back to article FBI fights to protect ISPs that snoop on their customers

The FBI has finally come clean on the real reason it doesn't want to name phone and internet service providers that participate in a sweeping surveillance program that taps international communications without a warrant: Customers would get mad and dump or sue the providers. This rare piece of honesty came in a recently filed …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And there I was...

    ... thinking that the FBI was there to /protect/ interstate commerce. Or what it is that they do now-a-days anyway. Protect companies against their own customers? What?

    This in a country that proverbially supports "voting with your wallet"; but the government is intent to take that away too. It's enough to drive a man to wear tin foil hats, it is.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Sir

      The providers who don't do this for the FBI could turn this to their advantage by advertising the fact that they gaurantee they don't work with the FBI without a warrant. ISP's who are will not advertise such as they would be in a very vulnerable position if they did.

      Anyone who is worried about FBI snooping need then only choose an ISP who states they won't bend the rules.

      1. Chris007
        FAIL

        Almost..

        The likelihood is that the FBI has most if not all of the Tier 1 providers covered so the fact that your Tier 2/3 ISP guarantee's they don't work the FBI it is a moot point as they inevitably have to connect to a Tier 1 to give you service.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I think the problem is...

          they don't have *ALL* of tier one providers working with them. If all of the tier 1 were working with them, I'd imagine they would release the list.

  2. oopsie

    Sued by their customers?

    Doesn't this imply that the ISPs think that they're doing something of at least questionable legality?

    1. Oninoshiko
      Big Brother

      No,

      It implies the FBI thinks these ISPs are doing something of dubious legality. And it more then implies the FBI are not doing what they get tax money for.

      It also begs the question, "What, exactly, *IS* the FBI doing with the tax dollars it gets?" Clearly it isn't prosecuting illegal wiretaps.

  3. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    Flame

    Where were these banks of lawyers when needed?

    If these isp's acted and didn't check the legality of the FBI's request beforehand then tough.

    If they did and went ahead anyway then they made a judgement call so again tough.

    Either way the Feds should spill the beans regardless of whether it damages the ISPs.

    It's the only way to show both the Isp's and the Govt not to carry out acts of dubious legality with their customers data. Let them be reminded who pays both their wages.

    And last and most naively isn't the Feds duty to the US and its citizens not corporate America?

    1. James Henstridge
      Joke

      Re: isn't the Feds duty to the US and its citizens not corporate America?

      You forget that in the US corporations are people too. There are far fewer corporations than flesh and blood people, so they probably also count as a minority.

      So do you really want the US government to be victimising minorities at the behest of the majority?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Is the fed's duty to the US and its cittizens?

      No it is not. It is to a mythical entity called the taxpayer.

      Theoretically it is corporate America. Practically, it hides its taxes so well that noone knows whom the duty is to.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...isn't the Feds duty to the US and its citizens not corporate America?"

    Clearly not, if the FBI can quite openly justify their non-cooperation with lawful requests on the grounds that they want to protect their partners from the customers' rightful wrath.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      "...isn't the Feds duty to the US and its citizens not corporate America?"

      Er no.

      Have you been AWOL these last few years? We work for them.

  5. Christoph
    Black Helicopters

    What of the other ISPs?

    Presumably there are many US ISPs that are *not* cooperating with the FBI.

    Hopefully at least some of them will say so in public.

    Any ISP that doesn't make such a statement is one to avoid.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Other ISPs

      Would you believe them if they said "We dont help the FBI"?

      This whole thing is a farce and undermines the basics of a free and open society. Well done USA, China has much to learn from you.

  6. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    They broke the law. And a call to action

    @oopsie, yep, warrantless wiretapping is illegal. And you know what? The former CEO of Qwest was approached and asked to do this, *TOLD* them this was illegal and he refused to participate. In retaltation, charges were trumped up regarding insider trading (really, someone with millions of dollars, and the claim was he was doing insider training to make like an extra $1,000 or so) so he was removed as CEO and tossed in jail. In adidition, several telecom contracts were suddenly cancelled at this point. This is the worst thing about this, and this push for "immunity" for the companies that broke the law -- some DIDN'T break the law, so really those who did do not deserve immunity.

