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FBI Wants to Wiretap the Internet (It’s Worse Than You Think)

As you may or may not have heard,
the FBI is now very worried that bad guys are texting and Skype-ing and Facebook-messaging each other (Duh!), and that law enforcement can’t wiretap these forms of communication the way they can cell phones, land lines, email and the like.

Okay, one can understand the concern.

As a consequence the feds want to change a one or two things.

Many critics are flagging this as a privacy issue. But it’s much worse than that.

What the FBI and other law enforcement agencies involved are really looking for is the ability to control the design of the technology itself.

Charlie Savage of the NY Times has a very good grip on the basics of what is being proposed. So begin by reading his story.

Here’s how it opens:

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.


James X. Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an Internet policy group, said the proposal had “huge implications” and challenged “fundamental elements of the Internet revolution” — including its decentralized design.

“They are really asking for the authority to redesign services that take advantage of the unique, and now pervasive, architecture of the Internet,” he said. “They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function.”

Dempsey is not exaggerating.

The Feds are asking to change and approve the next generation architecture of such technologies as Skype, Facebook. and others, in such a way that limits peer-to-peer communication.

Not good.

The discussion Monday on Patt Morrison’s show was particularly good—and alarming— on the topic. So listen.

(Susan Landau, formerly of Sun Microsystems, now at Harvard, and Sascha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Initiative, are both especially good on the show.)

This is only the beginning of the conversation. It is an issue that is very much worth your attention.


  • It’s the Patriot Act on steroids. Another one of GWB’s policies that BHO is carrying on and expanding.
    Funny. I don’t hear people screaming bloody murder over it.
    Where’s the ACLU on this?
    BTW, where have all the war protests gone? lol.

  • I’m glad Obama is taking national security seriously. As a Republican, he just might get my vote in 2012. I’m ashamed of fellow Republicans criticizing him for this. It’s odd. They supported Bush when he went to extreme measures to defend this country. Now suddenly they’re acting like Obama is some kind of tyrant for doing the same. Just more embarrassing, shameful behavior by my fellow Republicans. Thank you President Obama, for defending this great nation!

  • Wave that flag Script. Why not just get a bullhorn and stand on the corner and shout USA, USA.
    How jingoistic can you get. BLIND PATRIOTISM!!!!!

  • BHO wants to monitor our e-mails and texting. Can’t get much more intusive than that. All in the name of the war on terror. They’re attempting to play off the fear of the American people and take more of our civil liberties away.
    General BetrayUs is in charge of the war. 30,0000 occupying troops sent to Aghanistan. There are no WMD’s in Afghanistan. They are NO threat to this country.
    As Yogi Berra said, it’s deja vu all over again.
    The guy won’t get my vote again.
    And to boot, he’s a born again Christian trying to wrap himself in a Liberal veil.
    He’s a half black George Bush!!!!!!!!

  • “Thank you President Obama, for defending this great nation!”

    Well said Rob. Only Sarah Palin could have put it better.

  • I like Sarah Palin’s passion for defending this country, it’s just that she’s so stupid it’s embarrassing for my party. Never mind her utter hypocrisy in being some kind of family values mom while having an unmarried teenage daughter getting pregnant while living under her roof, when Kate Couric asked her what experience she has in national security when she was bashing Obama’s lack of experience, she said, “I can see Russia from my house”. Hello?!? Dumbest answer in the history of politics. Let’s face it, all of the smarter women in politics seem to be on the Democratic side. And that kills us Republicans, ATQ.

  • And, btw, Sarah Palin could not have said what I said better. She’s bashing the president, instead of supporting him. Interesting that someone who claims to be as patriotic as she does wouldn’t get behind the commander in chief and support him at all costs in this time of war. I’m ashamed of Sarah Palin, frankly. We are at war, and President Obama is the commander in chief! It’s easy for me to get. Then again, I’m a patriot.

  • lol. Rob just can’t stomach it.
    On the war and the Patriot Act the new guy is basically GWB without the cowboy hat. How funny is that? About as funny as Rob’s refusal to admit the obvious. I guess high school sarcasm is the only thing left for him, he definitely can’t argue the points. That’s definitely a losing proposition.

  • It’s cool, ATQ. I’ve never won a debate in my life. Not smart enough. I’m not educated. I’m just a red blooded American who loves God and my country. I know right when I see it and I know wrong when I see it. And I know Obama is RIGHT. I’d like to see my Republican party get behind him more.

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