May 9, 2009
The release of the 2010 budget request has shed more light on some FBI surveillance programs the bureau is currently developing and testing.
While the FBI has been criticized at times for its slow reforms after the 9/11 attacks, which revealed the FBI did not have adequate computer resources, some of the new programs sound like something out of a high-tech cloak and dagger film.
The budget request shows that the FBI is currently developing a new “Advanced Electronic Surveillance” program which is being funded at $233.9 million for 2010. The program has 133 employees, 15 of whom are agents.
According to the budget documents released Thursday, the program, otherwise known as “Going Dark,” supports the FBI’s electronic surveillance intelligence collection and evidence gathering capabilities, as well as those of the greater Intelligence Community.
"The term 'Going Dark' does not refer to a specific capability, but is a program name for the part of the FBI, Operational Technology Division's (OTD) lawful interception program which is shared with other law enforcement agencies," an FBI spokesman said.
"The term applies to the research and development of new tools, technical support and training initiatives."
According to FBI officials, the program is designed to help the agency deal with changing technology and ways to intercept phone calls such as those used by VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phones or technology such as Skype. The program is also conducting research on ways to conduct automated analysis to look for links between subjects of surveillance and other investigative suspects.
Asked about the program, Jim Dempsey with the Center for Democracy and Technology said, the "FBI has long been conducting research on new communications technologies. They complain about the difficulty of intercepting new technologies -- especially when they want weaker legal standards or more money -- but I think they have done a very good job of keeping up."
Like the National Security Agency, he continued, "their biggest challenge is not collection -- it is analysis -- they are drowning in data."
Dempsey also said, "It is appropriate for the FBI to develop more and more powerful interception tools, but the privacy laws that are supposed to guide and limit the use of those tools have not kept pace."
Obama Presides Over Largest Ever Military Black Budget
May 9, 2009
For black-budget watchers, the FY2010 budget is a revolution. Spending on classified programs and activities is listed as such, by category. Goodbye, 0207424F Evaluation and Analysis Program. So long, 0207248F Special Evaluation Program. These long-running budget lines, with their ever-changing names, have disappeared, along with the chore of wading through the USAF’s Operational Systems Development budget, counting what is there and calculating what is missing.
In the R-1 (research and development), P-1 (procurement) and O-1 (operations) budgets for 2010, just over $50 billion is listed for classified programs, the largest-ever sum. The Pentagon’s “black” operations, including the intelligence budgets nested inside it, are roughly equal in magnitude to the entire defense budgets of the UK, France or Japan, and 10 per cent of the total.
Highlights include the US Air Force’s classified research and development budget. Earlier estimates suggested that secret projects accounted for 36 per cent of USAF R&D spending, but the FY2010 budget shows that even this startling number is on the low side. The USAF plans to spend almost $12 billion on secret programs in 2010 - more than three Joint Strike Fighter development efforts - or just about 43 per cent of its R&D.
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