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FBI Admits More Privacy Violations

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the truth-will-out-eventually-if-they-feel-like-it dept.

Privacy 179

kwietman writes "The FBI admitted that in 2006, for the fourth straight year, they improperly accessed phone and internet records of U.S. citizens. Director Robert Mueller testified that the abuses occurred prior to sweeping reforms enacted in 2007, and actually blamed the breaches in part on the telecommunications companies, who submitted more information than was requested. In another unsurprising development, the FBI also underreported the number of security letters - used to authorize wiretaps and to subpoena internet and telecom records - by over 4,600. The use of these letters to identify potential terrorists has, according to the government audit, increased dramatically since the implementation of the Patriot Act. Over 1,000 of these security letters were found to be improper in 2005, and similar numbers were expected for 2006 and 2007."

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179 comments

FBI blames the private sector? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22670500)

I would have blamed Santa Claws IMO.

Right. (5, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670506)

blamed the breaches in part on the telecommunications companies, who submitted more information than was requested
Or it could be the requests were sufficiently vague that the telcos thought they were submitting the right amount of information.

Re:Right. (4, Insightful)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671234)

Or it could be the requests were sufficiently vague that the telcos thought they were submitting the right amount of information.
It's one thing to be worried about the Feds doing what they do. What has me worried is that so much (all) of our private information is accessible by telcos, many of which are owned by foreign interests. Whose country is it anyway?

Re:Right. (5, Funny)

BakaHoushi (786009) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671706)

I know! Think about it. The phone company has YOUR phone number! What are they going to do with that...?

Re:Right. (1)

msromike (926441) | more than 6 years ago | (#22672690)

They also know the number and the account holders name of everyone you have talked to by phone. Not to mention patterns and frequencies of calls depending on time of day and the location that the call came from, and the location that the call went to. They also can plot the relative path that you took while making the call (if using a cell phone.) What are they going to do with that...?

Oh and also what you said?

Re:Right. (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671538)

Or it could be the requests were sufficiently vague that the telcos thought they were submitting the right amount of information.
Or it could just be the normal government response to blame someone else.

Re:Right. (3, Informative)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 6 years ago | (#22672268)

it could be the requests were sufficiently vague that the telcos thought they were submitting the right amount of information.

If the FBI is submitting vague requests, it's acting illegally. Amendment IV: "...no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

If the telcos are rolling over and complying with vague requests, then they are accessories to the FBI's crimes.

In a sane world, the FBI and telco officials would be tried for their crimes against the security and dignity of American citizens, and those found responsible would be made to make restitution and would barred from any position of trust until they had proven their rehabilitation. However, I've long since given up hope of living in a sane world...

Telecoms guilty of malpractice (1)

lpq (583377) | more than 6 years ago | (#22672858)

This is why Telecom companies SHOULD NOT be given unlimited immunity.

If the telecom companies gave up information -- the minimum necessary that they were required to hand over in order to comply with the law, that could be an justification for immunity.

However, it doesn't sound like most of them did any due-diligence in ensuring the FBI got only the required information and only what the companies were required to hand over. They shouldn't be given a "free ticket" for
every action they've done -- indeed, they should be held accountable for "privacy malpractice" -- not engaging in standard practice, in the industry, to protect customer privacy against "rogue" government organizations.

That's what needs to be made clear in the discussions to provide immunity from prosecution -- if such is provided, it should not be provided only for the narrowest of defense of complying with mandatory requests.

On a tangential note -- I know some companies are good about making sure the government bears the cost of all these monitoring events, but stockholders should also consider suing any company that has not been following prudent procedures or has not been properly billing the legal-entries requiring the information. Stockholders shouldn't have to pay for government monitoring, nor their companies' business incompetence.

First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22670524)

First post!

you failed it (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22670608)

fail

Without outrage... (4, Insightful)

Bayoudegradeable (1003768) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670528)

The Feds will never care, the White House will never care as it seems most people in the U.S. don't care about this issue. Without outrage we'll never see an improvement. "Catching" bad guys is what they think they're doing and no adjustment will be made from within. Sadly, it will most likely never become a major issue, though it most certainly should.

Re:Without outrage... (3, Insightful)

WindowlessView (703773) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670674)

Catching" bad guys is what they think they're doing and no adjustment will be made from within.

Makes you wonder how they are doing catching "bad" guys when they can barely monitor themselves. Time to face up to it, we are living in a Kafkaesque nation.

Re:Without outrage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22670786)

What I don't get is how you all act like this is something that started with GW Bush , or after 9/11, or something.
The US Government has been collecting intelligence on its own citizens since the 1950s. It doesn't really seem to be affecting your ability to do what you want to do, like complain about it on internet forums.

Re:Without outrage... (0, Troll)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671060)

Why don't we ever see comments like yours in the cuba "sneakernet" article ? Or where they point out that radios in north korea can only receive one station ? Or the random arrests in kuwait ? Or the killing of aids patients by the police in egypt ? Or the banning of 128k+ internet speeds as being un-islamic in iran ? About the decision of the oic to not respect human rights in any of their countries (only turkey voted against btw, not that they respect human rights ...) ?

One wonders ... actually I don't. You just only pick on guys that are guaranteed never to say anything back or hurt you. You are a coward, "making a stand" without risk.

