Right paperwork? U.S. authorities can tap BlackBerry messages

The BlackBerry — renown for the security of its messaging — doesn’t offer 100 percent protection from eavesdropping. At least not in the United States. Law enforcement officials said they can tap into emails and other conversations made using the device, made by Research in Motion, as long as they have proper court orders.

RIM’s willingness to grant authorities access to the messages of its clients is a hot-button issue. The United Arab Emirates claims it does not have the same kind of surveillance rights to BlackBerry messages as officials in the United States. It has threatened to clamp down on some services unless they get more access…

The ability to tap communications is a part of surveillance and intelligence and law enforcement all over the world,” said Mark Rasch, former head of the computer crimes unit at the U.S. Department of Justice.

RIM is in an unusual position of having to deal with government requests to monitor its clients because it is the only smartphone maker who manages the traffic of messages sent using its equipment. Other smartphone makers — including Apple Inc, Nokia, HTC and Motorola Corp — leave the work of managing data to the wireless carrier or the customer…

Rasch said that RIM may feel uncomfortable granting such access to officials in UAE. There may be concern authorities could abuse that access, he said.

“You reach a point where a company feels uncomfortable from the client perspective with what a government is asking them,” Rasch said. “It may be a function of what they are being asked to do, or it may be a function of which government is asking.”

U.S. rules that govern wire-tapping are designed to avoid abuse of power.

Har! I suppose Reuters had to include the paper description of U.S. avoidance of abuse of power.

In practice, abuse of power is perfectly OK [1] if no one finds out about it; [2] the government has enough tame judges who will overrule any objections; and [3] Congress will make the abuse legal if citizens complain about the abuse.

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