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Thursday, 15 November 2012 10:52

Petraeus scandal shows US privacy non-existent

Written by Nick Farrell



All caused by government spooks


One of the things about the US David Petraeus scandal is that it shows how easy it is for the government to get its paws on emails and the damage it can do when it does.

David Petraeus was the head of the CIA who had to resign after details of his affairs were revealed by the FBI who read his emails. But in the good old days, before there was email, the FBI would not have had that information and the affair would probably have just ended up being mentioned long after he was dead.

The FBI's request to access Paula Broadwell's personal Gmail account was one of 7,969 similar requests Google received from the US government in the first half of 2012. This seems to mean that the spooks are becoming more addicted to sorting out their inquiries just by reading private emails. As a result they are getting stuff which is not really a crime, or anyone's business.  

Tin foil hat wearers might suspect that Petraeus was forced to resign over allegations about his personal life, which only came to light because of FBI snooping. The question then might be, why did government agencies want him out? After hours bonking is common in Washington. If spooks looked at any gmail account they would find that everyone is at it. So why was Petraeus singled out?

What the incident shows is that private emails can be used by spooks to bring down political figures who do not co-operate with what ever game of thrones is being played in Washington. US law enforcement agencies top the list for the most requests for user data in the world, followed by India. Google says that outdated laws have created loopholes that allow government and law enforcement agencies to request information and conduct electronic surveillance without warrants. The piece of legislation at the heart of the issue is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, passed in 1986.

Not surprisingly the United States Justice department is against any updates to the law that would require more warrants.

Nick Farrell

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