FBI Wants Real-time Warrantless Access to Online Communication

FBI Wants Real-time Warrantless Access to Online CommunicationThe New American – by Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.

The Obama administration is attacking the Fourth Amendment on every possible front. The latest assault would require Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, etc. to submit to real-time warrantless wiretaps on customer accounts. Tweets, Facebook posts and direct messages, email, all conversations on messenger apps, and all other online communications would be subject to real-time federal monitoring without first obtaining a warrant to conduct the surveillance, as required by the Constitution.  

Should any of these tech giants refuse to bend to the federal will, they will incur fines that could add up hundreds of thousands of dollars. If their resistance goes on for more than 90 days, the fines would then double every day until the company relents and gives the government access to client accounts and communications.

This is the story told by “current and former U.S. officials familiar with the effort” as first reported by the Washington Post. In the article dated April 28, the Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima writes, “Driven by FBI concerns that it is unable to tap the Internet communications of terrorists and other criminals, the task force’s proposal would penalize companies that failed to heed wiretap orders — court authorizations for the government to intercept suspects’ communications.”

Typically, the government justifies its unconstitutional searches and seizures by trotting out the familiar bogeyman of terrorism. Since the ruse is working, the federal government will continue to cover domestic danger to our most fundamental, constitutionally-protected civil liberties behind a front of foreign threats to our freedom.

In an essay published online Thursday, May 2, Judge Andrew Napolitano — constitutional scholar and consistent advocate of liberty — laid out the case against the president’s plan:

If enacted, the proposed legislation will punish those Internet service providers that fail to share secrets with the feds. The Obama administration hopes the legislation, if enacted, will enable the feds to set up a system that will let them tap into Internet service providers’ data directly from FBI offices, without having to serve the warrant or visit the Internet providers’ premises.

What a temptation for abuse that will become. It will compel data sharing between the government and Internet service providers that will eviscerate what little remains of personal email privacy. It will profoundly violate the Fourth Amendment by turning employees of Internet service providers into de facto unpaid federal agents.

The Fourth Amendment guarantees the “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” This fundamental freedom from government oppression is a sine qua non of personal liberty.

Drafters of the amendments that became the Bill of Rights understood that requiring judges to look over the shoulder of federal agents was one way to prevent privation of the right of the people to be free from the constant surveillance of government.

In the new proposal, the FBI would give Internet companies a chance to develop their own plan to place the wiretaps on clients’ online activity. There are limits to this “freedom,” however.

If the company’s solution fails to meet federal muster, the FBI would mandate the enforcement of its own surveillance standards and practices.

While this FBI proposal is new, it’s not as if the government isn’t already spying on citizens. In 2005, the Bush administration expanded the authority given the feds under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

After those amendments were enacted, internet service providers and Voice Over IP (VOIP) providers were required to grant the FBI real-time access to their customers’ activity.

This latest expansion of the surveillance state would extend the boundaries of federal power over the internet to include social networks, instant messenger apps, and online gaming, as well.

According to the Washington Post story, the president has yet to give his support to the proposal. However, the piece also quotes FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann as saying that “the issue is the bureau’s top legislative priority this year.”

Regardless of corporate resistance to such federal fiddling with their customers’ otherwise private communications, the government can be expected to encompass every word, act, or thought — whether real or virtual — within the walls of the federalpanopticon. Consider the statement of one former federal prosecutor as reported by the Washington Post: “Today, if you’re a tech company that’s created a new and popular way to communicate, it’s only a matter of time before the FBI shows up with a court order to read or hear some conversation,” said Michael Sussmann. “If the data can help solve crimes, the government will be interested.”

The greatest, however, is the federal government’s decade long project to destroy the foundation of freedom and civil liberty upon which this Republic is built.


Joe A. Wolverton, II, J.D. is a correspondent for The New American and travels frequently nationwide speaking on topics of nullification, the NDAA, and the surveillance state. He can be reached at jwolverton@thenewamerican.com.


