It's funny how a few tweaks can make a Government program go from completely legal, to questionably so. A new secret authorization puts the US Justice Department on the fuzzy side of the legal line, approving the expansion of a program originally intended to monitor the internet traffic of military defense contractors to include energy, healthcare and finance sectors. The original program, known as the DIB Cyber Pilot, was voluntary, requiring users to approve monitoring via a login interface. Specific details on how the new program differs aren't known, but CNET reports that the Justice Department has begun issuing letters granting legal immunity to providers who violate the Wiretap Act for the sake of the program. These letters were sent to AT&T and other internet service providers, though it isn't clear how many have gone out.

Electronic Privacy Information Center executive director Marc Rotenberg summarized the situation for CNET, "The Justice Department is helping private companies evade federal wiretap laws. Alarm bells should be going off." The operation was approved by Executive order earlier this year, but remains on shaky ground. Still, these legal complications could soon vanish: if signed into law, the CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act) would formally authorize the program. The expanded program doesn't go into effect until June 12th and will only apply to areas of critical infrastructure. Hungry for more information? Don your tinfoil hat, and check out CNET for the entire report.