Sauron's all-seeing Internet eye moves two steps closer to reality

The FBI somehow thinks it doesn't have enough access to your data, but hopes to fix that with two new bills

The universe hates me -- that's what it is. Last week my editor called.

"Bob, you psychotic ingrate," she says to me. "You've been hitting drones and Zuckerberg way too hard the last few weeks, so get off your ever-broadening butt and think of something else. And lay off Pammy. She's with you, so she obviously has a highly charitable soul and deserves better."

[ Did you hear the one about the tech-savvy senator? | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter and follow Cringely on Twitter. | Can we talk? Send your tech war story to offtherecord@infoworld.com and get a $50 AmEx gift cheque if InfoWorld publishes it. We're all ears! ]

"Sure, boss," I replied out of desperation for a paycheck, then started drinking to control my blood pressure. That was before the news sitesĀ  brimmed with a wondrous tale that combines Facebook and drones and lasers too. While it omits Pammy's monthly morph into Beelzebub, it makes for one glorious freak-tale ... and I can't snark on it. The universe must be plotting against me. Or maybe it's karma for tripping that blind amputee last week. Whatever, that guy smacked his damn cane against my shin.

The even longer arm of the law

Instead, we could talk about the FBI. Apparently after a long night of doing belly shots off babies, a drunken agent woke up cranky from his five-alarm hangover, crawled out of a dumpster behind the secret Georgetown opium den where he'd passed out the night before, and drafted a 400-plus-page bill asking for expanded authority to "remote access" the computers of "criminal suspects." Let me repeat: Expanded. That's like Somali pirates demanding the Hague give them "expanded" access to shipping freighters.

If it gets passed, the bill gives the FBI the ability to hack into a target computer whose location is unknown, which means the warrant would have to be unfettered in regards to federal judicial districts. Yeah, I said "hack" not "remote access" because the latter sounds far too benevolent, while the former is what it actually is. If you're hacking from a secret black-site-cum-laser-tag-arena in Washington, D.C., and it turns out your target belongs to a left-wing, puppy-farming grandmother in Idaho, you no longer need to consult a judge in the spud state for permission.

The really cute part is that the FBI isn't asking Congress for permission. Instead, it's framing the bill as a minor change to existing rules, so the Department of Justice can use its own authority to pass the thing. Thus, no discussion, no Congressional approval, no debate -- just give us what we say we need and shut up about it, because, hey, it's not like we in the FBI have ever misused our investigative power to single out and pressure American citizens we don't like. Nope, we've never, ever done that. Hey, why did my pants just burst into shame-flames?

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