What you're doing is not brave, it's not revolutionary, and it's not even moral at all. It's cowardice.

Re:Without outrage... (5, Insightful)

WindowlessView (703773) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671386)

Why don't we ever see comments like yours in the cuba "sneakernet" article ...yada yada...

Geez I dunno, maybe because I don't live in Cuba, North Korea, Egypt? Maybe because I have no expectations of civil liberties in those countries? Maybe because none of those governments have been telling me my entire life that I live in a nation of laws, have constitutional rights and so forth? Maybe because I spend so much time worrying about my own country and douche bags like you fucking up that I don't have sufficient energy to work myself into a lather about countries I have absolutely no control over?

One wonders ... actually I don't. You just only pick on guys that are guaranteed never to say anything back or hurt you. You are a coward, "making a stand" without risk.

I don't know what "One" wonders but I wonder what the hell you are talking about. Oh, maybe I do. You aren't responding to me at all, are you? You're just reacting to the hate track that never stops playing in your head, bravely fighting whatever fraudulent demon Hannity or Rush stuffed into your tiny brain this afternoon.

What you're doing is not brave, it's not revolutionary, and it's not even moral at all. It's cowardice.

Again, this doesn't make sense. It's just phrases thrown together. Repeat them loud and often enough and they sometime elicit emotion reactions but that doesn't make them any less intellectually vapid.

Re:Without outrage... (1)

Murrquan (1161441) | more than 6 years ago | (#22672006)

Again, this doesn't make sense. It's just phrases thrown together. Repeat them loud and often enough and they sometime elicit emotion reactions but that doesn't make them any less intellectually vapid.

Saying something is "intellectually vapid" does not a rebuttal make.

Now, if you were to say something like "How can it be cowardice to say these things when few are taking them seriously, and most people don't realize what kind of a country they live in? How is it immoral to stand up for the truth in the face of opposition?" That might be a logical refutation of his point.

Re:Without outrage... (1)

WindowlessView (703773) | more than 6 years ago | (#22672174)

Saying something is "intellectually vapid" does not a rebuttal make.

I agree. Somewhere in the middle of slogging through all that hate and venom I resigned myself to the notion that any real rebuttal would be pointless anyway. SirSlud did a much better job.

Re:Without outrage... (5, Insightful)

SirSlud (67381) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671868)

I suppose you're doing lots about all the problems you listed. How is it cowardice to communicate dissatisfaction with people you're more likely to influence than list off a multitude of global crimes against humanity that we can't effect? Whats immoral about criticism, exactly? Are you a coward for not being in Egypt right now? The only thing I know is that its pretty pathetic to want to defend the most powerful government in the world. I'm sure we agree that America is responsible for great things. We just disagree in two key areas:

1) taking issue with behaviour withing our own government than we deem as being incongruent with the basis of western democracy is not a bad thing
2) the fact that I'm not out there fighting these terrible conditions doesn't mean I should be able to attack you for being in the same safe position

If human rights issues bother you so much, go out and do something about them. Picking on somebody who chooses to criticize their own government when they feel it is right to do so is myopic. I swear, people who are convinced that they live in some impenetrable palace of awesomeness are so fucking stupid. If you really think the US is the sole provider of the peace and rational thinking, I've got hundreds of millions of people living in other first world nations who are wondering why you're so recalcitrant to criticize your own government. Its a very important function of democracy, as practiced by way more places than the US.

So stop playing "He started it." If you take issue with the mistreatment of human beings, do something about it, but don't act like just because its pretty minimized in your country that its not worth discussing.

Re:Without outrage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22671912)

I'm very happy that you don't hold a public office.

Re:Without outrage... (1)

stainlesssteelpat (905359) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671708)

"Time to face up to it, we are living in a Kafkaesque nation." Strangely enough I'm yet to wake up as a giant cockroach, although apparently it has happened to this guy called POTUS aswell as the original Czech Gregor.

Re:Without outrage... (4, Interesting)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670692)

Why not have a monetary penalty awarded to the victim from the budget of the agency?

Like $1000 per incorrectly tapped phone call? (Not per tap, but per call that occurred while that tap was in place.)

Re:Without outrage... (1)

KevinKnSC (744603) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671044)

You'd run into the same problem that the ACLU's lawsuit against the telcos ran into: you have to prove you were the subject of an incorrect phone tap before you can take legal action, but you can't prove it without first taking legal action.

Re:Without outrage... (2, Informative)

Torvaun (1040898) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671730)

No, you have to prove you were the subject of an incorrect phone tap before you can collect damages, which typically happens after the legal action has started anyways. I wonder if you can bring a civil suit against the Feds if you're improperly tapped...

Re:Without outrage... (2, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671058)

Like the parent poster said, because so many Americans don't want that. If a presidential candidate suggested your idea, they'd be labeled "pro-terrorist" and their poll numbers would drop immediately. Despite years of illegal wiretaps and the administration failing to ever explain why the fisa provisions are insufficient, a great many people are still against requiring warrants for wiretaps. They don't listen, they don't think. You push their "terrorist" fear button and they say immediately say "yes" to anything.

