While carriers already now give real-time access to all network data
, the FBI says that real-time wiretapping of Gmail is their top priority in 2013. Speaking last week at the American Bar Association, FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann argued once again
that the agency wants to revamp the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act to allow for real-time surveillance of e-mail, cloud storage services, and social networking websites. This is a drum the FBI has been beating for years, as they want easier access to services that use SSL encryption:
While it is true that CALEA can only be used to compel Internet and phone providers to build in surveillance capabilities into their networks, the feds do have some existing powers to request surveillance of other services. Authorities can use a “Title III” order under the “Wiretap Act” to ask email and online chat providers furnish the government with “technical assistance necessary to accomplish the interception.” However, the FBI claims this is not sufficient because mandating that providers help with “technical assistance” is not the same thing as forcing them to “effectuate” a wiretap.
When asked to prove exact scenarios where existing surveillance capabilities and laws have actually prohibited them from doing their jobs, law enforcement and intelligence agencies often fall short. There have also been repeated examples where the FBI doesn't have much respect for the laws they're supposedly hamstrung by, anyway. Earlier this month Subsentio, a firm that helps with communications monitoring for the FBI, DEA and DHS, stated that carriers are already handing over way more data than authorized
. Records have also shown how companies like AT&T have repeatedly and almost glibly helped the FBI break surveillance law
Usually in intelligence, by the time you're reading about it in the press, public privacy hysteria is a decade late and a dollar short, and what we wind up witnessing are efforts to change laws organizations have already been breaking for some time.