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FBI's Unknown Eavesdropping Network 362

An anonymous reader writes "Building off the design mandates of CALEA, the FBI has constructed a 'point-and-click surveillance system' that creates instant wiretaps on almost any communications device. A thousand pages of restricted documents released under the Freedom of Information Act were required to determine the veracity of this clandestine project, Wired News reports. Called the Digital Collection System Network, it connects FBI wiretapping rooms to switches controlled by traditional land-line operators, internet-telephony providers and cellular companies. It is intricately woven into the nation's telecom infrastructure. From the article: 'FBI wiretapping rooms in field offices and undercover locations around the country are connected through a private, encrypted backbone that is separated from the internet. Sprint runs it on the government's behalf. The network allows an FBI agent in New York, for example, to remotely set up a wiretap on a cell phone based in Sacramento, California, and immediately learn the phone's location, then begin receiving conversations, text messages and voicemail pass codes in New York. With a few keystrokes, the agent can route the recordings to language specialists for translation.'"
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FBI's Unknown Eavesdropping Network

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  • Privacy is dead? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:45AM (#20397585) Homepage
    Don't we have encryption...?

    I guess the main problem is getting everybody to use it.

    This being slashdot I guess I should mention a certain monopolist who stands in the way of mass adoption of pretty much anything.
  • by Pentavirate ( 867026 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:52AM (#20397685) Homepage Journal
    Of course everyone realizes that there are legal uses of wiretapping, right? This just makes it quick and convenient when they get the court authorization.

    My livelihood is based off of making it easier for the government (specifically the military) to get information. There should be no doubt that the government could develop such a system because the govenment doesn't really develop it. They contract it out to companies that have the expertise, in this case Sprint.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:55AM (#20397725)
    T"he law that makes the FBI's surveillance network possible had its genesis in the Clinton administration."

    Another reason why a pass on Hillary might be a good idea.
  • Re:hmmm (Score:3, Informative)

    by faloi ( 738831 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:56AM (#20397749)
    Unfortunately for the handgun enthusiasts, when the government answers, they get to use the real [wikipedia.org] weapons. [wikipedia.org]

    Only if they convince the military to go along with it. If the military, or enough of it, says what the government is doing is wrong... But the military has been ordered to do, and done, a lot of things [reason.com] I wouldn't have done when I was in.
  • by will_die ( 586523 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:00AM (#20397807) Homepage
    It has been known about for a long time, thing has been in place since the mid-1990s. Heck the FBI even runs a site [askcalea.net] where you can ask them questions about it and produce a newsletter.
    What is new is all the technical information and the advanced state the software is in.
  • Re:hmmm (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sunburnt ( 890890 ) * on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:13AM (#20397993)

    Only if they convince the military to go along with it.

    Hasn't been that [wikipedia.org] difficult [wikipedia.org] before, and I can't see why it would be now.

  • by Crazy Taco ( 1083423 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:26AM (#20398211)

    What's really funny is I distinctively remember Reagan boasting to the world how open our society was, how our citizens could move about freely without presenting papers and didn't have to worry about their conversations being recorded by the state and used against them.

    Oh well, it's for our security so it must be good! After all, if you have nothing to fear, then this won't affect you. If you complain, the terrorists win. We can't have that, can we?

    Perhaps Reagan could make that bost with a straight face during the time he was president. Wiretaps may not have been as widespread as they are now, and for sure this system didn't exist, and wasn't even started, during those days.

    On another note, I see by your reference to terrorism you are attempting to blame the Bush administration for this. Clearly you didn't read the article, so why don't I point out an interesting section that might shake your preconceived ideas a little bit.

    From the article:

    The law that makes the FBI's surveillance network possible had its genesis in the Clinton administration. In the 1990s, the Justice Department began complaining to Congress that digital technology, cellular phones and features like call forwarding would make it difficult for investigators to continue to conduct wiretaps. Congress responded by passing the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, in 1994, mandating backdoors in U.S. telephone switches.

