Ever heard of "Quantico circuits?" These are the links between major telephone companies and the Federal Bureau of Investigations technology office in Quantico, Va., that are used to transfer information about specific calls on a carrier's network to the FBI. This isn't content-related information, but could specify the locations of callers, their identities and the duration of calls. While warrants are required for actual wiretapping of calls, to gain access to this basic information, the FBI needs only to prove the relevance of it to an investigation through an administrative subpoena. The Washington Post reports that the number of such subpoenas issued grew from about 8,500 in 2000 to 47,000 in 2005. The FBI also has a $40 million budget devoted to this so-called digital collection system this year, up $10 million from last year's budget.
Once it has the information via a simple point-and-click transfer, the FBI can share it with different kinds of law enforcement agencies. Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have requested more information about the Quantico circuits, and are concerned how they could be used to breach privacy by dishonest parties.
- see this story at The Washington Post