What would be the point (was:Without outrage...) (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671498)

Why not have a monetary penalty awarded to the victim from the budget of the agency?
Like $1000 per incorrectly tapped phone call? (Not per tap, but per call that occurred while that tap was in place.)
What would be the point? It would be paid for by YOUR tax dollars. The douche bags involved lets off the hook. Now if we start talking about SERIOUS jail time in MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON (where Ex-Feds will be fearing for their lives daily) then there might be some deterrent value.

"for the fourth straight year" (5, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670706)

Of course the feds don't care -- look, they feel free to even admit that they are abusing the powers granted to them, that they aren't even bothering to follow the already extremely permissive laws that guide them. It's been going on for years -- ever since the first report after the enactment of the USAPATRIOT Act -- and still they aren't called on it.

No, for some reason not enough people care. Firstly I blame the media -- just like the previous reports, and even the NSA wiretapping scandal, this will show up in the news for a little while then quietly vanish. Secondly I blame people who even when presented with facts by the media just blindly assume that it's all done to catch terrorists and they don't care. They're told the their privacy is being abused, and they mentally convert this into their privacy not being abused, only terrorists and since when do terrorists deserve privacy?

Even Congress -- now Democrat controlled -- doesn't do much but feign shock and dismay that the powers they granted without even reading what they were are being abused.

Some people care, but it just doesn't seem to be enough.

Re:"for the fourth straight year" (3, Insightful)

statemachine (840641) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671086)

They're told the their privacy is being abused, and they mentally convert this into their privacy not being abused, only terrorists and since when do terrorists deserve privacy?

That's a huge problem right there. Those are the same people who say "I have nothing to hide," but when you ask for all their bank statements and keys to their doors and video cameras in their house... (just keep suggesting more stuff until...) they balk.

And maybe some of the perception is that the government is this magical entity, not made up of people who are your neighbors, or that jerk that cut you off this morning, etc.

All of a sudden, those same people want their privacy. Amazing isn't it?

Re:"for the fourth straight year" (0)

statemachine (840641) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671952)

Overrated? Really? Someone gives the post a +1 Interesting and you come along and give it a -1 Overrated? You don't think I can figure out who you are? It's not like I haven't noticed the other weird moderations I've gotten recently, and when they started. Overrated is just cowardly. And since you didn't overrate mod any of my other posts today, I figure you're either out of mod points, or you're just trying to fly below the site's radar -- which would be immensely ironic, since my post is about people who claim to be unconcerned about their privacy.

If what I write strikes a nerve, maybe you could respond with a well-reasoned reply, or move on to the next message.

In any case, my karma is excellent and has been for a long time. You're just wasting your mod points on me. It's kind of flattering.

Re:"for the fourth straight year" (0, Flamebait)

statemachine (840641) | more than 6 years ago | (#22672334)

Hey, keep it up! I know I'm not the only one whom you disagree with. :) Your modding down my posts just means you have less negative mods for the others you hate.

Re:"for the fourth straight year" (4, Funny)

grassy_knoll (412409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671178)

No, for some reason not enough people care. Firstly I blame the media


Oh yeah. It's the media. Why I was just watching something on that...

erm... hang on... Britney just shaved something again...

The House is out of control (1, Insightful)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671314)

1) 2/3 vote required to pass a VETO by the chimp

2) Democrats may be similar as republicans politically; but as a party they are NOT the same. The Dems seem to pride themselves on their 'distributed' nature and lack of organization and uniformity that constantly undercuts them despite historically having the largest membership.

3) Democrats have more in-fighting and less uniformity among their members; nor do they frequently threaten and undermine those who break rank - that is if they even bother to even force a position as a party (party positions are largely PR.)

4) The SENATE is 50/50. Joe Lieberman does whatever his blackmailers tell him to do (hint: warrantless watergate - one may recall that many staff members of watergate era work in the current whitehouse; break and enter isn't required. oh, they wouldn't be so dishonest as to datamine politicians would they? ;-)

5) Impeachment is off the table. Everybody is waiting it out until 2008. Can't believe they'd actually want McCain to have to take the fall for the growing mess that can't be cleaned up in 4 or even 8 years (which naturally, people will blame the one in office because they can't remember back more than 1 year. I'm NOT kidding I heard a GOP strategist plan on that statistic.)

Try participating in both parties. I have. Culture and voter turn-out issues are largely the only big differences.

see politicalcompass.org

Re:"for the fourth straight year" (1)

Vakara (166457) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671546)

Some of us do care, and try to do something:

http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2008/03/tash-hepting-speaks-out [eff.org]

If you want to help, write/phone/fax your Representative in the House. Make your voice be heard. Don't let the government give the telecom companies retroactive immunity - insist that the lawsuits be allowed to continue. If they didn't break the law, they already have immunity under current regulations.

America wants to know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22670828)

How much of this FBI info appeared on a table in the First Lady's area?

Catching bad guys (5, Interesting)

statemachine (840641) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670914)

I once attended a lecture by a prominent local individual in L.A. who was known for speaking out against the LAPD's blanket harassment (and assaults) of people living in the poorer areas.

