Fw: Building in Big Brother
Wed, 5 Apr 2000 03:45:48 +0800
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Building in Big Brother
FBI Director Louis Freeh knows how to milk cyberattacks for all
By David Banisar
April 3, 2000 12:52 AM PST
"We are not asking for extraordinary powers," FBI Director Louis
Freeh told the Senate
Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government
Information on March
28th. Following this comforting statement and a ritual bowing to the
proceeded to request widespread new powers to conduct
surveillance and impose new
penalties in the name of preventing cybercrime.
Louis Freeh wants to snuff out the encryption-using, drug-dealing,
copyright-infringing, child pornographers who he apparently sees as
making up 97
percent of net users. And in the post-Cold War fight for resources,
he has been extremely
effective in gaining money and power for his agency to hunt down the new enemies.
Since Freeh's appointment in 1993, the FBI's budget has more than doubled while most other agencies have seen
substantial declines. He has gained unprecedented powers to demand that communications companies build
wiretapping capability into their networks, including the ability to use cell phones as tracking devices. He's won the
power to conduct black-bag break-ins in the name of national security and to implement "roving wiretaps."
Freeh's only notable loss has been on mandatory key escrow and the Clipper Chip. But while the rest of the
Administration has largely given up on restricting encryption, he is still demanding access to keys. Ironically, all of
these proposals only increase cybercrime by weakening security systems. But why let security get in the way of
Given this history, it's not surprising that the Denial of Service attacks in February set Freeh
off on another round of demands.
Freedom isn't Freeh
It initially appeared that the White House was going to take a reasonable response to the
attacks, recognizing that it was far more important to encourage industry to collectively get
its act together than to pass new surveillance laws. But in typical Washington fashion,
common sense only made a brief appearance and was quickly followed by FBI empire
building with the March 9th release of the interagency Working Group on Unlawful Conduct
on the Internet report titled The Electronic Frontier: The Challenge of Unlawful Conduct Involving the Use of the
The report reviews criminal laws on the Internet and proposes legal and technical changes to make it easier for law
enforcement to investigate crimes. It recommends that companies design systems to facilitate surveillance, tracing
and data collection. It proposes changes in laws that currently limit law enforcement access to information about
users. It attacks anonymity.
A number of the recommendations were immediately introduced (before the report was even publicly released) in
Congress by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and John Kyl (R-AZ). According to Freeh, the Justice Department is
working on a package of additional proposals.
However, this was not enough for Director Freeh. Last week he testified that it would be more "efficient" if Congress
eliminated the need for court orders and allowed the government to obtain information from companies using only
administrative subpoenas. He asked that judges anywhere in the U.S. be allowed to issue orders to trace users
anywhere else in the country. And he'd like the power to use the mob-busting RICO laws against suspected hackers
as young as 15. Freeh's plea to the committee stopped short of calling for a China-like death penalty for hackers, but
perhaps that's in the draft bill under review.
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, the father of the legal right of privacy, once wrote, "the greatest dangers to
liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning, but without understanding." Good security starts
with plugging holes, not creating new ones for the g-men to watch everyone. Just Say No to Freeh.
David Banisar is an attorney and writer in the Washington, D.C.
area. He is the co-author of "The Electronic Privacy Papers"
(Wiley, 1997) and
several other books on privacy, and a Senior Fellow at the
Electronic Privacy Information Center.
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. ^ Stuart Udall
.~ \ http://cyberdelix.net/stuart.htm
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