FBI Quietly Forms Secretive Web-Surveillance Unit

The FBI has recently formed a secretive surveillance unit with an ambitious goal: to invent engineering that will allow police a lot more readily eavesdrop on Net and wireless communications.

The establishment of the Quantico, Va.-based mostly unit, which is also staffed by agents from the U.S. Marshals Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency, is a response to technological developments that FBI officials believe outpace law enforcement’s potential to listen in on personal communications.

Although the FBI has been tight-lipped about the creation of its Domestic Communications Assistance Center, or DCAC — it declined to respond to requests made two days ago about who’s working it, for instance — CNET has pieced together details about its operations through interviews and a critique of internal government paperwork.

DCAC’s mandate is broad, covering every thing from attempting to intercept and decode Skype conversations to building customized wiretap hardware or analyzing the gigabytes of data that a wireless provider or social network could turn over in response to a court order. It is also created to serve as a kind of surveillance support desk for state, regional, and other federal police.

The center represents the technological part of the bureau’s “Going Dark” World wide web wiretapping push, which was allotted $54 million by a Senate committee last month. The legal element is no much less essential: as CNET reported on May 4, the FBI needs Internet organizations not to oppose a proposed law that would require social-networks and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Internet e-mail to develop in backdoors for government surveillance.

Throughout an physical appearance last year on Capitol Hill, then-FBI common counsel Valerie Caproni referred in passing, with no elaboration, to “individually tailored” surveillance answers and “very sophisticated criminals.” Caproni stated that new laws targeting social networks and voice over World wide web Protocol conversations have been necessary because “individually tailored solutions have to be the exception and not the rule.

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