A CNN interview last week with former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente should give pause to any American citizen who is wondering what implications the latest technological gadgets have on privacy.
During an exchange with “Out Front” host Erin Burnett, Clemente indicated that the government has a system by which all phone calls could be monitored by Federal investigators even after they were over:
Burnett: Tim, is there any way, obviously, there is a voice mail they can try to get the phone companies to give that up at this point. It’s not a voice mail. It’s just a conversation. There’s no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them?
Clemente: No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out.
Burnett: So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.
Clemente: No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.
During a follow-up interview, Clemente was asked if he was really suggesting that the FBI could know what was said during any phone call.
He said: “I’m talking about all digital communications are — there’s a way to look at digital communications in the past. I can’t go into detail of how that’s done or what’s done. But I can tell you that no digital communication is secure. So these communications will be found out. The conversation will be known.”
While Clemente was unable to elaborate on the methods used by government agencies to spy on American citizens without their knowledge, there is plenty of information available supporting the claim that everything you do digitally is subject to interception and examination by the government.
Via The Washington Post circa 2010: “Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.”
Congressmen recently questioned the legality of the Department of Justice’s massive surveillance dragnet.
The government is collecting the information in bulk without any regard to whether the individual whose information is being stored is subject to criminal investigation at this time or is considered a threat to national security.
One of the most powerful tools at the state’s disposal in recent years has been so-called fusion centers, which allow for citizen data to be collected and stored in central locations for access by all levels of law enforcement.