Nov 152012
 November 15, 2012  Posted by  Business, Laws, Surveillance

Trevor Timm of EFF has a great commentary on the FBI investigation that mushroomed and mushroomed and mushroomed. Here’s a snippet:

Congress is now demanding to know why it wasn’t informed by the Justice Department about the details of the Petraeus affair earlier. Lawmakers should instead be worried about why the public was informed of these details at all, given that no crime was committed. And instead of investigating one man’s personal life, they should investigate how to strengthen our privacy laws so this does not happen to anyone else.

The U.S. government has so far been unable to keep its colossal surveillance state in check. Now that it is so bloated it is eating itself, one hopes more people will finally pay attention.

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Not only does Congress need to investigate what happened, but the DOJ OIG needs to investigate this and issue a report to the public promptly. Did the FBI act lawfully at all times or did they misuse their tools and authority? How does a complaint by someone about a few mean emails – which may be protected speech and not criminal at all – result in an investigation that looks into the communications between a ranking general and others? If it’s not even clear any crime was committed, should our government be able to snoop so extensively without judicial oversight?  If a court granted the FBI a warrant, well, to be blunt, what the hell was the judge thinking or what was the judge told to justify the privacy invasion?

Trevor emphasizes the fact that the public never should have been told about this investigation at all.  It’s a fair point, but would we really rather not know that our government can do these things to us?

Some of us have been saying for years that ECPA needs to be updated and more privacy protections need to be incorporated.  Some of us have also been saying for years that providers need to shorten their data retention periods.  If you don’t retain it, the FBI can’t get it from you. NOW will you listen to us?  How many more lives  or careers will be ruined until Congress and providers take steps to genuinely protect the privacy of our electronic communications?

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