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FBI Monitoring Internet Activity

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    FBI wants widespread monitoring of illegal Internet activity Anne Broache http://www.news.com/8301-10784_3-9926899-7.html WASHINGTON--The FBI on Wednesday
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2008
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      FBI wants widespread monitoring of 'illegal' Internet activity
      Anne Broache
      http://www.news.com/8301-10784_3-9926899-7.html


      WASHINGTON--The FBI on Wednesday called for new legislation that
      would allow federal police to monitor the Internet for "illegal
      activity."

      The suggestion from FBI Director Robert Mueller, which came during a
      House of Representatives Judiciary Committee hearing, appears to go
      beyond a current plan to monitor traffic on federal-government
      networks. Mueller seemed to suggest that the bureau should have a
      broad "omnibus" authority to conduct monitoring and surveillance of
      private-sector networks as well.

      The surveillance should include all Internet traffic, Mueller said,
      "whether it be .mil, .gov, .com--whichever network you're talking
      about." (See the transcript of the hearing.)

      In response to questions from Rep. Darrell Issa, a California
      Republican, Mueller said his idea "balances on one hand, the privacy
      rights of the individual who are receiving the information, but on the
      other hand, given the technology, the necessity of having some omnibus
      search capability utilizing filters that would identify the illegal
      activity as it comes through and give us the ability to preempt that
      illegal activity where it comes through a choke point."

      In response, Issa said: "Can you have someone on your staff designated
      to work with members of Congress on trying to craft that legislation?"

      If any omnibus Internet-monitoring proposal became law, it could
      implicate the Fourth Amendment's guarantee of freedom from
      unreasonable searches and seizures. In general, courts have ruled that
      police need search warrants to obtain the content of communication,
      and the federal Wiretap Act created "super warrant" wiretap orders
      that require additional steps and judicial oversight.

      In addition, it's unclear whether "illegal activity" would be limited
      to responding to denial-of-service attacks and botnets, or would also
      include detecting other illegal activities, such as online gambling,
      the distribution of "obscene" images of adults engaged in sexual acts,
      or selling drugs without a license.


      Robert Mueller

      (Credit: FBI )To be fair, Wednesday's discussion of the plan was
      geared toward cybercrime and the Bush administration's classified
      "cyberinitiative," which includes a shadowy program known as Einstein.

      Some politicians have already raised concerns that even Einstein,
      which is described as dealing only with government networks and not
      private ones, could infringe upon the privacy rights of American
      citizens. It's already in place at 15 federal agencies, but Homeland
      Security has said it's still preparing the necessary privacy impact
      assessments for a proposed $293 million governmentwide Einstein
      expansion.

      Issa, for his part, referred on Wednesday to malicious attacks being
      undertaken by foreign and domestic hackers who want to "take control
      of computers" and harvest the national-security secrets and private
      information of government agencies, private companies, and individual
      Americans.

      "What authorities do you need to monitor, looking for those illegal
      activities, and then act on those, both defensively and, either
      yourselves or certainly other agencies, offensively in order to shut
      down a crime in process?" Issa asked.

      In response, Mueller said he would be happy to have his legislative
      staff work with members of Issa's committee on creating a bill for a
      broader-reaching surveillance system.

      Issa suggested that perhaps the FBI already has the power to seek
      voluntary private-sector partners that would like to be "defended" by
      its agents, provided that they give the FBI their consent. Mueller,
      however, wasn't so sure, saying, "that's going to require some thought."


      CNET News.com's Declan McCullagh contributed to this report.

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