FBI Just Got Huge Expansion of Hacking Powers, and Other Tales of Surveillance & Censorship

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I guess some real news crept into the fake news…Here’s a story from RT (h/t Dean)

FBI gets expanded hacking powers despite Senate fight

Critics argue the rule threatens the privacy rights of Americans.Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) tried three times on Wednesday to delay the changes, which will take effect at midnight.

In a speech from the Senate floor, Wyden said that the changes amounted to “one of the biggest mistakes in surveillance policy in years.”

The government will have “unprecedented authority to hack into Americans’ personal phones, computers and other devices,” Wyden said, according to Reuters.

Wyden was joined by Sens. Steve Daines (R-Montana) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware), who took to the floor to either pass or formally vote on three bills to delay or prevent the updates.

“We simply can’t give unlimited power for unlimited hacking,” Daines argued, according to The Hill.

The three senators expressed outrage that no hearing had been held.

The updates to Rule 41 are backed by the Justice Department and have been approved by the Supreme Court.

I was wondering where Senator Rand Paul was when these guys were fighting the good fight and I still don’t know, but he and Wyden had been leading the charge against this earlier in the year (May 2016).

Senator Rand Paul to back bill blocking FBI hacking expansion

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul plans to become the first Republican co-sponsor of legislation to block a pending judicial rule change that would let U.S. judges issue search warrants for remote access to computers located in any jurisdiction, his office told Reuters on Thursday.

The bill is expected to be introduced next week. Backing from Paul, a former Republican candidate for president with libertarian leanings, lends bipartisan support to an effort to undo a little-noticed modification to a text governing procedural rules for the U.S. court system that civil liberties groups warn would drastically expand the FBI’s hacking authority.

Here are a few other interesting tidbits on related subjects:

Effort to combat foreign propaganda advances in Congress

The initiative grows out of a bill authored in March by Portman and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) called the “Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act.” It initially sprang from a desire to help independent journalists and nongovernmental organizations in European nations such as Ukraine, Moldova and Serbia, which face a heavy tide of Russian propaganda.

But the context shifted in recent months as independent experts warned that Russia was carrying out an intensive propaganda campaign during the U.S. election season. The effort helped push misleading reports on the Internet and into voters’ social-media feeds, experts concluded.

The implication is that these powers would now be turned on US citizens and domestic press outlets. Another step down that slippery slope like Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allowing metadata collection on US citizens as well as the Smith-Mundt Amendment (passed in 2013). According to the late Michael Hastings in 2012 shortly before his death:

Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda Ban
Propaganda that was supposed to target foreigners could now be aimed at Americans, reversing a longstanding policy. “Disconcerting and dangerous,” says Shank.

The new law would give sweeping powers to the government to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public. “It removes the protection for Americans,” says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.

According to this official, “senior public affairs” officers within the Department of Defense want to “get rid” of Smith-Mundt and other restrictions because it prevents information activities designed to prop up unpopular policies—like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I also noticed an article in the Journal this week that reminded me of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC, aka McCarthyism), in which there is a Congressional body (the CFIUS) investigating whether recent Chinese investments in Hollywood are proxies for Red Chinese infiltration of “soft power.”

China’s Dalian Wanda Group Faces Renewed U.S. Regulatory Scrutiny
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer raises concerns over Chinese conglomerate’s Hollywood takeovers

“Wanda’s acquisitions in Hollywood have raised concerns among politicians and some entertainment executives that they are “soft power” plays designed to spread Chinese culture and messaging through American media. The country is the second-largest movie market in the world behind North America, but it imposes a quota of 34 movies that can be imported from all countries to its theaters each year.”

By coincidence, I saw another reference to a similar soft-power concept in an excellent article I read yesterday (but beware, the author was blacklisted as fake news!):

The Orwellian War on Skepticism

As veteran war correspondent Don North reported in 2015 regarding this new StratCom, “the U.S. government has come to view the control and manipulation of information as a ‘soft power’ weapon, merging psychological operations, propaganda and public affairs under the catch phrase ‘strategic communications.’

1 reply

  1. So the 3 faces of the Federal beast have agreed that they can monitor, collect and share our communications. What a shocker!

    Screw these people! Even if the individual players cannot be compared directly to the Hitlers of the world, their combined actions and deceits are exponentially worse than the Nazi horrors with no avenging army coming to save us.

    I wish there was a hell for these worms to burn in for eternity.

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