FBI: Monitoring Skype and Gmail are "top priority" in 2013

It is a well known fact that the FBI can find out almost anything about you in a matter of minutes. It is also a well known fact that the FBI can monitor all of your online communication. What the FBI can't do, however, is monitor you in real time. Services such as Google Voice, Gmail and Dropbox are all available to the FBI, but after a certain period of time - which may already be too late. 

At a talk in Washington, D.C, FBI general counsel, Andrew Weissmann, said that being able to monitor Gmail, Google Voice and Dropbox, among other services, was now a "top priority" for the FBI as terrorists move online to discuss their plans. The reason the FBI cannot effectively monitor email and social networks is because of the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) which allows the government to force Internet providers and phone companies to install surveillance software onto their network, but does not cover email, cloud services (like SkyDrive or Dropbox) or chat providers, like Skype.

According to Weissmann, the FBI want the power to mandate the surveillance of anything from Google Voice to online Scrabble (a hotspot for terrorist communication, according to Weissmann). 

The government can currently request that companies provide "technical assistance necessary to accomplish the interception" under the Title III "Wiretap Act". According to Valerie Caproni, Weissmann's predecessor, the current system does not provide an "effective lever" to force companies to set up surveillance measures.

The FBI has a problem with Gmail, as it is sent from the user's computer to Google's servers, while encrypted with an SSL-level encryption. This makes it very difficult for the FBI to effectively monitor communication without Google's consent. Google, however, is happy to give their consent. A Google spokesperson told Slate: "CALEA doesn't apply to Gmail but an order under the Wiretap Act may. At some point we may expand our transparency report to cover this topic in more depth, but until then I'm not able to provide additional information." 

Skype has also come under the spotlight, providing a secure way to chat. Skype is owned by Microsoft, and we reached out to them to ask if Microsoft would comply with FBI requests to view Skype conversations in real time; we will update the article if we hear back.  

Weissmann said that the FBI is currently working with "members of the intelligence community" as this is a matter of "top priority this year." The FBI doesn't plan to be closed about this, with Weissmann saying that "there should be a public debate about [about this]." 

Source: Slate | Image via WallSave.com 

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42 Comments

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So instead posting my dropbox links in gmail to Al-Qaeda with AK47 prices, I will go back to IRC using SSL connection to some random public IRC server...

SIP + TLS + GOST 256 bit on Linux. No dodgy "corrected" by NSA s-boxes like in AES or _NSAKEYs like in WinNT+.

so, this why Gmail (or other google services in this matter)
insist and keep pestering me,
that i MUST provide my phone number, for 'password recovery',
which i keep denying all the time.

for <inser deities here> sakes, NO.
I codes my own pseduo-random password generator program,
I need no password recovery,
I doesn't even need to remember each site's password,
but google want me to provide way for 'password recovery' by exposing my easily trackable phone number ?

Orwell must be proud.

I remember reading something about California trying to pass a law to make their requests to places like gmail illegal without a warrant.

SpyderCanopus said,
It was passed in 1776 and it's called the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.

oh my... you know if you don't know the constitution, why go around talking about it? the 4th amendment was not passed in 1776...... it was ADMENDED to the constitution in 1791

oh and the constitution itself was not adopted in 1776 either... Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787

Well I would imagine that since the Patriot Act allows US intelligence agencies to access the details of non-US citizens communications as Skype and Gmail are owned by US companies I would say we're all affected by this

"terrorists" easily have the capabilities to code their own secure chat/file transfer software, monitoring popular websites/programs does nothing except spy on normal users.

exotoxic said,
"terrorists" easily have the capabilities to code their own secure chat/file transfer software, monitoring popular websites/programs does nothing except spy on normal users.

IIRC one of the Hofstad group members used a normal chat program. Which was a terrorist organization with allot of ties to the middle-east.

Not sure how this will be effective; there are so many ways to exchange encrypted information over the internet, they certainly can't monitor them all.

Please - it isn't all about terrorism. Ordinary crooks started switching to non-traditional voice communication since it became possible for a very sensible reason - it could not be tapped (either easily or - in all too many cases - at all). Terror groups (and especially those sponsored by nation-states) have even MORE reason to hide communications from Official Snoopery - do you REALLY think the adoption of one-time pads by al-Quaida is all about the United States? (While the US was their biggest adversary, the US aren't the only nation looking to nail their hides to some barn doors.) Besides, the FBI seldom sticks its oar in international counter-terrorism - that is typically the bailiwick of the CIA and NSA. (Contrariwise, neither typically stick an oar in DOMESTIC counterterror.) Terrorism is an issue - however, it's not the only one.

I'll be sure to end every conversation with "Praise Allah, death to the infidels!". Anything to make the FBI feel useful.

Jdawg683 said,
of course, the Govt's definition of terrorist these days is anyone that disagrees with them.

And of course anyone that dares to actually think instead of just sucking down their spoon-fed propaganda

Exactly. I've got family in NSA for decades (Hi A$$hole!) and believe me, they already have inroads to everything they want, this just makes it easier and legal to do out in the open. They don't call it the World Wide Wiretap for nothing. :-)

I'll be sure to provide lots of sarcastic disinfo in my chats I'm sure my next vacation will be a huge blast numbskulls...