FBI forming new cyber intelligence unit to innovate digital surveillance

According to a report filed by technology site CNET, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is forming a new cyber intelligence and research unit dubbed the Domestic Communications Assistance Center (DCAC). The briefing states that the DCAC's purpose will be "to invent technology that will let police more readily eavesdrop on Internet and wireless communications" (initially focusing on VoIP services, social networks, and wireless communication mediums) . Via a prepared statement, the FBI explained that the unit's modus operandi will be to "assist federal, state and local law enforcement with electronic surveillance capabilities." Congress has appropriated over $54 million for "lawful electronic surveillance" in fiscal year 2012; the DCAC has been earmarked just north of $8 million from that pie. The Bureau's full statement is after the break.

The FBI along with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies continue in their efforts to establish the National Domestic Communications Assistance Center (NDCAC).

As you are aware, the rationale behind the NDCAC was outlined by the FBI's then General Counsel Valerie Caproni in her February 2011 testimony and Chief Mark Marshall then President of the IACP before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. As stated in their testimony, the NDCAC will have the functionality to leverage the research and development efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement with respect to electronic surveillance capabilities and facilitate the sharing of technology among law enforcement agencies. Technical personnel from other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies will be able to obtain advice and guidance if they have difficulty in attempting to implement lawful electronic surveillance court orders.

It is important to point out that the NDCAC will not be responsible for the actual execution of any electronic surveillance court orders and will not have any direct operational or investigative role in investigations. It will provide the technical knowledge and referrals in response to law enforcement's requests for technical assistance.

In passing the FY2012 Appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, Congress included $8,244,000 and 13 positions for the FBI to establish and operate a NDCAC. Working closely with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, the FBI's Operational Technology Division is leading the effort in establishing the NDCAC as outlined above.