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When Spies and Crime-Fighters Squabble Over How They Spy On You 120

The Washington Post reports in a short article on the sometimes strange, sometimes strained relationship between spy agencies like the NSA and CIA and law enforcement (as well as judges and prosecutors) when it comes to evidence gathered using technology or techniques that the spy agencies would rather not disclose at all, never mind explain in detail. They may both be arms of the U.S. government, but the spy agencies and the law enforcers covet different outcomes. From the article: [S]sometimes it's not just the tool that is classified, but the existence itself of the capability — the idea that a certain type of communication can be wiretapped — that is secret. One former senior federal prosecutor said he knew of at least two instances where surveillance tools that the FBI criminal investigators wanted to use "got formally classified in a big hurry" to forestall the risk that the technique would be revealed in a criminal trial. "People on the national security side got incredibly wound up about it," said the former official, who like others interviewed on the issue spoke on condition of anonymity because of the topic’s sensitivity. "The bottom line is: Toys get taken away and put on a very, very high shelf. Only people in the intelligence community can use them." ... The DEA in particular was concerned that if it came up with a capability, the National Security Agency or CIA would rush to classify it, said a former Justice Department official.
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When Spies and Crime-Fighters Squabble Over How They Spy On You

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  • by Joe Gillian ( 3683399 ) on Saturday July 26, 2014 @11:03PM (#47541149)

    I remember that after 9/11, one of he big focuses of the Federal government was to get all of the various intelligence and law enforcement agencies - specifically the FBI and CIA - to work together and share intelligence. The fact that they weren't working together was one of the factors that contributed to the 9/11 hijackers being able to pull off their plot. This is the entire reason that the Department of Homeland Security was created, to bring all intelligence about threats to the United States under one body.

    Now, it looks like they're splitting up again, just like they did before 9/11. What's it going to take for them to realize this is a bad idea?

  • Better than nothing? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mindcandy ( 1252124 ) on Saturday July 26, 2014 @11:35PM (#47541267)
    So, can I claim this as a victory under the "enemy of my enemy" philosophy?

    Of course what goes without mention here is that "high shelf" just means they have to go through the trouble of getting the trial itself declared a matter of national security, meaning they can classify the entire charade (pfft, speedy and public what?).
  • A law enforcement agency invented or discovered a new technique, that can help them in their job? Great! It's good to hear that they are exercising their creatived talents and advancing their field. As long as the new methods are legal and constitutional, there is no problem. If, on the other hand, it croses the constitutional limits in small ways, that's understandable - time change, and if the proposal is reaonable, the constitution can change with it.

    So the simple solution is to see if an Amendment can be passed to allow it. Worries about criminals finding out aren't relevant - you can' t use it in a court anyway. As for worries about the NSA or CIA flying in to classify it, well, it's a LOT harder to put that geenie back in the bottle once amendment debates start happening. Even in the worse case where this particular case is ruined from the public disclosure, the investment towards free use of a new category of tools in the future could easly be worth the setback.

    Now, I'm sure a lot of you are thinking I'm being sarcastic (or delusional). It's not like such an amendment would ever have a chance at passing, right? Well... that's hard to say. I would probably be against it as initially proposed, but that's not relevant - by making the proposal, and opening up the topic for public discussion and public input, instead of working in secret, maybe we - the citizens - can negotiatiate with our neighbors and figure out a way to allow this new law-enforcement technique. How can we know how such a debate would go? Yes, it's a risk, but so is working in secret, hoping nobody finds out about some new technique.

    Maybe it just needs some ground rules about when/where it can be used. Maybe we could allow it if it had some sort of oversight/watchdog group. Maybe we can invent some new type of social compromise; after all, it's a new technique - maybe it needs a new way of fitting into our legal system.

    On the other hand, maybe... only needs a warrant.

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"