Cyber-intelligence bill sponsor silent on FBI push to wiretap social networks

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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The author of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) — a bill that would allow the sharing of network cyber threat information between private corporations and the federal government, particularly the NSA — is staying quiet about the prospect of the FBI’s separate push for the ability to wiretap social networks.

First signed into law in 1994, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) currently gives the FBI the ability to legally conduct electronic surveillance of telecommunications networks, including traffic over broadband networks and Voice over IP (VoIP). The FBI morphed into a full-fledged intelligence agency following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

A recent CNET report revealed that the FBI was quietly pushing for a reform to the CALEA, and that the Federal Communications Commission was potentially preparing for regulatory action to amend the law, which would require Internet companies to modify their website code to make it easier to monitor persons of interest for national security purposes. The amendment would affect social networks like Facebook, video chat services like Skype, and web email providers.

Google, Facebook and Twitter have thus far remained silent about the new FBI push to expand its Internet surveillance capabilities.

An amendment to CALEA, however, is only the latest in a sequence of moves by the federal government to expand the influence of the executive branch over the Internet using various attempts to craft legislation or create regulations to address concerns about national security, cybersecurity and the piracy of intellectual property.

Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, sponsored and championed CISPA — which enjoyed the support of companies like Facebook — as a necessary law for the maintenance of national security.

CISPA, however, induced visceral reaction among civil and digital liberties groups, who had just recently helped to defeat Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The groups view CISPA as a danger to individual privacy rights since CISPA would allow the information of private citizens to be monitored by the military.

Rogers’ office did not respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment about CALEA.

Regulatory action by the FCC through net neutrality in 2010 also placed Internet service providers (ISPs) under a federal regulatory framework which governs how ISPs can manage network traffic, later upheld by the Senate Democrats in 2011.

International efforts to regulate the Internet are also underway. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), an agency of the U.N. involving 193 member countries, is expected to meet in Dubai to renegotiate a telecommunications treaty to bring the Internet under the governance of the United Nations.

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