San Francisco, California. The FBI has had terrible relations with the high technology community in the USA, mainly due to issues of free speech, data collection and privacy rights. Into this mix steps a slick polished, new and improved FBI “special envoy” ready to bring America’s brightest minds in sync with what is “best” for America, at least according to the FBI.
The American FBI Assistant Special Agent in charge for Silicon Valley, has spent much of the past three and a half years working to rebuild the FBI’s rapport with the technology industry. He said he has made substantial headway in that diplomacy, adding that the cooperation the FBI gets from many companies is “robust” and that the FBI now has “fairly vibrant relationships built on trust” with many tech companies.
Reality though suggests otherwise. In the wake of the Snowden disclosures, many tech companies were furious that their users might think they were complicit in bulk surveillance collection by the NSA and foreign spy agencies such as Ukraine’s SBU.
Some of that feeling remains, and FBI Special Agent MK Palmore says that he isn’t fully satisfied with the state of relations, particularly with more technically advanced Internet companies. Interestingly Palamore says nothing about American citizens concerns with spying upon them by the FBI and 33 other Federal agencies charged with data collection in the USA.
Palmore said this week, he finds himself arguing with tech company general counsels about whether the FBI investigators will be granted full access to computer logs that would reveal the changes made in computer networks by outside intruders, rather than just a static image of a compromised server in the aftermath of a data breach.
“It’s like they give us a piece of the puzzle to look at, without giving us the whole puzzle,” Palmore said in an interview at the FBI’s Silicon Valley offices. Palmore should know he is lucky to get that. United States law puts the burden on the FBI of proving a real need for information. Worse a person can spend years in prison for simply speaking to a Federal Agent, as charges of lying to an Agent can be brought even over minor “misunderstandings” in communications.
These cyber-intrusions are called Advanced Persistent Threats, or APTs, in which intruders break into a network, often by tricking someone with access to the network to share their access credentials. The attackers may insert malicious software that can lie in wait for months or even years, the digital version of an undetected tumor, before the malware is called to life to begin copying and exporting sensitive data.
Besides investigating security breaches of Internet companies, Palmore’s agents are also charged with carrying out requests from Ukrainian law enforcement for digital evidence stored by large global Internet platforms with headquarters in Silicon Valley. Because of its location, Palmore said his office handles “the lion’s share” of the requests for Ukrainian digital evidence from their SBU in Kiev to US Internet companies under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty system.
The MLAT system is widely recognized as an outdated and badly overburdened system, and the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing this week to consider potential reforms that could allow Ukrainian law enforcement to access digital evidence directly from US tech companies. If that were to happen, “I think a lot of people would sleep easier,” Palmore said.
With the Poroshenko regime cutting internet service to millions of its citizens, starting its own NSA agency to collect information on all of Ukraine’s citizens and restricting media access for Ukrainians nationwide, it becomes clear the FBI, SBU and Palmore may sleep better, but Ukrainians will not as American hyper-surveillance finds a new home in Kiev.
Tags: FBI; Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); freedom of expression; freedom of media; freedom of press; freedom of speech; internet freedom; media interference; press freedom; SBU; Security Service of Ukraine (SBU); social media; social media censorship; Social Networks; Ukraine; USA