WASHINGTON — The FBI says its “top priority” this year is to have its surveillance authority expanded so it can monitor live the web activities of Americans using GChat, Yahoo! Messenger or DropBox services Asked for clarification, the agency specified: “You know, those Americans engaged in crime, or whatever.”
The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, is a 1994 federal law related to investigative surveillance which does little to address Web-based or Internet spying. Chris Schwartz, an FBI spokesman, says the agency has been “missing out” on millions of online conversations that could be “quite juicy” or even, he vaguely hinted, unlawful.
“If we’re not the ones reading and monitoring every online interaction, who is?” Schwartz asked during a conference call with reporters. “The current system is full of holes, holes which make it well-nigh impossible to know what every single American is saying and doing at any given time. For crime-fighting purposes, I mean. Of course.”
Schwartz added: “The terrorists! We’re talking about the terrorists, naturally. Did anyone forget about them?”
The ACLU says the unwarranted tracking and surveillance of American citizens is on the rise. Cell phones are regularly searched during arrests; increasingly, DNA is allowed to be taken as well as fingerprints. Authorities have also been pushing the limits of using GPS services to follow suspects. Recently, Attorney General Eric Holder said drone strikes on American soil would only occur “if [it was] a really, really big deal.”