An article by Charles Savage of the New York Times begins:
Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.
Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.
Read more in the New York Times.
Not surprisingly, the article is generating a lot of buzz all over. Glenn Greenwald has already been writing about it, here.
In the article, an FBI spokesperson is quoted as reassuring us that this applies to “lawful wiretap orders.” Only those who have been soundly asleep can have failed to notice that there is already great concern about governmental abuse of power and orders.
If the government is sincere, then it might want to start by taking action against the FBI for recent revelations of abuse reported by the OIG. Civil liberties were violated. Whose head has rolled or will roll because of it?
And the government might want to start by ensuring that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is in place and functioning. President Obama has not filled even ONE seat on that board.
My advice to the government: don’t come asking for more cooperation or support until you play catchup with privacy and civil liberties protections. Not only do foreign governments have reason to be concerned about their citizens’ data getting swooped up in governmental fishing expeditions, but so do our own honest citizens.