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Current Topic: Surveillance

27B Stroke 6 - CALEA extended to the Internet
Topic: Surveillance 2:08 pm EDT, Jun  9, 2006

In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia found that cable modem providers and other companies are subject to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, the 1997 law that requires phone companies to put law enforcement backdoors in their switching networks.

This is total bullshit. The deal that was cut in '94 was very clearly that the Internet was not covered by CALEA. The purpose of the deal was to require a political reconsideration of this at a later date.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

27B Stroke 6 - CALEA extended to the Internet

RE: U.S. Wants Companies to Keep Web Usage Records - New York Times
Topic: Surveillance 5:29 pm EDT, Jun  2, 2006

finethen wrote:

The Justice Department is asking Internet companies to keep records on the Web-surfing activities of their customers to aid law enforcement, and may propose legislation to force them to do so.

I'm not sure why this would be so useful for them. It sounds like an expensive and complicated way to gather information regarding only a small percentage of crimes. Anyone care to explain?

This is the noxious fog of your worst orwellian nightmares being slowly, ever so slowly, pumped into the country in hopes you won't notice the gradual change in air quality.

In general, this information isn't expensive to retain. Its already collected by ISPs. The computers they have automatically log this information for troubleshooting, security, and billing purposes. Its just that the ISPs usually throw that information away when they don't need it anymore. The Government is asking them to keep it for a long time. (Its worth noting that the reason Google is viewed with suspicion by privacy advocates is because they already retain all of this sort of data forever.)

All kinds of information is involved. ISPs can see who you've emailed, who has emailed you, what websites you've visited or other computers you've accessed, what IP address you've been using, and what times you were online. All of this is kept automatically. Websites (like this one) know which pages have been viewed from particular IP addresses at particular times. The feds have talked about forcing us to retain data too. If you combined the information from a website with the information from the ISP's logs, you could determine who viewed particular pages on a website or who wrote particular posts.

Due to the (tortured, IMHO) reasoning of Smith V. Maryland this kind of information has no Fourth Amendment protection, although some limited statutory protection exists.

The given example of kiddy porn is simply raised here because its one of those issues wherein almost no one is willing to oppose the government lest they be accused of defending kiddy porn. Its a straw man that is used to prevent debate. This kind of information can come in handy in all kinds of civil and criminal cases. The government might want to know who was using an IP address at a particular time if a computer breakin occured from there, RICO or anti-terror prosecutors might want to know who you've been emailing, your spouse might also want to know that in the event you are getting divorced, even a murder trial might be impacted by evidence that you were online during a particular time period. In the past information about internet search terms has been used to butress a case against an accused murderer.

Basically, these computer logs tell me a heck of a lot about what you think about, who you interact with, and what your lifestyle is like. So much information is there that I don't really need the content of your emails if I want to build a case against you, and with no messy Fourth Amendment to worry about, we don't have to trifle with judicial oversight!

Ever do something illegal with your computer? Ever use the Internet for any purpose that you wouldn't want other people to know about? The Internet is Forever.

RE: U.S. Wants Companies to Keep Web Usage Records - New York Times

Wired News: Crashing the Wiretapper's Ball
Topic: Surveillance 10:36 am EDT, Jun  1, 2006

They'd gathered for the ISS World Conference, a trade show featuring the latest in mass communications intercept gear, held in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Crystal City, Virginia.

More surveillance journalism. Catch it before something else becomes popular.

Wired News: Crashing the Wiretapper's Ball

AT&T leaks sensitive info in NSA suit | CNET
Topic: Surveillance 11:45 pm EDT, May 26, 2006

Apparently some guy at AT&T made the classic mistake of thinking that blacking text out in a PDF actually removes that text from the actual file. Apparently the information they're trying to hide is, in fact, exactly what I've been saying on this blog since information started to come out about this case:

"Although the plaintiffs ominously refer to the equipment as the 'Surveillance Configuration,' the same physical equipment could be utilized exclusively for other surveillance in full compliance with" the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The only thing thats troubling is, typically, if you're accused of something you didn't do, you usually say "I wasn't doing that, I was doing this" rather then saying "The information you have indicates that I might have done that, but its also possible based on the same information that I might have been doing this, that, or the other thing... You can't prove that I was doing exactly that." For example, the redacted text also claims that this might have been an IDS system. It most certainly wasn't. They kind of sound guilty. If they just said "its for CALEA" that would be the end of the discussion, probably. CALEA is not a state secret.

AT&T leaks sensitive info in NSA suit | CNET

Negroponte Had Denied Domestic Call Monitoring
Topic: Surveillance 9:26 am EDT, May 15, 2006

Below, Noteworthy ties together a slew of earlier datapoints that hinted at this program, but I must underline this quotation that particularly pisses me off:

White House spokeswoman Dana M. Perino denied that the administration was misleading when it described the NSA program as narrowly drawn.

"It is narrow," she said. "The president has been very specific and very accurate in all of his comments. He said that the government is not trolling through personal information and that the privacy of Americans is fiercely guarded."

When they say "the privacy of Americans is fiercely guarded" what they mean is that they have a team of lawyers who have fiercely produced arguements that what they are doing is legal. Covering your ass is not the same thing as guarding my privacy, god damnit! There is a time when press interview management and spin control is no longer funny, and this is that time. This nation is not made up of little children. The administration has serious questions to answer and they ought to be answering those questions in a serious way.

