By Declan McCullagh and David Warner
James Comey was confirmed as the new FBI director by the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation at a hearing on Capital Hill recently. But Comey has a lot of explaining to do as new revelations emerge that the U.S. government is quietly pressuring telecommunications providers to install eavesdropping technology deep inside companies’ internal networks to facilitate surveillance efforts.
Unbeknownst to many, a little-noticed section of the Patriot Act that added one word – “process” – to existing law authorized the FBI to implant its own surveillance technology on carriers’ networks. It was in part an effort to put the bureau’s Carnivore device, which also had a pen register mode, on a firmer legal footing.
As a result of this near carte blanche surveillance, the FBI has developed custom “port reader” software to intercept Internet metadata in real time. And, in some cases, it wants to force Internet providers to use the software.