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Current Topic: Surveillance

Congress may consider mandatory ISP snooping | CNET
Topic: Surveillance 9:13 pm EDT, Apr 29, 2006

Last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a Republican, gave a speech saying that data retention by Internet service providers is an "issue that must be addressed." Child pornography investigations have been "hampered" because data may be routinely deleted, Gonzales warned.

It's not clear whether that requirement would be limited only to e-mail providers and Internet providers such as DSL (digital subscriber line) or cable modem services. An expansive reading of DeGette's measure would require every Web site to retain those records. (Details would be left to the Federal Communications Commission.)

The Bush administration's current position is an abrupt reversal of its previous long-held belief that data retention is unnecessary and imposes an unacceptable burden on Internet providers. In 2001, the Bush administration expressed "serious reservations about broad mandatory data retention regimes."

DeGette said in a statement that her amendment was necessary because: "America is the No. 1 global consumer of child pornography, the No. 2 producer. This is a plague we had nearly wiped out in the seventies, and sadly the Internet, an entity that we practically worship for all the great things it has brought to us, is being used to commit a crime against humanity."

At the moment, Internet service providers typically discard any log file that's no longer required for business reasons such as network monitoring, fraud prevention or billing disputes. Companies do, however, alter that general rule when contacted by police performing an investigation--a practice called data preservation.

Is there actually a problem with ISPs not cooperating with child porn investigations? Or is this just being used as a excuse to make ISPs preserve more information that is subject to NSLs and other types of monitoring? I think the latter.

Congress may consider mandatory ISP snooping | CNET

Boing Boing: MSFT, YHOO to build data centers near NSA's in WA?
Topic: Surveillance 1:02 am EDT, Apr 18, 2006

According to this AP item, Microsoft and Yahoo may soon build massive data storage facilities in a rural corner of Washington state known for wide open spaces and potato farms. Coincidentally (hmmmm?), the site is not far from a large NSA data-mining facility.

What cat? What bag?

Boing Boing: MSFT, YHOO to build data centers near NSA's in WA?

Wired News: AT&T Gave Your Data to Feds
Topic: Surveillance 7:46 am EDT, Apr  8, 2006

AT&T provided NSA eavesdroppers with full access to its customers' phone calls, and shunted its customers' internet traffic to data-mining equipment installed in a secret room in its San Francisco switching center, according to a former AT&T worker cooperating in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's lawsuit against the company.

According to a statement released by Klein's attorney, an NSA agent showed up at the San Francisco switching center in 2002 to interview a management-level technician for a special job. In January 2003, Klein observed a new room being built adjacent to the room housing AT&T's #4ESS switching equipment, which is responsible for routing long distance and international calls.

"While doing my job, I learned that fiber optic cables from the secret room were tapping into the Worldnet (AT&T's internet service) circuits by splitting off a portion of the light signal," Klein wrote.

The split circuits included traffic from peering links connecting to other internet backbone providers, meaning that AT&T was also diverting traffic routed from its network to or from other domestic and international providers, according to Klein's statement.

The secret room also included data-mining equipment called a Narus STA 6400, "known to be used particularly by government intelligence agencies because of its ability to sift through large amounts of data looking for preprogrammed targets," according to Klein's statement.

Wired News: AT&T Gave Your Data to Feds

Schneier on Security: AT&T's 1.9-Trillion-Call Database
Topic: Surveillance 12:56 am EST, Mar  7, 2006

He was alluding to databases maintained at an AT&T data center in Kansas, which now contain electronic records of 1.92 trillion telephone calls, going back decades. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital-rights advocacy group, has asserted in a lawsuit that the AT&T Daytona system, a giant storehouse of calling records and Internet message routing information, was the foundation of the N.S.A.'s effort to mine telephone records without a warrant.

An AT&T spokeswoman said the company would not comment on the claim, or generally on matters of national security or customer privacy.