Going back to Orin Kerr's legal analysis, I'm troubled by how easily the 4th amendment is dismissed here. If the 4th amendment doesn't prevent wholesale data mining of phone call information then what the hell does it prevent!? Even if we find it reasonable that phone users might expect the phone company to share dialed numbers with the government, but not share call content, an arguement I find questionable to begin with, I think we might still expect that the phone company would only do this in special circumstances, and wouldn't be doing it with every single call.

Noteworthy's post is everything below this line:

As illustrated by Negroponte's remarks last week, administration officials have been punctilious in discussing the NSA program over the past five months, parsing their words with care and limiting comments to the portion of the program that had been confirmed by the president in December.

In doing so, the administration rarely offered any hint that a much broader operation, involving millions of domestic calls, was underway. Even yesterday -- after days of congressional furor and extensive media reports -- administration officials declined to confirm or deny the existence of the telephone-call program, in part because of court challenges that the government is attempting to derail.

I continue to be surprised that no one else has recommended Black Arts, by Thomas Powers, more than a year after its publication and appearance on MemeStreams. For this reason, I will reiterate his closing statement for you:

About the failure everyone now agrees. But what was the problem? And what should be done to make us safe?

It wasn't respect for ... [ Read More (0.1k in body) ]

Negroponte Had Denied Domestic Call Monitoring

G.O.P. Senators Say Accord Is Set on Wiretapping - New York Times
Topic: Surveillance 2:20 pm EST, Mar  8, 2006

The proposed bill would allow the president to authorize wiretapping without seeking a warrant for up to 45 days if the communication under surveillance involved someone suspected of being a member of or a collaborator with a specified list of terrorist groups and if at least one party to the conversation was outside the United States.

At least one Republican Senator has balls:

Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said Congress should seek a court ruling on the legitimacy of the program in addition to new oversight.

He said he put the administration "on notice" he might seek to block its financing if Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales did not give more information.

G.O.P. Senators Say Accord Is Set on Wiretapping - New York Times

Big Brother: Whats in your wallet?
Topic: Surveillance 4:32 pm EST, Mar  2, 2006

They were told, as they moved up the managerial ladder at the call center, that the amount they had sent in was much larger than their normal monthly payment. And if the increase hits a certain percentage higher than that normal payment, Homeland Security has to be notified. And the money doesn't move until the threat alert is lifted.

Very few people have really paid attention to the banking surveillance. All kinds of transactions are carefully monitored by the feds.

Big Brother: Whats in your wallet?

RE: Senate Panel Rebuffed on Documents on US Spying
Topic: Surveillance 10:35 am EST, Feb  2, 2006

noteworthy wrote:
Mr. Specter said his view was that the operation "violates FISA — there's no doubt about that."

Arlen Specter is a foaming-at-the-mouth liberal whack job who hates Bush so much that he has lost sight of the threat to America. Oh, wait a minute...

RE: Senate Panel Rebuffed on Documents on US Spying

EFF: Class-Action Lawsuit Against AT&T
Topic: Surveillance 8:01 pm EST, Jan 31, 2006

The lawsuit also alleges that AT&T has given the government unfettered access to its over 300 terabyte "Daytona" database of caller information -- one of the largest databases in the world. Moreover, by opening its network and databases to wholesale surveillance by the NSA, EFF alleges that AT&T has violated the privacy of its customers and the people they call and email, as well as broken longstanding communications privacy laws.

EFF: Class-Action Lawsuit Against AT&T

RE: Wired News: Mass Spying Means Gross Errors
Topic: Surveillance 3:38 pm EST, Jan 25, 2006

noteworthy wrote:
That's it! A public algorithm. What we need here is a global-scale collaborative filter. We could resume the draft, but for NSA instead of the Army. You could work from home, or even in your car, for an hour each day, listening in on phone calls. But mind you, as the President said, that "There is a difference between detecting so we can prevent, and monitoring." This is just the detection phase. If you hear something suspicious, you just press a number key, 1 through 9, to indicate how urgently dangerous it seems. The call is then forwarded to a professional for further handling, including FISA procedures as necessary.

A national "nosey neighbor jury" is a tremendously bad idea, but I underline it because its innovative and it would make a great science fiction short story. 80% of the phone calls flagged by it would likely be flagged because of various prejudices.

The meme that has been going around that "its not really an invasion of privacy if its just a computer listenning to the phone call" is absolutely falicious. Those computers serve human ends. Next they'll be arguing that there is no 4th amendment implication if they randomly send a drug sniffing robot into your house without a warrant. If thats the direction our legal jurisprudence heads we might as well roll up the Constitution and smoke it.

There are two reasons we don't do random searches:
1. Such things are inevitably abused for political purposes.
2. They contribute to a culture of fear and suspicion.

In the context of preventing significant terrorist incidents, if it is in fact useful to do this, then I think that where you've removed the court oversight from the data collection you need to add it to the data application. The people involved in this surveillance are firewalled from the people involved in pursuing leads and they have to present the information they collect to a FISA style court before they can share it. Such a check would ensure that the information is specifically related to national security issues and isn't about a political enemy or a minor crime.

RE: Wired News: Mass Spying Means Gross Errors

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