    Note this: In 1994, the congress was massively controlled by the democrats (yes, Republicans did win their huge election victory in November of that year, but they wouldn't take office until 1995). That democratically controlled congress was the one that passed the law that allowed the system to be created, and it was signed into law by president Clinton. So in fact, it is not the "we have to beat the terrorists" crowd of Republicans that started all this, but the "we respect your privacy" democrats. The fact is, politicians almost never do what they say they will, and both parties just say what is going to get them votes. Democrats say they are for transparent government and privacy, but this clearly shows they aren't, at least not any more than Republicans or anyone else. You can't keep going with this knee-jerk "bash Republicans because they spy on us all" mentality, because when Reagan, very much a true conservative, was in office, the FBI complained they didn't have enough surveillance powers. Then when Clinton and the democrats controlled all houses of government, this was one of the results. And at the time this law came out, terrorism wasn't a major concern like Bush says it is for him. When the dems passed this law, domestic wiretapping (i.e. watching us, or at least the criminals among us) was the primary concern.

  • by grassy_knoll ( 412409 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:54AM (#20398587) Homepage
    You make a good point.

    From TFA:

    With new CALEA-compliant digital switches, the FBI now logs directly into the telecom's network. Once a court order has been sent to a carrier and the carrier turns on the wiretap, the communications data on a surveillance target streams into the FBI's computers in real time.

    So it seems wiretaps can't be initiated at will by the FBI; someone at the telcom has to enable access.
  • Re:Exactly! (Score:5, Informative)

    by soren100 ( 63191 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:01AM (#20398705)
    The FBI has been tapping phones since day one. In the US they must have a court order to do it.

    The FBI has also been abusing our rights since day one. They have been doing many illegal things in the name of "suppressing communist activity". Just check out operation COINTELPRO [wikipedia.org]

    from the linked article -- these are the methods the FBI used to suppress domestic political activity:

    " 1. Infiltration: Agents and informers did not merely spy on political activists. Their main purpose was to discredit and disrupt. Their very presence served to undermine trust and scare off potential supporters. The FBI and police exploited this fear to smear genuine activists as agents." [5]

    2. "Psychological Warfare From the Outside: The FBI and police used myriad other "dirty tricks" to undermine progressive movements. They planted false media stories and published bogus leaflets and other publications in the name of targeted groups. They forged correspondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone calls. They spread misinformation about meetings and events, set up pseudo movement groups run by government agents, and manipulated or strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials and others to cause trouble for activists." [6]

    3. "Harassment Through the Legal System: The FBI and police abused the legal system to harass dissidents and make them appear to be criminals. Officers of the law gave perjured testimony and presented fabricated evidence as a pretext for false arrests and wrongful imprisonment. They discriminatorily enforced tax laws and other government regulations and used conspicuous surveillance, 'investigative' interviews, and grand jury subpoenas in an effort to intimidate activists and silence their supporters."

    4. "Extralegal Force and Violence: The FBI and police threatened, instigated, and themselves conducted break-ins, vandalism, assaults, and beatings. The object was to frighten dissidents and disrupt their movements. In the case of radical Black and Puerto Rican activists (and later Native Americans [citation needed]), these attacksincluding political assassinationswere so extensive, vicious, and calculated that they can accurately be termed a form of official 'terrorism.'". [7]

    The FBI also conducted "black bag jobs", warrantless surreptitious entries, against the targeted groups and their members.[8]

    Supporters of the FBI argue that the Bureau was convinced that there was such a threat of domestic subversion posed by radical groups that extraordinary efforts were required to forestall violence and revolutionary insurgency. Hoover was willing to use false claims to attack his political enemies.

    As far as any restrictions on political speech? Not that I have seen. I am not fond of the patriot act but your rant is a little over the top.

    That's because you have only been listening to the corporate media. If you actually do the research on the published activities of the FBI (and CIA as well) you will be shocked.

    Here's what an official congressional committee that was tasked to study domestic intelligence activities said in 1976:

    "Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that...the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence."

    You haven't "seen" any of this stuff because our corporate media gets huge amounts of money in tax breaks and other forms of special treatment from the government, so the media is not wanting to upset the government in any way, shape or form. You w

  • by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:09PM (#20399841) Homepage Journal
    Grandparent was arguing kind, not this specific program. He said that a project, any project, this large can be kept secret. They didn't say, "this project was kept secret".

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!