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FBI Agents Don't Have Email Access 308

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the lazy-it dept.
the_bikeman writes "According to CNN, many FBI agents do not have access to an email account, and only 100 of the 2000 New York FBI agents have a Internet-ready mobile phone. Spokeswoman Cathy Milhoan said 'e-mail addresses are still being assigned, adding that the city bureau's 2,000 employees would all have accounts by the end of the year.'"
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FBI Agents Don't Have Email Access

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  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @09:39AM (#14963469)
    "We just don't have the money, and that is an endless stream of complaints that come from the field," he said.

    So let me get this straight, $9 billion goes missing in Iraq, the war has cost US taxpayers about $250 billion so far, oil companies have record profit$, our national debt ceiling was raised to $9 trillion and we can't afford to supply email to the FBI?
    What is going on? And, does anyone even care?
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @09:43AM (#14963509) Journal
    In a world where secrecy is necessary, what you whisper goes unrecorded, but what you put in an email gets published just when you need it to never have been written down....

    With record keeping comes accountability... is it any wonder they don't write things down? Until rather recently, there was no satisfactory manner to keep such communications to mobile devices secure/encrypted. If anyone knows if the govmint is spying on people, the FBI should. Makes you wonder..... ????
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @09:43AM (#14963510)
    All of the bureau's employees have secure mail accounts for use within that organization. Publicly available accounts, and accounts from which bureau employees can send mail to the public are indeed more complex (think about the tracking they'd require), and would require a lot more than typical corporate non-training when it comes to what they can or should do with that type of communication.

    One mis-step in a CC or Reply-All and you could completely torpedo an investigation or a trial. Just look at what one lackluster prosecutor did with some ill-conceived e-mail sent to prospective witnesses during the ongoing 9/11 trial happening right now. This subject is a lot more complicated than meets the eye.
  • by pla (258480) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @09:46AM (#14963530) Journal
    and only 100 of the 2000 New York FBI agents have a Internet-ready mobile phone.

    So? I make my living as a geek, and don't have an internet-ready cell phone.

    Why would I pay more, for a service redundant with something I already have, yet with a far lower quality presentation?

    When I want to do something online, I'll use a PC. When I want to call someone, I'll use my cell phone. They each serve entirely separate purposes, and as long as my eyes work better scanning large surfaces than a 1.5 inch square, they will continue serving different purposes.
  • Boo Hoo (Score:4, Insightful)

    by codepunk (167897) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @09:47AM (#14963535)
    Boo Hoo, our exchange licenses costs to much. Us poor folks at the FBI could not possibly just load up a linux box and postfix. I love the comment that the one senator made about this, our agents need better access to technology.

    Clue: It is right under your nose, use it!
  • Re:It's Clear (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Bin_jammin (684517) <Binjammin@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @09:52AM (#14963570)
    "I set up 40 email accounts this week, that's one per hour, we're right on schedule for the rest of the year!" I can see the glowing progress reports now....
  • Re:pre-9/11 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @09:56AM (#14963601) Homepage Journal
    You know... you crack a joke, but I have to deal with this seriously way too often.

    Recently our boss decided that any account that we have on our web applications needed a mode of contact. Something consistant for everyone. We debated a little, but the obvious solution was to simply require an email address, which in turn becomes their username. I mean it's 2006... who DOESN'T have an email address.

    A week later, we get an excited new client. It is my job to set up the handful of user accounts for our webapps... and I simply boggled at the first guys response when I asked for his email address:

    "3657 Washington Roa..."
    "No, your Email address."
    "3657 Wash..."
    "EEEEEEEEEEEE Mail address!"
    "What do you mean?"
    "What do you mean what do I mean? What is your email address?"
    "I don't know what that is"

    He DOESNT KNOW WHAT THAT IS!!! That's like saying you don't know what a road is. Someone please explain to me how and why such people still exist? Keep in mind, these people are going to CONSTANTLY use a WEB application, yet ... no... idea... of... what... an... email... is.

    *boggle*
  • by KarmaMB84 (743001) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @10:00AM (#14963624)
    I don't know if intentionally exposing them to forbidden court material is "ill-conceived". It's kind of hard to accidentally send transcripts to witnesses... I'm sure she'll get to write a book about the trial.
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @10:15AM (#14963718)
    I don't know if intentionally exposing them to forbidden court material is "ill-conceived". It's kind of hard to accidentally send transcripts to witnesses... I'm sure she'll get to write a book about the trial.