He said the prevailing attitude seemed to be "Catch the Bad Guy." At first, this doesn't sound like it conflicts with the LAPD's motto: "To Protect and Serve." But, he explained, there's a huge difference when you think about it: "Catch the Bad Guy" implies treating everyone in a poor fashion just to maybe catch a bad guy. "To Protect and Serve" implies that everyone is innocent, and explicitly that the police must protect everyone and serve the communities in a good fashion as a priority, rather than suspect everyone and treat them badly.

That was almost 20 years ago. The LAPD's CRASH (anti-gang) unit has since been disbanded due to multiple court rulings of unconstitutionality (the LAPD suspected pretty much every minority) and civil liability case rulings/settlements (the LAPD busted more innocent heads than gang members). The attitude is still a problem, and I've seen it with many other police officers in different cities, BUT I'm not saying it's a majority... just a very annoying minority.

The main point here: "Catch the Bad Guy" is an easy trap to fall into, and many may not even realize they're acting this way, or simply don't see the distinction.

The court system is slow, tedious, and money draining -- same as the legislative system. However, we're not seeing our own citizens shot at by itchy-fingered National Guardsmen anymore. I have to remain optimistic, at least about large-scale shifts of thinking...

Re:Catching bad guys (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22672772)

He said the prevailing attitude seemed to be "Catch the Bad Guy." At first, this doesn't sound like it conflicts with the LAPD's motto: "To Protect and Serve." But, he explained, there's a huge difference when you think about it: "Catch the Bad Guy" implies treating everyone in a poor fashion just to maybe catch a bad guy.
"Catch the Bad Guy" implies that "the bad guy" is not one of us. It's a matter of perspective because when the reality, that criminals are part of your community, becomes apparent, suddenly the system is harsh & unfair.

Re:Without outrage... (1)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671190)

There is about less than 15% of us that do care and that is why we will fail.

They don't care about your outrage (3, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671256)

Have you ever read a forum dominated by police who think that their violations of the law are justified in the line of duty? They think you ought to be grateful for them, as though you are some mewling little animal incapable of living in relative safety without them. These people aren't your congressman. They could give a shit less what you think. They think that you owe them a debt of gratitude for keeping you alive and free that's ten times higher than anything anyone in the military would feel.

Re:Without outrage... (-1, Troll)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671352)

Without outrage we'll never see an improvement.

Actually you'll see an immediate improvement by not voting in Republican governments that are hell bent on removing as many citizen rights as possible.

Re:Without outrage... (1)

xSauronx (608805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671360)

This is what I thought when I saw the headline:

Things congress won't care about: our privacy violations

Things congress will care about: Sports players and the drugs they take.

Sometimes I hate America. /cries

Re:Without outrage... (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671364)

People will tolerate discomfort if it yields tangible results. The metric isn't "We deported 20% more foreign nationals", the metric should be "Nationwide crime rates are down 20%". That's a goal worth making a few sacrifices.

The way things are today, these "security departments" are just spending a shitload of public money and delivering nothing but fear and disinformation. They haven't caught anyone that wasn't knocking on their front door in the first place. FBI / CIA is a joke.

Re:Without outrage... (2, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 6 years ago | (#22672304)

the metric should be "Nationwide crime rates are down 20%". That's a goal worth making a few sacrifices.

Only if we define "crime" as "an action that violates, or credibly threatens to violate, the rights of another". Reducing prostitution, drug use, etcetera, by 20% isn't a goal worth sacrificing a damn thing.

Reducing real crime is a worthy goal - but we must understand that every unjust arrest is a kidnapping, every warrantless search is an instance of trespass, every unjustified shooting by a cop is a murder. It won't do to reduce "street crime" by increasing "state crime".

Re:Without outrage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22671664)

As I said before, this is only an issue to the paranoid. If you don't let them have the information they need, we will be in trouble. It isn't as if they have access unobtrusive. They have information requested. I will make my point (1) then give my personal opinion (2):
(1) They are requesting this information as a mission. My analogy from before was simple: If you know your girlfriend is cheating on you, and she uses your computer for communication means, what do you do? You record all done on it, inclusive your own actions. So beit that you find more information about her than necessary (e.g., social security number, etc.). She might be upset that you got that information, but what was it you really cared about? The fact she was cheating and with whom. All other information is disregarded. You can agree with that, surely.
(2) My personal opinion is that they might have all your information if it was part of the package in finding what they needed. Good. I want the FBI to have all information, personally. But understand that, unless you are committing a war crime, in order for it to be used against you they will have had needed a court order to obtain it beforehand. In other words: It is useless information to them regarding prosecution. SO PLEASE CHILL OUT PEOPLE! They can only use the information they obtain against those who we actually want it to be used against. Do you want to be afraid of bombs going off at the mall while you shop? No? I didn't think so. So Please People, let them do their job. We have the EFF/other humanitarian organisations from them overstepping their bounds on what you are concerned with. Live your life, be happy. Why? Because the FBI is watching your back. Trust me, if you can.

      Love you all!
~Anony (because I can.)

Re:Without outrage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22671666)

You know when someone says "let me preface what I'm about to say..." they usually are going to disagree with you. Honestly, I do not disagree with you at all, but having said that, I am curious about something that students and I discussed this very day. Imagine your job requires you to identify small groups of skilled evil people that intend to do harm to people that you are supposed to protect at all times. What would you do? How would you go about tracking them down? Plots can be conceived, organized, and executed with great speed. What do you do?

