Federal Law Enforcement Often Misunderstood Regarding Its Use of Technology

Federal Law Enforcement is no stranger to the proliferation of technology and officials say that, like the rest of the world, agencies are becoming increasingly dependent upon technology to carry out their duties with speed and efficiency.

Although it has been somewhat controversial, one of the primary ways in which federal law enforcement agencies and officers have utilized technology is in the way of surveillance. FBI Director James Comey stated that federal agencies like the FBI and others are well aware that people value their privacy and don’t want their government invading it unnecessarily. He says that the duty of these agencies, however, is to “keep Americans safe from crime and terrorism” and that the FBI for one is “committed to upholding the rule of law and protecting civil liberties” in its execution of those duties.

Comey stated also that federal law enforcement has made it a priority to keep evolving technology out of the hands of individuals and groups who have the potential to use that technology to cause harm. The proliferation of technology as it pertains to criminals not only is a threat to national security and the safety of Americans but it has the potential to substantially compromise the ability of agencies like the FBI to effectively conduct their investigations.

The public has been understandably wary of federal law enforcement agencies using the technology that they have at their disposal to conduct surveillance operations for the simple fact that there is such a fine line between legitimate surveillance and invasion of privacy. However, as Comey states, there is a general misunderstanding among the general public regarding what kinds of information federal law enforcement collects and how they collect it.

The truth, he says, is that contrary to popular belief, law enforcement even at the highest levels does not have access to all manner of communications at all times. They are required to obtain warrants from judges and other official authorization before performing any manner of surveillance and that that authorization is not easily obtained.