    Of course it wasn't an accident in the "oops, I forwarded this to the wrong addresses" sense. It was poor judgement. But the technology that made it so easy for her to do it was: internet enabled e-mail. My point is that the "cost" of turning on publicly-transcieving e-mail accounts for investigators and other people with legally critical jobs involve more than some server admin mouseclicks and a little more storage... there's substantial training and oversight involved.
  • by pla (258480) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @10:18AM (#14963733) Journal
    Repeat after me, the Web is not the Internet

    No kidding... Your point?

    I also don't want to read email (which increasingly includes web-like formatting), chat on IRC, or read UseNET on a 1.5 inch screen; And my phone doesn't make the best destination for downloading files via FTP or any P2P; And it takes far too long to enter alphanumeric data to make anything even remotely interactive (ie, ssh) useful on a cellphone.

    I suppose getting an RSS feed might prove vaguely useful, but not nearly enough to justify the increased expense - And y'know, with a government that can't seem to spend our tax dollars fast enough, I can't say it really bothers me that the FBI hasn't caught on to yet another way to waste our money.

    So, repeat after me - Contextually useless distinctions don't require enumeration.
  • by a2800276 (50374) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @10:20AM (#14963749) Homepage
    It's just as easy to accidentally stuff crap into the wrong envelope and accidentally put the wrong address on it. Is it too much to expect that people think about what they're doing? Maybe people that stupid shouldn't be in such "critical" positions.
  • You laugh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jfengel (409917) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @10:28AM (#14963792) Homepage Journal
    You laugh, but every time I hear people convinced that the FBI/CIA is maintaining a detailed file on them, I just know that there's no way either organization has that kind of manpower to care about them.

    Not that I'm thrilled that they seem to be intent on gathering scattershot information when they can (taking pictures of protesters, granting themselves the right to listen in to phone calls). They don't even have time to process the information they have.
  • by interiot (50685) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @10:51AM (#14963951) Homepage
    Of course email costs something (apparently I should have bolded "free to end users"), but what company has no email for new-hires, even if it's slow, requires users to constantly delete email to keep under the storage quota, isn't remotely interoperable, and it constantly deletes things as spam?

    My main point in bringing up email's relative low cost (again: not free), is that the comparison of saying that you can hire two more field agents for the price of email seems bunk. Yes, initial setup, and ongoing backups, may require a decent portion of an IT employee's time, but still... this is friggin' 2006, doing any sort of work without email is like sending sending a traffic cop out without a car and without a radio. Sure, that lets you hire more police officers, but it's better to properly equip a handful of employees than it is to have two handfuls of employees, none of whom can do their job.

  • by Angostura (703910) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @11:19AM (#14964121)
    But you also have to take into account the amount of time they currently - presumably - spend typing out memos on three carbons, placing two in an envelop and placing them in an out-tray for delivery the next day.

    Then the time they spend opening post in the morning, and filing it and buying filing cabinets

    It's easy to take a crack at e-mail as a productivity killer. But I worked in an office before it came along and there was an entire internal bureaucracy devoted to transporting mail, opening it, filing it, etc.
  • Apparently signatures sent via FAX are legally binding, but signatures sent by e-mail might not be? I know my real estate agent insisted that certain things be sent via FAX for legal reasons...
  • by e_slarti (731724) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @11:42AM (#14964278)
    Umm... Seriously, they can't get an e-mail system as part of their new $500 million dollar computer operations systems?

    Here's the link from last week: http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/03/13/fbi.computers.a p/ [cnn.com]

    Hell, I'll put up a secure e-mail system for half that! ;)

  • Re:pre-9/11 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by honestmonkey (819408) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @12:05PM (#14964423) Journal
    I'm not trying to excuse their ignorance (or maybe I am), but maybe they have email and don't call it that. At work, it is called something else (Outlook, or GroupWise or ...). So yeah, they don't HAVE an email account, they have an Outlook account. "I don't use email, I have Hotmail (or AOL or Yahoo or ...)".
  • by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @12:34PM (#14964640)

    >look at what one lackluster prosecutor did with some ill-conceived e-mail

    Jesus H. Armadillo! Are we going to drag our whole government operation down to the level of the least competent person in the organization? I have worked in companies that had the philosophy of creating new restrictions every time some idiot abused or misused some tool or benefit. This served to limit the ability of the competent to actually get things done.

