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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Police State: FBI and NSA Poised to Gain New Surveillance Powers Under Trump

Police State: FBI and NSA Poised to Gain New Surveillance Powers Under Trump
  • Attorney general, CIA picks oppose Apple, Google on spying
  • New rule in effect Dec. 1 gives FBI greater hacking authority
The FBI, National Security Agency and CIA are likely to gain expanded surveillance powers under President-elect Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress, a prospect that has privacy advocates and some lawmakers trying to mobilize opposition.
Trump’s first two choices to head law enforcement and intelligence agencies -- Republican Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Republican Representative Mike Pompeo for director of the Central Intelligence Agency -- are leading advocates for domestic government spying at levels not seen since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The fights expected to play out in the coming months -- in Senate confirmation hearings and through executive action, legislation and litigation -- also will set up an early test of Trump’s relationship with Silicon Valley giants including Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. Trump signaled as much during his presidential campaign, when he urged a consumer boycott of Apple for refusing to help the FBI hack into a terrorist’s encrypted iPhone.
An “already over-powerful surveillance state” is about to “be let loose on the American people,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director for Demand Progress, an internet and privacy advocacy organization.

New Hacking Rule

In a reversal of curbs imposed after Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 about mass data-gathering by the NSA, Trump and Congress may move to reinstate the collection of bulk telephone records, renew powers to collect the content of e-mails and other internet activity, ease restrictions on hacking into computers and let the FBI keep preliminary investigations open longer.
A first challenge for privacy advocates comes this week: A new rule is set to go into effect on Dec. 1 letting the FBI get permission from a judge in a single jurisdiction to hack into multiple computers whose locations aren’t known.
“Under the proposed rules, the government would now be able to obtain a single warrant to access and search thousands or millions of computers at once; and the vast majority of the affected computers would belong to the victims, not the perpetrators, of a cybercrime,” Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who serves on the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.
Wyden is one of seven senators, including libertarian Republican Rand Paul, who have introduced a bill, S. 3475, to delay the new policy until July to give Congress time to debate its merits and consider amendments.

Orlando, San Bernardino

Sessions, Pompeo and officials with national security and law enforcement agencies have argued that expanded surveillance powers are needed, especially because of the threat of small, deadly terrorist plots that are hard to detect, like the killing of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in June and 14 people in San Bernardino, California, last year.
The FBI had at one point opened a preliminary investigation into the Orlando killer, Omar Mateen, but didn’t have the authority to keep it going for lack of evidence of wrongdoing.
“What’s needed is a fundamental upgrade to America’s surveillance capabilities,” Pompeo and a co-author wrote in a Wall Street Journal commentary in January. “Legal and bureaucratic impediments to surveillance should be removed.”
Pompeo and Sessions want to repeal a 2015 law that prohibits the FBI and NSA from collecting bulk phone records -- “metadata” such as numbers called and dates and times -- on Americans who aren’t suspected of wrongdoing.
"Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database," Pompeo wrote.
Press aides for Sessions and Pompeo declined to comment.

Warrantless Interceptions

Sessions has opposed restraints on NSA surveillance and said in June that he supported legislation to expand the types of internet data the FBI can intercept without warrants.
Congress is also expected to consider legislation early next year that would renew the government’s ability to collect the content of e-mail and other internet activity from companies such as Google and Facebook Inc.
Under the Prism program, investigators pursuing suspected terrorists can intercept the content of electronic communications believed to come from outside the U.S. without specific warrants even if one end of the communications is inside the country or involves an American.

Patriot Act

Prism came under criticism when it was exposed by Snowden, the former NSA contractor who stole hundreds of thousands of documents on agency surveillance programs. Section 702 of the USA Patriot Act, under which Prism and other spy programs are conducted, is set to expire at the end of 2017 if it isn’t reauthorized by Congress.
James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has said he also wants to renew a debate early next year about whether Apple and other companies can resist court warrants seeking to unlock encrypted communications. The agency went to court trying to force Apple to create new software to crack password protection on a phone used by the shooter in San Bernardino.
“Boycott Apple until they give up the information,” Trump said at a rally in South Carolina in February. He said Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive officer, “is looking to do a big number, probably to show how liberal he is. Apple should give up.”
While the FBI dropped that case against Apple after buying a tool to hack into the phone, the increasing use of encryption on mobile devices and messaging services remains a challenge to national security and law enforcement agencies.