Re:Without outrage... (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671784)

"Catching" bad guys is what they think they're doing...

Curious, but such a suggestion appears to run counter to all those very phony ops the Feebs of the FBI have been staging, such as that horrendous op against Scott Ritter, which was quickly thrown out of court with the judge declaring the FBI to be a useless bunch of A-holes. And all those other useless "terrorist" ops perpetrated by the feebs of the FBI.

Whatever became of that anthrax assassin? Oh, of course the feebs of the FBI were much too busy spying on ordinary American citizens to actually ever catch him - and of course, they did sit on those tips for around eight months prior to being forced into action, with the emphasis on FORCED!

And then there was that tragic Los Alamos op where the feebs of the FBI turned out to be run by some attractive Chinese agent from China's Department of Public Security. Hmmmmmmm......

What was that about "catching bad guys".......

But most importantly of all (see recent quote below, please), where is the logic when Mueller-head states that the FBI previously broke the law, so that new laws should stop them??? Say again, clown boy!

"The credibility factor shows there needs to be outside oversight," said former FBI agent Michael German, now a national security adviser for the American Civil Liberties Union. He also cast doubt on the FBI's reforms.

"There were guidelines before, and there were laws before, and the FBI violated those laws," German said. "And the idea that new guidelines would make a difference, I think cuts against rationality." This quote is found at this site [yahoo.com] .

Re:Without outrage... (1)

carpe.cervisiam (900585) | more than 6 years ago | (#22672166)

One definition of insanity is performing the same action over and over again and expecting different results. This applies to Congress who seems to think passing more legislation will stop the behavior of the intelligence community. It applies to the Intelligence community who have been eavesdropping on us since the 50's and STILL didn't stop 19 foreign nationals from hijacking a few planes and crashing them into buildings.

(and here is the part that is going to get me modded down as flamebait) It also applies to everyone of us, including myself, who have pissed and moaned about Big Brother for years and haven't done a thing about it. If we want things to change, we have no one to count on for that except ourselves.

Re:Without outrage... (1)

kylehase (982334) | more than 6 years ago | (#22672338)

The bottom line is that our society is split. Some are willing to give up civil liberties for a sense of security while others feel that our country's strength lies in our civil liberties and it should not be taken away because what the terrorists want.

Of course there are those who could care less and just let things go whichever way it goes. If they're not willing to fight for civil liberties then that group are basically part of the first group.

OMG!!! (1)

rustalot42684 (1055008) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670548)

Wow! who would have thought!
Of course they did. I don't like it, and I'd like to see it stop, but the reality is that the Feds are watching you.
Use encryption.

I'm not a U.S. citizen.... (4, Interesting)

The Ancients (626689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670556)

so I'm not as intimately involved as many of you are. However, there seems to be a lot of 'accidental' - and otherwise - breaches occurring with regard to citizen's rights, but not a lot being done about it. By this, I mean - is punishment commensurate with the crime (and this is a crime) meted out to the perpetrators in cases such as this? I see a lot of articles talking about the breaches, but very few about justice being delivered with regard to those responsible.

Re:I'm not a U.S. citizen.... (1)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670622)

If you think our government is bad about privacy of our citizens you should see what they do about foreigners who post on /.

Re:I'm not a U.S. citizen.... (2, Insightful)

imamac (1083405) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671398)

I take the fact that they announce their errors as a good sign. They could simply hide it like most other governments.

Re:I'm not a U.S. citizen.... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22672860)

When a government shows you something like this:

1. The information was going to be discovered anyway and actively showing the information (in the best light, of course) will be less damning to the government.
2. The government is trying to distract you from something else.

There are exceptions to this, but those are primarily driven by individuals or political rivalries, not by agencies or governments as a whole.

Grim Outlook (4, Insightful)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670582)

Perhaps I am a cynic, but it seems to me that this is merely to be expected.

Stazi couldn't keep constant surveillance over all of the citizens of East Germany because the technology did not exist to obtain, process, store, and organize this data. Yet they tried, and got fairly close to being able to track anyone who even remotely questioned the regime.

Now we're getting close to the point where total surveillance of the citizenry is actually feasible. To expect that bureaucracy will go ahead with such a project is awfully optimistic. The goal of any political system is the preservation of status quo, and total surveillance is a very important step to ensure that no perturbations to the system can result from any member of the population that chooses to think for themselves.

Whether or not we're willing to tolerate this, is the question, because there is no doubt in my mind that it will happen.

Perhaps we should start with re-examining the concept of privacy, and decide precisely the level of privacy we're comfortable with.

Re:Grim Outlook (2)

Degreeless (1250850) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670676)

The problem is that personal privacy has once again been cast as the co-conspiritor of harmful agents, a shround under which terrorists, paedophiles and televangelists can operate. They've got the technology, they've got the excuse and unless government agencies are brought to task over violating people's privacy they'll get away withit while we tell ourselves 'At least they're making sure we're safe'.

Re:Grim Outlook (2, Funny)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671372)

The problem is that personal privacy has once again been cast as the co-conspiritor of harmful agents, a shround under which terrorists, paedophiles and televangelists can operate.