    Seriously though -- ISPs that are braking the law should 100% be exposed for doing this. It is not the FBIs job to help companies maintain market share.

    This is a call to action, if you work at an ISP that is participating in this program, go to cryptome or wikileaks and let everyone know. The public deserves to know. If you figure out how to determine this is happening (without working at the ISP), do the same, make this public knowledge.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Everyone knows already

      Considering what happened to Qwest CEO why do you expect that anyone will do that?

      As far as customers getting mad - after people like Qwest CEO got removed out of the way do they really have a choice left? You can get mad if you have the option to get mad. If you do not... Well... You do not...

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Second amendment

        "As far as customers getting mad - after people like Qwest CEO got removed out of the way do they really have a choice left? You can get mad if you have the option to get mad. If you do not... Well... You do not..."

        I thought this was the kind of thing that Americans keep saying they need their guns for...

  7. Someone Else Silver badge
    WTF?

    Lemme hear you say: "Duh!"

    "The FBI has finally come clean on the real reason it doesn't want to name phone and internet service providers that participate in a sweeping surveillance program that taps international communications without a warrant: Customers would get mad and dump or sue the providers."

    Ya think?!?

    (We need a "stating the bleedin' obvious" icon...)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Offshore VPN

    Bonus of none of those nasty anti-piracy letters.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What service do you use?

      How do you like it? Been thinking about getting one of these to get around some throttling for a certain app :)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, after all...

    ...it *is* the Federal Bureau of INVESTIGATION, isn't it? Why am I not surprised at the use of "unnamed sources"?

  10. Notas Badoff
    Flame

    Stone-walling, from water's point of view

    “Specifically, these businesses would be substantially harmed if their customers knew that they were furnishing information to the FBI,” .... "Therefore, the FBI has properly withheld this information.”

    Short and sweet - there would be repercussions.

    Sadly, for those wishing otherwise, there _will_ be repercussions. It will only take a bit more time...

  11. Hnelson
    Big Brother

    If their customers knew...

    Those companies should have thought of what they were doing before they started cozying up to the federales. If I found out that my company was invading my privacy and in bed with the federales, I'd drop them like a bad habit. And yes, I would like to know what companies, then I could avoid them. Sounds like the EFF needs to submitting so many FIOA requests that the feds would think that hell froze over and it was snowing.

    Had to pick George because he was sooo right!

  12. The Fuzzy Wotnot
    Happy

    Bears/woods, etc

    "Customers would get mad and dump or sue the providers."

    Billions of dollars of US tax payers money for the FBI to state the bleedin' obvious!

  13. David Pollard

    Don't they have full access anyway?

    El Reg carried a diagram of how BT taps the lines some while ago, during the 'Phorm storm'. There is a brief explanation of how the 'passive taps' work in the Comments. Presumably these cover the entire network.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/02/29/phorm_documents/

    And wasn't there a bit of a fuss when a whistleblower explained how secret cabinets were being installed in major exchanges in the USA, housing similar passive taps in rooms that didn't have a number and weren't shown on the plans?

    It must be easy access to the customer database that the FBI doesn't want to disclose, whereby they can link IP addresses to customers. Or, if providers really are doing the snooping, rather than the FBI having to comb through all the data themselves, what is their payoff?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Alien

      secret rooms

      they have them at BT too. And you're not allowed to talk about them.

      /Alien

  14. MBaldelli
    Go

    Give it time...

    Someone within the ISPs that finds out and ends up getting shit-canned in a way they don't like will whistleblow which ISPs are allowing for warrantless tapping. That's how it was found out about AT&T and Verizon after all.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sooo....

    Where's wikileaks when you need it?

  16. Schultz
    Unhappy

    Secret Illegal Wiretaps...

    other countries at least have the decency to change the law to make that Secret Legal Wiretaps. Bad for the image, but it's all the difference between honest and dishonest bastards.

  17. David Pollard

    More detail from the EFF

    Bruce Schneier posted this link in his security roundup:

    "New FBI Documents Provide Details on Government’s Surveillance Spyware"

    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/04/CIPAV_Post

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