Browsing History

Republicans led by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina are expected to re-introduce legislation requiring companies to give investigators access to encrypted communications.
The FBI is also seeking legislation that would allow it to obtain “non-content electronic communication transactional records,” such as browsing histories and computer Internet Protocol addresses, without court oversight or a warrant.
Sessions and Burr supported the legislation earlier this year, while it was opposed by major technology groups as well as Google and Facebook.

How Much Does The FBI Really Know About You?

Submitted by Derrick Broze via TheAntiMedia.org,
The Federal Bureau of Investigations is facing a new lawsuit from EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) regarding the agency’s latest biometric identification system. The FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system is made up of fingerprints, iris scans, faceprints, and other facial recognition data. EPIC is suing regarding the FBI’s plan to include tattoos and scars in the database.
According to EPIC:
“With NGI, the FBI will expand the number of uploaded photographs and provide investigators with ‘automated facial recognition search capability.’ The FBI intends to do this by eliminating restrictions on the number of submitted photographs (including photographs that are not accompanied by tenprint fingerprints) and allowing the submission of non-facial photographs (e.g. scars or tattoos).”

“The FBI also widely disseminates this NGI data. According to the FBI’s latest NGI fact sheet, 24,510 local, state, tribal, federal and international partners submitted queries to NGI in September 2016.”
EPIC is asking a judge to force the FBI to release records about its plan to share the biometric data with the U.S. Department of Defense. EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year, but the FBI has so far refused to release the 35 pages of responsive records. EPIC and privacy advocates are concerned about the potential for cases of mistaken identity and abuse of the collected data. EPIC also argues “the FBI stated that ‘[i]ncreased collection and retention of personally identifiable information presents a correspondingly increased risk that the FBI will then be maintaining more information that might potentially be subject to loss or unauthorized use.”
Although very little is actually known about the database, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and EPIC have been able to uncover that the FBI would like to track every individual as they move from one location to another. In 2013, EPIC obtained a document that showed “NGI shall return an incorrect candidate a maximum of 20% of the time.”
In 2011, EFF observed the growing biometrics trend:
Once the collection of biometrics becomes standardized, it becomes much easier to locate and track someone across all aspects of their life. EFF believes that perfect tracking is inimical to a free society. A society in which everyone’s actions are tracked is not, in principle, free. It may be a livable society, but would not be our society.”
In 2014, EFF received documents from the FBI related to the NGI system. Based on the records, EFF estimated the facial recognition component of NGI would include as many as 52 million face images by 2015. Indeed, the danger of abuse from facial recognition programs is on the rise. Activist Post recently highlighted a new report from Georgetown Law University’s Center for Privacy and Technology that details how law enforcement is using facial recognition software without the knowledge or consent of the people. The report, “The Perpetual Line-Up: Unregulated Police Face Recognition in America,” examines several cases of misuse or abuse of facial recognition technology.
Facial recognition software is not the only type of surveillance tool the FBI has an interest in. The Bureau is reportedly set to sign a contract with Dataminr that will provide the feds with an upgrade to social media monitoring software. According to the Federal Business Opportunities’ official government page, the contract will provide the FBI with around 200 licenses for Dataminr’s Advanced Alerting Tool. This upgrade “will permit the FBI to search the complete Twitter firehose, in near real-time, using customizable filters.”
The FBI claims to want the social media tool for detecting and catching terrorists, but it doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to see how this could be applied to U.S. citizens. The pursuit of facial recognition software and social media monitoring tools is just the latest step in the expanding war on privacy, which is itself a part of the eternal war on freedom. Whether privacy will exist as a concept in the near future depends on the steps the American people choose to take in the present moment.

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