How The FBI Actually Does Much Of The NSA's Spying, But Is Keeping That Quiet

28/11/2013 19:26

Source: Techdirt


For all the focus on the NSA of late, a few folks have been trying to remind everyone that the FBI is heavily involved in all of this and, in many ways, has an equally bad if not worse record in abusing the rights of Americans. Many of the programs discussed were to retrieve information by the FBI or the NSA, and it turns out that the FBI often does much of the dirty work for the NSA, including interfacing with various companies to get access to data. We'd mentioned recently how the FBI was pushing tech companies to install "port readers" at both telco and tech companies (though, many tech firms were resisting), and also that the FBI had been ramping up their use of malware.

Shane Harris, over at Foreign Policy has a nice
profile on the FBI's Data Intercept Technology Unit, or DITU, who handles most of this work. It repeats the story of the port readers, but adds how the DITU is often the unit that works with tech companies and then passes info along to the NSA -- so some companies don't even realize they're dealing with the NSA, believing it's just via the FBI (not that this would make things any better). It also notes that the DITU tends to be made up of a lot of ex-telco guys who know very specifically how the telco networks work, something that at least some people at the telcos may be uncomfortable with the government knowing (though, again, the telcos seem much more willing to open up to the government than the tech companies).

It's an interesting profile all around, but at the end it gets even more interesting, as an ex-law enforcement source that Harris talks to highlights that without investigating what the DITU is up to, Congress' exploration of what's going on will be very incomplete.

The former law enforcement official said Holder and Mueller should have offered testimony and explained how the FBI works with the NSA. He was concerned by reports that the NSA had not been adhering to its own minimization procedures, which the Justice Department and the FBI review and vouch for when submitting requests to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

"Where they hadn't done what was represented to the court, that's unforgivable. That's where I got sick to my stomach," the former law enforcement official said. "The government's position is, we go to the court, apply the law -- it's all approved. That makes for a good story until you find out what was approved wasn't actually what was done."

That makes it sound like even more bad behavior is going to be revealed eventually...

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