Who Needs CISPA? Feds Already Snooping On Private Electronic Communications

surveillance_of_americans

The White House has indicated that President Obama might veto the rotten CISPA bill if it makes it through the Senate and to his desk. That sounds good, right? Well, maybe he’s planning to veto the bill because he doesn’t need it.

Senior Obama administration officials have secretly authorized the interception of communications carried on portions of networks operated by AT&T and other Internet service providers, a practice that might otherwise be illegal under federal wiretapping laws.

The secret legal authorization from the Justice Department originally applied to a cybersecurity pilot project in which the military monitored defense contractors’ Internet links. Since then, however, the program has been expanded by President Obama to cover all critical infrastructure sectors including energy, healthcare, and finance starting June 12.

“The Justice Department is helping private companies evade federal wiretap laws,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which obtained over 1,000 pages of internal government documents and provided them to CNET this week. “Alarm bells should be going off.”

Those documents show the National Security Agency and the Defense Department were deeply involved in pressing for the secret legal authorization, with NSA director Keith Alexander participating in some of the discussions personally. Despite initial reservations, including from industry participants, Justice Department attorneys eventually signed off on the project.

The Justice Department agreed to grant legal immunity to the participating network providers in the form of what participants in the confidential discussions refer to as “2511 letters,” a reference to the Wiretap Act codified at 18 USC 2511 in the federal statute books.

Read the whole thing. According to the article, currently there is a banner notifying users when they’re being spied on. Who knows how long that will last. Also, CISPA would make it so they don’t need these 2511 letters. Under CISPA the providers wouldn’t even have to notify anyone that they turned over their private communications to the government. If the administration is already doing this, I’m thinking the veto threat is just a bluff.

Big Brother is watching.