According to a Justice Department memo, the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court approved each and every request made by the government in 2015. All of the 1,457 requests made last year by the NSA and FBI were approved. This was the case in 2014, as well. All 1,379 requests submitted were approved by the court. There was, however, a significant increase in requests that were modified by the court before they were approved: 80 applications were revised in 2015, as opposed to 19 in 2014.
Additionally, according to the report, the FBI sent out 48,642 national security letters (NSL) in 2015. NSLs are demands for information which include gag orders forbidding the recipient from disclosing the request.
The FISA Court is responsible for approving or denying electronic spying requests for use in foreign intelligence activities. It should be noted that the role of the court is to provide oversight–not to working in concert with the government.
Similarly, during the second half of 2015, government requests for Facebook to spy on its users increased 13% to 46,763. This is according to Facebook’s bi-annual transparency report. Included in the requests were personal data and messaging content from Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram.
Sixty percent of those requests for access to the data of Facebook users in the U.S. came with a non-disclosure order preventing Facebook from alerting the user to the fact that their personal data had been accessed and their communications were being monitored.
To make matters worse, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is one step closer to being authorized to remotely access computers anywhere in the world. According to TechDirt:
“The proposed amendments to Rule 41 remove jurisdiction limitations, which would allow the FBI to obtain a search warrant in, say, Virginia, and use it to ‘search’ computers across the nation using Network Investigative Techniques (NITs).
The DOJ claims the updates are needed because suspects routinely anonymize their connections, making it difficult to determine where they’re actually located. Opponents of the changes point out that this significantly broadens the power of magistrate judges, who would now be able to approve search warrants targeting any computer anywhere in the world.”
There has been no congressional opposition to the proposed amendments, with the exception of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Meanwhile, National Intelligence chief James Clapper has been attempting to reverse all the progress made over the past couple years with encrypted communications. Clapper recently referred to encryption as “not a good thing.”
The encrypted communications market emerged in reaction to the government’s overzealous efforts to sidestep the 4th Amendment. The government inadvertently created what it is now trying to destroy.
Written by: Sneacker
(Security Affairs – FISA, surveillance)