Analysis: New Law Gives Government Six Months to Turn Internet and Phone Systems into Permanent Spying Architecture – UPDATED

A new law expanding the government’s spying powers gives the Bush Administration a six-month window to install possibly permanent back doors in the nation’s communication networks.  The legislation was passed hurriedly by Congress over the weekend and signed into law Sunday by President Bush.The bill, known as the Protect America Act, removes the prohibition on warrantless spying on Americans abroad and gives the government wide powers to order communication service providers such as cell phone companies and ISPs to make their networks available to government eavesdroppers.

The Administration pushed for passage of the changes to close what it called a “surveillance gap,” referring to a long-standing feature of the nation’s surveillance laws that required the government to get court approval to capture communications inside the United States.

While the nation’s spy laws have been continually loosened since 9/11, the Administration never pushed for the right to tap the nation’s domestic communication networks until a secret court recently struck down a key pillar of the government’s secret spying program.

The Administration argues that the world’s communication networks now route many foreign to foreign calls and emails through switches in the United States.

Prior to the law’s passage, the nation’s spy agencies, such as the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency, didn’t need any court approval to spy on foreigners so long as the wiretaps were outside the United States.

Now, those agencies are free to order services like Skype, cell phone companies and arguably even search engines to comply with secret spy orders to create back doors in domestic communication networks for the nation’s spooks.  While it’s unclear whether the wiretapping can be used for domestic purposes, the law only requires that the programs that give rise to  such orders have a “significant purpose” of foreign intelligence gathering.

The law:

Read it at Threat Level – Wired Blogs

  1. illa morales

    Power Without Responsibility
    The Nation: Surveillance Legislation Boosts Surveillance On Citizens With No Accountability

  2. Barbara

    If people within the United States are communicating with known or suspected terrorists, I want them monitored.

  3. And what happens, Barbara, if the powers behind this activity decide that YOU are communicating with a suspected terrorist – and you have none of your avenues of recourse available anymore? THEN is it alright with you?

  4. joseph

    You can drive a UFO through the loopholes in this warrantless wiretap fiasco.
    Q. Currently unclear on the sunset issue of this chip-
    matter, should one extract their wiretap-who does it
    belong to?
    Q.Is one even allowed to remove their wiretap?
    Q.Not for me,but-do these wiretaps affect pacemakers?
    Q.Do one have an obligation or right to inform others near
    me that their conversations may be monitored/stored?
    Q.Is one allowed to disperse political views concerning
    their lifes experiences?
    Q.And how would a US citizen find out how they were
    fraudulently/reverse targeted as a foreign terrorist or
    an agent of a foreign enemy?

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