Well, I think I speak for all Americans when I say we don't mind the pedophiles or the terrorists, but we absolutely must protect our citizens from televangelists... no, wait....

Re:Grim Outlook (5, Insightful)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670742)

A re-examination of the Constitution would be a fine laxative for the Fed.
While the document contained glaring flaws like the 3/5 Compromise [wikipedia.org] , the Bill of Rights, if followed, would actually support protection of individuals from states and states from the Fed.
Just have to have a reasonable transition plan to ease the country out of the velvet handcuffs of entitlements.
Some of the presidential candidates are out to worsen the problem. Watch out for them.

Much too late (5, Insightful)

NEOtaku17 (679902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671290)

It is too late to start using the Constitution as the ultimate law of the land again. If we followed the Constitution exactly as it is written we would have to get rid of things like the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, Social Security, and many other government programs and agencies that people don't want to see taken away. After years of ignoring it, the Constitution has lost its power.

Re:Much too late (2, Insightful)

imamac (1083405) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671458)

I would love to see those go away, actually.

Re:Much too late (1)

bdjacobson (1094909) | more than 6 years ago | (#22672604)

I would love to see those go away, actually.
Sorry, but the elderly have representation without taxation. We're never going to get rid of SS as long as they're alive.

Same goes with welfare. Representation without taxation.

Just as horrifying as taxation without representation in my opinion.

Re:Much too late (1)

Doc Daneeka (1107345) | more than 6 years ago | (#22672638)

It is too late to start using the Constitution as the ultimate law of the land again. If we followed the Constitution exactly as it is written we would have to get rid of things like the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, Social Security, and many other government programs and agencies that people don't want to see taken away. After years of ignoring it, the Constitution has lost its power.
Why is it too late? These agencies could be reorganized under independent State control. To make a long story short, we could then increase or decrease their powers on a State by State basis with the citizens paying in taxes for the increase.

The Constitution has not lost its power. Our representatives have wandered away from what the Framer's intended the function of the government to be. This country can still be saved. Hopefully, it will not require bloodshed to restore the balance of power.

Re:Grim Outlook (3, Insightful)

nizo (81281) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670908)

See the big problem here is.... oh wait gotta go, American Idol is on!!!!

Re:Grim Outlook (1)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671144)

Perhaps we should start with re-examining the concept of privacy, and decide precisely the level of privacy we're comfortable with.


We already did:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


The problem with "re-examining" is that it allows for a constant incremental erosion. Once people get used to the current level of privacy, it's not a big deal to take just one little thing away. They get used to that... take another thing away... they get used to that... then take another. It goes on and on until "what's the big deal about putting a camera in your bedroom, there's already one in your living room!"

Immunity my ass (4, Insightful)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670586)

" . . . blamed the breaches in part on the telecommunications companies, who submitted more information than was requested . . ."

Who needs abusive government bureaucracies to abuse our rights when corporations can do the job even better?

It's time to drag the paranoid, power-hungry trolls responsible for these outrages out into the sunlight for a little disinfecting.

Issue the subpoenas, investigate these abuses, and, yes, impeach the president. Even if he wasn't responsible for this debacle, then he's derelict in his duties to uphold the constitution.

Re:Immunity my ass (2, Funny)

The Ancients (626689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670618)

" . . . blamed the breaches in part on the telecommunications companies, who submitted more information than was requested . . ."

Who needs abusive government bureaucracies to abuse our rights when corporations can do the job even better?

Well, it has been said for a long time that the private sector is more efficient than the public sector - you're just seeing a prime example!

What, you said what? (2, Insightful)

Bovius (1243040) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670768)

"...You cannot just have an FBI agent who decides he'd like to obtain Americans' records, bank records or anything else and do it just because they want to."

Like warrantless wiretapping, right? Yeah, we definitely shouldn't have that.

Change of wind? (0, Offtopic)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670808)

Looks like Mueller is fessing up more than expected, but perhaps not surprising given that this is Bush's last year.

I look forward to watch if/how the US will try to restore the rule-of-law.

Re:Change of wind? (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671840)

Mueller has done an even more execrable job than Louie "the Sicilian" Freeh - and who would have thought that humanly possible? Mueller should definitely end up in jail, with something in the vicinity of about 1,000 other FBI f***wits, as one never knows when they show up who they are working for: is it the faction which reports to China's Department of Public Security? Is it the faction which reports to the Russian mob? Is it the faction which reports to one of the drug cartels? Is it the faction which reports to the Mafia? Or is it the faction which reports to the neocon crime organization presently running this banana republic formerly known as America?

[And no, this combat veteran doesn't support the troops - as far too many of them are in violation of the UCMJ and strongly believes something on the order of 500 general-rank officers should be immediately executed for both giving, and acting upon, unlawful orders.]

Next Administration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22670812)

My question would be, what would the next administration, be it republican or democrat, do about these blatant abuses of power? Will they keep the status quo, raise it or actually give a damn about it.

Who knows, maybe I'm being too optimistic about the US...

No, stop, please don't give us that much data! (5, Funny)

Wuhao (471511) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670834)

I probably shouldn't post this, but I was at the meeting. Here's how it went down.