5 thoughts on “FBI Wants Real-time Warrantless Access to Online Communication

  1. So the Federal Bureau of Israel wants complete access? I thought they already had it as everything is routed through Israeli telecoms?

  2. Something appears malfunctioning with website.

    I can post on first page, but not on page 2.


  3. The authority of the F.B.I.
    What better place to look to, than the F.B.I.’s own manual pasted below. (oh indecently [Congress never created the F.B.I.], Google it, the DOJ did, to investigate DOJ employee’s )

    Manual of Investigative Operation! and Guidelines
    Part I

    188-1 STATUTES

    EFFECTIVE: 11/23/87

    188-1.1 Public Law 90-351 (Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets
    Act of 1968) ( note) this is a D.C. Public law

    “The Director of the FBI is authorized to develop new or
    improved approaches, techniques, systems, equipment and devices to
    improve and strengthen law enforcement.” FBI crime resistance
    activities are designed to fulfill the mandate contained in this

    EFFECTIVE: 11/23/87

    The authority for the F.B.I , as stated in their own manual, is Public law 90-351
    Exporting/ Importing Nuclear Material
    Public Law 90-351 regulations
    (Added Pub. L. 90–351, title III, § 802, June 19, 1968, 82 Stat. 218
    10 CFR § 110.1 PURPOSE AND SCOPE.
    (a) The regulations in this part prescribe licensing, enforcement, and rulemaking procedures and criteria, under the Atomic Energy Act, for the export of nuclear equipment and material, as set out in §§ 110.8 and 110.9, and the import of nuclear equipment and material, as set out in § 110.9a. This part also gives notice to all persons who knowingly provide to any licensee, applicant, contractor, or subcontractor, components, equipment, materials, or other goods or services, that relate to a licensee’s or applicant’s activities subject to this part, that they may be individually subject to NRC enforcement action for violation of § 110.7b.

    • Category 0 – Nuclear Materials, Facilities & Equipment (and Miscellaneous Items)
    • Category 1 – Materials, Chemicals, Microorganisms, and Toxins
    • Category 2 – Materials Processing
    • Category 3 – Electronics
    • Category 4 – Computers
    • Category 5 (Part 1) – Telecommunications
    • Category 5 (Part 2) – Information Security
    • Category 6 – Sensors and Lasers
    • Category 7 – Navigation and Avionics
    • Category 8 – Marine
    • Category 9 – Propulsion Systems, Space Vehicles and Related Equipment
    The Procedures for interception
    Procedures for interception
    TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 119
    § 2518. Procedure for interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications
    (1) Each application for an order authorizing or approving the interception of a wire, oral, or electronic communication under this chapter shall be made in writing upon oath or affirmation to a judge of competent jurisdiction and shall state the applicant’s authority to make such application. Each application shall include the following information:
    (a) the identity of the investigative or law enforcement officer making the application, and the officer authorizing the application;
    (b) a full and complete statement of the facts and circumstances relied upon by the applicant, to justify his belief that an order should be issued, including
    (i) details as to the particular offense that has been, is being, or is about to be committed,
    (ii) except as provided in subsection (11), a particular description of the nature and location of the facilities from which or the place where the communication is to be intercepted,
    (iii) a particular description of the type of communications sought to be intercepted,
    (iv) the identity of the person, if known, committing the offense and whose communications are to be intercepted;
    (Added Pub. L. 90–351, title III, § 802, June 19, 1968, 82 Stat. 218

  4. This obviously has nothing to do with terrorism. It is simply an attempt to further expand the unconstitutional practice of spying on citizens, for the sole purpose of maintaining their illegitimate authority.

    This is precisely what the constitution was intended to prevent.

  5. fbi scum – please order 40,000 ++++ expensive neckties for yourselves.

    Have fun meeting the 30,000,000 Patriots who know what real trash you ALL are.

    We KNOW that you ALL were in on all the murders: JFK/RFK/MLK/RR/Waco/OKC/911 and one hell of a LOT more than just those.

    We KNOW you are ALL israel shills and scumbag corporate whores.

    As that poster said: We want YOU – MUCH more than you will ever want any of us.

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