This doesn't look good to me:
Senate OKs FBI Net Spying
By Declan McCullagh
12:55 p.m. Sep. 14, 2001 PDT
WASHINGTON -- FBI agents soon may be able to spy on Internet users
legally without a court order.
On Thursday evening, two days after the worst terrorist attack in U.S.
history, the Senate approved the "Combating Terrorism Act of 2001," which
enhances police wiretap powers and permits monitoring in more situations.
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The measure, proposed by Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Dianne
Feinstein (D-California), says any U.S. attorney or state attorney general
can order the installation of the FBI's Carnivore surveillance system.
Previously, there were stiffer restrictions on Carnivore and other Internet
Its bipartisan sponsors argue that such laws are necessary to
thwart terrorism. "It is essential that we give our law enforcement
authorities every possible tool to search out and bring to justice those
individuals who have brought such indiscriminate death into our backyard,"
Hatch said during the debate on the Senate floor.
Thursday's vote comes as the nation's capital is reeling from
the catastrophes at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and politicians
are vowing to do whatever is necessary to preserve the safety of Americans.
This week, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire) called for
restrictions on privacy-protecting encryption products, and Carnivore's use
appears on the rise. In England, government officials have asked phone
companies and Internet providers to collect and record all their users'
communications -- in case the massive accumulation of data might yield clues
about Tuesday's terrorist attacks.
Under the Combating Terrorism Act, prosecutors could authorize
surveillance for 48-hour periods without a judge's approval.
Warrantless surveillance appears to be limited to the addresses
of websites visited, the names and addresses of e-mail correspondents, and
so on, and is not intended to include the contents of communications. But
the legislation would cover URLs, which include information such as what Web
pages you're visiting and what terms you type in when visiting search
Circumstances that don't require court orders include an
"immediate threat to the national security interests of the United States,
(an) immediate threat to public health or safety or an attack on the
integrity or availability of a protected computer." That covers most
computer hacking offenses.
During Thursday's floor debate, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont),
head of the Judiciary committee, suggested that the bill went far beyond
merely thwarting terrorism and could endanger Americans' privacy. He also
said he had a chance to read the Combating Terrorism Act just 30 minutes
before the floor debate began.
"Maybe the Senate wants to just go ahead and adopt new abilities
to wiretap our citizens," Leahy said. "Maybe they want to adopt new
abilities to go into people's computers. Maybe that will make us feel safer.
Maybe. And maybe what the terrorists have done made us a little bit less
safe. Maybe they have increased Big Brother in this country."
By voice vote, the Senate attached the Combating Terrorism Act
to an annual spending bill that funds the Commerce, Justice and State
departments for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, then unanimously approved
it. Since the House has not reviewed this version of the appropriations
bill, a conference committee will be created to work out the differences.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), one of the co-sponsors, said the
Combating Terrorism Act would give former FBI Director Louis Freeh what he
had lobbied for years ago: "These are the kinds of things that law
enforcement has asked us for. This combination is relatively modest in
comparison with the kind of terrorist attack we have just suffered."
"Experts in terrorism have been telling us for a long time and
the director of the FBI has been telling us (to make) a few changes in the
law that make it easier for our law enforcement people to do their job," Kyl
It's unclear what day-to-day effects the Combating Terrorism Act
would have on prosecutors and Internet users. Some Carnivore installations
apparently already take place under emergency wiretap authority, and some
civil liberties experts say part of this measure would give that practice
stronger legal footing.
"One of the key issues that have surrounded the use of Carnivore
is being addressed by the Senate in a late-night session during a national
emergency," says David Sobel, general counsel of the Electronic Privacy
A source close to the Senate Judiciary committee pointed out
that the wording of the Combating Terrorism Act is so loose -- the
no-court-order-required language covers "routing" and "addressing" data --
that it's unclear what its drafters intended. The Justice Department had
requested similar legislation last year.
"Nobody really knows what routing and addressing information
is.... If you're putting in addressing information and routing information,
you may not just get (From: lines of e-mail messages), you might also get
content," the source said.
The Combating Terrorism Act also expands the list of criminal
offenses for which traditional, court-ordered wiretaps can be sought to
explicitly include terrorism and computer hacking.
Other portions include assessing how prepared the National Guard
is to respond to weapons of mass destruction, handing the CIA more
flexibility in recruiting informants and improving the storage of U.S.
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