FBI: Hello, AT&T, can we have the phone records for 123-555-6789? As you can see here, we have a warrant here to tap that number, because it belongs to Osama Bin Laden. In fact, it says so right on the caller ID!
AT&T: Why, certainly! And while we're at it, here are the records for several hundred thousand Americans who are completely or only tangentially related. We hope this helps!
FBI: No, please, stop! We don't want that data!
AT&T: Don't be so modest. Here's a few hundred thousand more!
FBI: Please! Stop! Don't! You're offending the very values upon which J. Edgar Hoover built this place!

That's exactly how it happened.

Re:No, stop, please don't give us that much data! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22671174)

That's the funniest thing I've read on here in a long time. Bravo!

These are not the letters you are looking for. (1, Insightful)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22670900)

The use of these letters to identify potential terrorists has, according to the government audit, increased dramatically since the implementation of the Patriot Act.

I like the way that the Orwellian type language of the WOT infiltrates supposedly objective news. First, the phrasing suggests that more potential terrorists are identified from the use of the letters. Better, and more correct would be "attempt to identify potential terrorists". Second, the notion of "potential" terrorists bothers me to no end. Has any one done a ROC curve [medcalc.be] or the like on the use of these letters or any other method to identify "potential" terrorists? My guess is not. The lack of any scientific method in the identification of "potential" terrorists means we are dealing with an old fashioned witch hunt on a grand scale, full of suspicion, superstition, and prejudice.

Re:These are not the letters you are looking for. (1)

perlchild (582235) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671106)

Am I the only one who's worried they went from "suspected" to "potential" as to who they can tap?

Re:These are not the letters you are looking for. (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671464)

I believe the correct line is "Everyone has the potential to be a terrorist given the right environment, the right situation, and the right materials." Scary, but true. Someone once said that the only difference between terrorists and freedom fighters is the way history views them, and that's absolutely true when you think about it. The Boston Tea Party bordered on a terrorist act when you think about it. And don't get me started on the American Revolution.

We need to pull our heads out of our collective backsides and realize that terrorism is a problem as a direct result of our nation's foreign policy decisions, and realize that the only way to remove the threat of terrorism is to have a Middle East policy that makes sense. We can start by not pressuring OPEC nations to lower oil prices every time our economy gets bad. That, of course, starts with an energy policy that makes sense. The bottom line is that our federal government is directly responsible for the terrorist threat we face, both in terms of the policies that drove these people over the edge and in terms of having previously provided material support to terrorists on more occasions that I can count---who do you think put Hussein and the Taliban in power in the first place? And now we're supposed to trust them to fix the problem? I don't think so.

Throw the bums out. Every political race, vote for someone who is not an incumbent. If everyone did this, we'd have a much less corrupt government in about six years. It's not perfect, but it would be a very good start towards getting rid of terrorism.

Re:These are not the letters you are looking for. (1)

kwietman (795554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671518)

Actually, that's the result of some editing from the original submission. The actual article states that the number of requests for letters, which are typically requested for the purpose of identifying potential terrorist threats, increased substantially. There was nothing in the article (or my submission) which stated that the actual incidence of terrorists being located had changed. I agree that the phrasing is misleading on the face of it, but the intent was to show that government intrusion had vastly increased with official sanction since the enactment of the Patriot Act, much like the incidence of prosecution for homosexual behavior in the Army increased after the enactment of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Proof once again that laws having to do with personal behavior are designed to control it, not allow it.

I'm the optimist (4, Insightful)

Kenrod (188428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671022)


The fact that this information can be found via audits and released publicly signals that our system of government is working pretty well. An effective executive branch (one that can actually protect the innocent) requires some power to operate; that power will be mishandled because the people wielding it are human, meaning they are lazy, incompetent, unfocused. In some cases they may be malicious, but this is a worry for anyone wielding any power anywhere, from prosecutors to defense lawyers to legislators to judges to policemen to presidents.

Re:I'm the optimist (3, Insightful)

KevinKnSC (744603) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671138)

And the fallibility of humans is precisely why we are supposed to have checks and balances in our government, and illustrates why the current situation is unacceptable. It's a lot less likely that someone is improperly targeted with a wiretap if the judicial branch has to review the facts and approve it. If the executive branch is acting properly, what does it have to hide from judicial review?

Re:I'm the optimist (1)

bdjacobson (1094909) | more than 6 years ago | (#22672706)

And the fallibility of humans is precisely why we are supposed to have checks and balances in our government, and illustrates why the current situation is unacceptable. It's a lot less likely that someone is improperly targeted with a wiretap if the judicial branch has to review the facts and approve it. If the executive branch is acting properly, what does it have to hide from judicial review?
They can't tell you what they're hiding because it's a matter of national security. Our lives depend on it.

Re:I'm the optimist (2, Insightful)

eli pabst (948845) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671510)

Which is why that kind of power should never be in the hands of any one person or group. To be done properly, it requires multiple checks by people who are independent entities. Which is why the old system with independent oversight by the FISA court or by the requirement to get a court warrant for a domestic wiretap actually worked. When you have the government spying on Americans with essentially no oversight, you're setting up a system that can readily be abused.