    After a while, I got so frustrated that I quit and found a better job. There is a better way to run things: Fire The Morons! This "lackluster prosecutor" has at least seven years of university education and a six-figure salary. Am I wrong to expect competence and accountability? It's not like there's a shortage of lawyers in this country. Fire the fool and hire someone that can follow simple instructions.

    The FBI is supposed to have the best and the brightest cops in the country. If they can't be trusted not to send the case file on some mass murderer as an email attachment to the guy's uncle, we're just screwed anyway. If I hear one more time, that we can't get rid of some idiot, because we have all this time and money invested in his training, I'm going to scream. We may have spent a lot of time and money, but it didn't work. Fire The Morons! I guarantee we'll be better off.

    Thank you for listening. I'm going to go take my medication now.

  • by bogjobber (880402) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @12:44PM (#14964736)

    Is it too much to expect that people think about what they're doing?

    Yes. Even intelligent people make mistakes. Putting the burden of security on the user is idiotic, even when you're dealing with people as capable and well-trained as those in the FBI.

  • Re:It's Clear (Score:3, Insightful)

    by monkeydo (173558) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @12:59PM (#14964876) Homepage
    I'd like to say that it must be cronyism at it worst, but sadly I cannot.

    Because you haven't a clue that it is?
  • by Medievalist (16032) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:19PM (#14965045)
    I simply boggled at the first guys response when I asked for his email address:

    "3657 Washington Roa..."
    "No, your Email address."
    "3657 Wash..."
    "EEEEEEEEEEEE Mail address!"
    "What do you mean?"
    "What do you mean what do I mean? What is your email address?"
    "I don't know what that is"

    He DOESNT KNOW WHAT THAT IS!!! That's like saying you don't know what a road is.
    No, that's saying you are an ivory-tower technogeek who can't communicate without technobabble. Stop trying to be BadAnalogyGuy [slashdot.org].

    At what point did you figure out that repeating yourself louder only displayed your lack of fluency in your native tongue? Oh, wait... you apparently never figured that out.

    Someone actually competent to speak to customers might have said (reassuring tone) "OK, I've already got your postal address, what I need is an electronic mail address that can recieve electronic mail from the Internet. If your company doesn't have an e-mail system that connects to the Internet, we're going to have to engineer a solution that will connect to your internal mail system, or set up webmail accounts for you that can be checked with a web browser". Then you could go on to explain why this is necessary within the framework of your application, since obviously you are talking to someone who hasn't been brought up to speed by anyone else at either company.

    You might actually get something called repeat business if you don't belittle your customers and make them think you are an arrogant technocrat.

    You might even find a useful ally within the customer's management hierarchy if you can provide sorely needed information without coming across like a condescending prick.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:47PM (#14965295)
    I find it incredibly humorous that you accuse the grandparent of only being able to communicate with "technobabble," yet your solution is to tell him "...we're going to have to engineer a solution that will connect to your internal [electronic] mail system..." If the guy didn't understand the grandparent, he sure as hell is not going to have a clue what you're saying to him.
  • by Grab (126025) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @02:39PM (#14965782) Homepage
    Sorry, no. If you don't know by now what email is, you are one out-of-touch individual.

    Every advert and TV programme for god knows how long has had a web page attached, and most also have an email address. Every phone-in programme or radio programme I've heard for the last 10 years has had the "ring us on xxx or email on xxx". For the last 5 or more, they've also had "or text us on xxx".

    Bad analogy time? OK - failing to know of the existence of email is as bad as failing to know of the existence of mobile phones. They've both been around for about the same length of time. Their very existence stares you in the face every day. To not know about them would require that you are unaware of any new inventions created in the last 10-15 years.

    Note that I don't require you to have one, or to be fully conversant with its use, or to know what the latest-and-greatest version is. That's all your technocrat stuff. But simply to know that it exists qualifies you as an active member of Western civilisation. I don't think it's too strong to say that if you're so out of touch with the world today that you've never heard of email, then you are not an active member of society. It indicates that you never talk to other people, never read the papers, never read books, never watch the TV, and never listen to the radio. Society-wise, you could be dead and no-one would notice the difference.

    Grab.
  • by Zangief (461457) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @08:01PM (#14968381) Homepage Journal
    The OP said that those people were going to use web applications constantly. You are right, the customer always is right, yada yada yada.

    But this is almost like buying a card, and when the salesman asks for your driver license, you reply "I don't know what you are talking about". Not "I don't have a license", but "I don't know what in hell is this license".

    It is pretty weird.

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