Gov't trying to consolidate it's powers even further...FOR WHAT! : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Friday August 20 6:13 AM ET

U.S. To Seek New Computer Surveillance Power

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Justice Department is seeking new powers to break into private premises and disable security precautions on personal computers as a prelude to a wiretap or further search, the Washington Post reported Friday.

The department wanted to make it easier for law enforcement authorities to get search warrants that would let them monitor suspects' computerized records after break-ins, said the paper, citing documents and interviews with Clinton administration officials.

``In a request set to go to Capitol Hill, Justice officials will ask lawmakers to authorize covert action in response to the growing use of software programs that encrypt, or scramble, computer files,'' the report said. Such encryption makes computers inaccessible to anyone who lacks a special code or ''key.''

Justice officials worry that such software ``is increasingly used as a means to facilitate criminal activity, such as drug trafficking, terrorism, white-collar crime and the distribution of child pornography,'' the Post quoted an Aug. 4 memo by the department as saying.

Under the proposed ``Cyberspace Electronic Security Act,'' investigators armed with a sealed warrant could comb computers for passwords and install devices that override encryption programs, the Post reported, citing the Justice memo.

To pull information from a targeted computer, agents would still be required to get additional authorization from a court, the paper said.

Justice officials were not immediately available for comment. The proposal is the latest in a years-long tug-of-war between the government and computer users who want to protect their privacy by encrypting documents.

While Justice officials said their plan was consistent with constitutional principles, the idea alarmed civil libertarians and privacy advocates.

``They have taken the cyberspace issue and are using it as justification for invading the home,'' said Jack Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an advocacy group in Washington that tracks privacy issues.

David Sobel, general counsel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, said in an e-mail early Friday that the proposal ``strikes at the heart of the Bill of Rights.''

Surreptitious physical entries are relatively rare under existing surveillance laws. Such entries are made only to install hidden microphones, an investigative technique approved only 50 times by federal and state judges last year.

According to Sobel, ``extending this extraordinary power to cases involving computer files would make police break-ins far more common than they are today.''

The proposal followed unsuccessful efforts by FBI Director Louis Freeh and other Justice officials to secure laws requiring built-in ``back doors'' so investigators could pierce powerful encryption programs said to be a boon to criminals.

-- thomas saul (, August 20, 1999


And you are surprised by this, Mr. Saul?

This is S.O.P. for tyrants... Welcome to the police state. :-(

-- Jim Morris (, August 20, 1999.

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