If you're lucky, you get the retroactive "oops our bad!" like this one, which frankly doesn't make me feel any better about it. If they actually named the specific people who were spied on improperly, then those individuals could at least file a lawsuit. However the current judicial rulings seem to suggest that you can't file a suit unless you have evidence that you were spied on, which they're obviously not going to release anytime soon. Sadly this has become rather prophetic: "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"

So, here's a logical solution... (2, Interesting)

scubamage (727538) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671050)

They want to deprive us of our privacy, lets start gathering masses of tens of thousands of people and march on Area 51, the Pentagon, and everywhere else the government labels private. Quid pro quo. We can't have privacy, so why should they?

Shocked (0)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671258)

Let me put on my "shocked" face. :-/

Who didn't see this one coming? I mean, besides the people who think Bush can do no wrong (except on immigration, of course).

Sorry for being a broken record (0, Troll)

Tanman (90298) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671296)

Ron Paul, Ron Paul, Ron Paul. That seems to be the correct answer to all these issues that keep popping up.

And yet he's viewed as a kook. What's that you're saying now? It's a damn shame he doesn't have Reagan's charisma, because it would be a tremendous step in the right direction if Ron Paul could sit in the Oval Office for a few years.

Since he obviously won't win, then the next best thing you can do is write to your representative and senators *with snail mail* and voice your support for RP's ideals. Yeah, it probably won't help much, but at least it will make them paranoid. Perhaps they'll infringe your rights less just so they can save their own skin down the line when the shit hits the fan.

Re:Sorry for being a broken record (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671764)

Why would anybody writing a letter to a government representative, of any sort, voice support for someone else's ideals?

I can understand voicing support for your own ideals, and then pointing out that they are aligned with such and such major figure, but I don't understand why you would voice support for ideals that you consider to belong to someone else.

I'm sorry if you see this as quibbling, but you will get better results if you make statements that make sense to the broadest possible audience.

Re:Sorry for being a broken record (1)

Tanman (90298) | more than 6 years ago | (#22672820)

The reason you give them another voice to follow is because it is much easier to join up with another member of congress on an idea -- to let the other person be the guy who gets the bad rep when things go wrong -- than to try and convince your own wormy slimy politician rep to try and do something original like vote against a popular bill.

Re:Sorry for being a broken record (4, Interesting)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 6 years ago | (#22672850)

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Just because his foreign policy and privacy stances are dead on doesn't mean he's not a kook in other areas. For example, all the others!

And actually his stance on privacy is just a symptom of having a government that doesn't actually work. It's easy to have a government that does no wrong when it doesn't do ANYTHING. A real visionary would find a way to have a functional, utilitarian government AND protect privacy, civil rights, and promote a peaceful non-interventionist foreign policy; and for that I am sorry his voice is marginalized, he has a lot of good things to say on those issues.

And they want immunity? (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671476)

I'm sure glad Hillary Clinton took the time out of her presidential campaign to vote against the effort to grant the phone companies retroactive immunity. Oh, wait...

There are two main problems (4, Insightful)

SpinningAround (449335) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671554)

Firstly, politicians tackle complex, real-world issues with overly simplistic solutions. Often these 'solutions' are the result of 'think of the children' or 'homeland security' knee-jerk reactions to challenging geopolitical events. Pollies seem to regard the value of the solution is in being seen to react rather than being seen to react appropriately. The overly simplistic solution is usually broad, poorly bounded legislation. Any boundaries that are imposed are often badly defined from a legal perspective, or worse deliberately vague as a result of the need for a simple and broad solution to the complex problem. Politicians frequently then fall back on the mantra that new powers or laws will be used infrequently and only in special, unique or exceptional instances. [guardian.co.uk]


This leads to the second problem. The agencies responsible implementing the legislation or using the new powers are not bound by the politicians admonitions about their use. In fact, quite the opposite it true- their very nature and mission encourages them to take the full advantage of whatever powers, rules or procedural changes are implemented in the framework of legislation and common law under which they operate. The only way they can determine the true boundaries of their new powers or a new law is by a process of trial and error, generally involving court cases and other legal mechanisms.


Which is all fine and is the way that laws have been passed and refined by courts for a considerable period of time (if disasterous if you are the individual caught up in a grey area). However it becomes rather more slippery when the implementation of the legislation in question is subject to national security constraints, secret courts, exceptions for back-filling of paperwork and other get-out clauses.

Whilst I might object strenously to the notion that the FBI should be able to tap into my conversations without a warrant or that the UK govt. might like to lock me up for 42 days without charge on spurious 'security' related charges, my most strenuous objections are to the lack of transparency and oversight by independent judiciary in open court or similarly ungagged proceedings.

Re:There are two main problems (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671680)

Firstly, politicians tackle complex, real-world issues with overly simplistic solutions.

As opposed to slashdotters who...uh...nevermind.

Article has the wrong title (2, Interesting)

m4cph1sto (1110711) | more than 6 years ago | (#22671954)

The correct title should be "Telcos give improper access to records, FBI acts swiftly to correct privacy violations". I'm not saying the FBI doesn't screw up (a lot), but come on. This article clearly has an agenda-driven bias.

Slashdot and Politics (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 6 years ago | (#22672812)

Certainly not going to vouch for everything every government agency does, or argue that the US government (or ANY government) is perfect or free from corruption... but seriously, open source software is cool and all that, but open source government probably won't work very well.
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