotechnology, listening devices, motion sensors, and cameras will be everywhere and mostly undetectable. The gov't will be able to find the droids it's looking for. 

In case the feds are on to my little ruse, Hi guys! Whistle, whistle, eyes up in the air, sheepish look of innocence on my face.

 

The web's a public place.  It's only sensible to be discreet. 

True. It's when this place begins to see censorship is when I start getting pissed. However, Private email is not considered part of the internet. You, with your web browser, cannot see my email without my permission, or illegally obtaining my password. The government doing so is what people are getting pissed off about. I'm just wondering what the hell took them so long to get riled up? This all came to light during the Bush administration and never stopped for an instant.

True. It's when this place begins to see censorship is when I start getting pissed. However, Private email is not considered part of the internet.

It is, H3xx. From a legal standpoint email is considered to be an electronic communication which has wiretapping protections. All of your non-voice Internet and phone usage-- including web, email, instant messaging, and texts-- are considered to be protected by federal wiretapping laws. No warrant, no surveillance.

More on this here.

"... ways to kill and blow up buildings and such."  But that's disgraceful, isn't it?  Was it American?  You didn't have to live with the IRA.  It also gives anarchists a terrible name.  Sounds like it was written by a bunch of silly pricks.  If you're going to do something like that, you don't need a silly book to tell you what to do.  

Absolutely, and caused all manner of mischief when the teenage readers of it used knowledge from that book for retribution of someone they felt had wronged them.

Yes it is American. Google it if you want some attention. From a library or other public internet if you want to lay low. Its still out there and available as far as I know.

If what you claim is true, I would wonder if the intent behind the book was as bait for fishing out extremists and criminals...? Much like potential terrorists are identified and given the opportunity to act out by government agents posing as other terrorists. 

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