Justice Department wants all web surfing tracked

Justice Department seeks to have all web surfing tracked

Raw Story
January 25, 2011

The US Justice Department wants Internet service providers and cell phone companies to be required to hold on to records for longer to help with criminal prosecutions.

“Data retention is fundamental to the department’s work in investigating and prosecuting almost every type of crime,” US deputy assistant attorney general Jason Weinstein told a congressional subcommittee on Tuesday.

“Some records are kept for weeks or months; others are stored very briefly before being purged,” Weinstein said in remarks prepared for delivery to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.

He said Internet records are often “the only available evidence that allows us to investigate who committed crimes on the Internet.”

Internet and phone records can be “crucial evidence” in a wide array of cases, including child exploitation, violent crime, fraud, terrorism, public corruption, drug trafficking, online piracy and computer hacking, Weinstein said, but only if the data still exists when law enforcement needs it.

“In some ways, the problem of investigations being stymied by a lack of data retention is growing worse,” he told lawmakers.

Weinstein noted inconsistencies in data retention, with one mid-sized cell phone company not keeping records, a cable Internet provider not tracking the Internet protocol addresses it assigns to customers and another only keeping them for seven days.

Law enforcement is hampered by a “legal regime that does not require providers to retain non-content data for any period of time” while investigators must request records on a case-by-case basis through the courts, he said.

“The investigator must realize he needs the records before the provider deletes them, but providers are free to delete records after a short period of time, or to destroy them immediately,” Weinstein added.

The justice official said greater data retention requirements raise legitimate privacy concerns but “any privacy concerns about data retention should be balanced against the needs of law enforcement to keep the public safe.”

John Morris, general counsel at the non-profit Center for Democracy & Technology, said mandatory data retention “raises serious privacy and free speech concerns.”

“A key to protecting privacy is to minimize the amount of data collected and held by ISPs and online companies in the first place,” he said.

“Mandatory data retention laws would require companies to maintain large databases of subscribers’ personal information, which would be vulnerable to hackers, accidental disclosure, and government or other third party access.”

Kate Dean, executive director of the Internet Service Provider Association, said broad mandatory data retention requirements would be “fraught with legal, technical and practical challenges.”

Dean said they would require “an entire industry to retain billions of discrete electronic records due to the possibility that a tiny percentage of them might contain evidence related to a crime.”

“We think that it is important to weigh that potential value against the impact on the millions of innocent Internet users’ privacy,” she said.


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Is It Only Spy Powers Obama Wants, or Does Obama Want To Lockdown America?

Under U.S. Justice Department’s no warrant proposal, to order communication facilities and Internet Servers to indefinitely retain phone call data and Internet activity records, would trash the Fourth Amendment, allowing government to use naything said on a phone or in an email against someone in a criminal trial or civil proceeding, e.g. civil asset forfeiture proceeding, the latter requiring only a civil preponderance of evidence for police to forfeit property, little more than hearsay. Police too easily could take an innocent person’s hastily written email, fax or phone call out of context to allege a crime or violation was committed to cause a person’s arrest or civil asset forfeiture. There are more than 200 laws and violations that can subject property to government asset forfeiture. Information the FBI derives from e.g. no warrant spying on email and phone communications can be used to issue subpoenas to collect evidence against Americans to prosecute any crime, circumventing the Forth Amendment. Consider: neither Congress nor the courts—determined what NSA electronic surveillance could be used by police or introduced into court by the government to prosecute U.S. Citizens. It is problematic law enforcement and private government contractors will want access to telecom-NSA and other government (retention records) of Internet activity; e.g. emails and phone call information to secure evidence to arrest Americans and or civilly forfeit their homes, and businesses under Title 18USC and other laws. Of obvious concern, what happens to fair justice in America if police become dependent on “Asset Forfeiture” to help pay their salaries and operating costs?

The “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000” effectively eliminated the “statue of limitations” for Government Civil Asset Forfeiture. The statute now runs five years from when police claim they “learned” that an asset became subject to forfeiture. It is foreseeable police would relentlessly sift through Citizens’ (permanently retained Internet data), e.g., email to allege a crime or violation, to seize Citizens’ property using only a civil preponderance of evidence. A corrupt government could use retained Internet data and phone call information to strong-arm America’s biggest corporation in the same manner Hitler used his 1933 passed Discriminatory Decrees to help pass government legislation.

Under federal civil forfeiture laws, a person or business need not be charged with a crime for government to forfeit their property. Most U.S. Citizens, property and business owners that defend their assets against Government Civil Asset Forfeiture claim an “innocent owner defense.” This defense can become a (Catch 22) criminal prosecution trap for both guilty and innocent property owners. Any fresh denial of guilt made to government when questioned about committing a crime “even when you did not commit a crime” may “involuntarily waive” your right to assert in your defense—that the “Criminal Statute of Limitations” past for prosecution; any fresh denial of guild even 30 years after a crime was committed may allow Government prosecutors to use old and new evidence, including information discovered during a Civil Asset Forfeiture Proceeding to launch a criminal prosecution. For that reason many innocent property and business owners are reluctant to defend their property and businesses against Government Civil Asset Forfeiture.

Re: waiving Criminal Statute of Limitations: see USC18, Sec.1001, James Brogan V. United States. N0.96-1579. U.S.

Comment by Sue Riley

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To see the hundreds of pages our Government has seized from citizens and plans to keep, see “”
Forfeiture is becoming more and more prevalent in this country as a money maker, so expect to see more of it.

Comment by folly

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