FBI Wants Real-time Warrantless Access to Online Communication

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
05/03/2013
       
FBI Wants Real-time Warrantless Access to Online Communication

A new proposal would give the federal government real-time access to all private online communications of every American.

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, e-mail, 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. [Emphasis in original.]

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