But the mining of the databases in other law enforcement investigations is well established, with documented results. One application of the database technology, called Security Call Analysis and Monitoring Platform, or Scamp, offers access to about nine weeks of calling information. It currently handles about 70,000 queries a month from fraud and law enforcement investigators, according to AT&T documents.

A former AT&T official who had detailed knowledge of the call-record database said the Daytona system takes great care to make certain that anyone using the database - whether AT&T employee or law enforcement official with a subpoena - sees only information he or she is authorized to see, and that an audit trail keeps track of all users. Such information is frequently used to build models of suspects' social networks.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing sensitive corporate matters, said every telephone call generated a record: number called, time of call, duration of call, billing category and other details. While the database does not contain such billing data as names, addresses and credit card numbers, those records are in a linked database that can be tapped by authorized users.

New calls are entered into the database immediately after they end, the official said, adding, "I would characterize it as near real time."

According to a current AT&T employee, whose identity is being withheld to avoid jeopardizing his job, the mining of the AT&T databases had a notable success in helping investigators find the perpetrators of what was known as the Moldovan porn scam.

In 1997 a shadowy group in Moldova, a former Soviet republic, was tricking Internet users by enticing them to a pornography Web site that would download a piece of software that disconnected the computer user from his local telephone line and redialed a costly 900 number in Moldova.

While another long-distance carrier simply cut off the entire nation of Moldova from its network, AT&T and the Moldovan authorities were able to mine the database to track the culprits.

Bruce Schneier brings this from the New York Times from behind the great subscription wall..

Schneier on Security: AT&T's 1.9-Trillion-Call Database

Big Brother: Whats in your wallet?
Topic: Surveillance 10:13 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?

China's 'ever-existing online police embodied in cartoon figures' (China Daily)
Topic: Surveillance 9:22 pm EST, Feb 18, 2006

On January 2, the image of the Shenzhen Internet Police, presented by Shenzhen Public Security Bureau's Internet Surveillance Division, officially went online for the first time in China.

Now, whenever netizens visit Shenzhen's websites and online forums, they will see these two cartoon police figures floating on their screen.

Apart from a managing function, the online police duo, which is soundly
equipped with a blog, a photo album, and an interactive section, also feature a
great helping hand to mass netizens.

Through the outlet, netizens have access to systematic Internet-related laws
and legal regulations, which are routinely updated with the latest net policies
and warnings of typical online crimes. At the same time, the two cartoon images
can also answer questions from netizens.

Hmm.. Maybe for April 1st, we should have the CryptoKids from the NSA's kids website bounce around MemeStreams using some highly annoying Javascript thing. Every so often, one of them says "Don't mind me, I'm just looking for terrorists!"

Na.. Too much work. There are other things we need to do that are more important. Not to mention, it would be a trademark violation. I can just imagine the phone call from Decius telling me we got a C&D from the NSA for Trademark misappropriation... "We just have to argue fair use. Its parody. Its fair comment. We are not profiting. Its not creating customer confusion. . ." [cuts me off] "NICK, LISTEN TO ME CAREFULLY.. IT'S THE FUCKING NSA! THE N-S-A!"

China's 'ever-existing online police embodied in cartoon figures' (China Daily) - Telecoms let NSA spy on calls
Topic: Surveillance 10:56 am EST, Feb  6, 2006

The National Security Agency has secured the cooperation of large telecommunications companies, including AT&T, MCI and Sprint, in its efforts to eavesdrop without warrants on international calls by suspected terrorists, according to seven telecommunications executives.

The executives asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the program. AT&T, MCI and Sprint had no official comment.

This point can now firmly be moved into the fact category, and out of the speculation category..

It will be interesting to see if any executives come forward from the mobile industry. That would really light some fires, as being limited AT&T, MCI, and Sprint still gives the impression that the program is limited to international calls. - Telecoms let NSA spy on calls

Wired News: Mass Spying Means Gross Errors
Topic: Surveillance 12:00 am EST, Jan 25, 2006

Mass surveillance isn't just illegal, it's probably a bad idea. We need to ferret out real terrorists, not create a smoke screen of expensive and distracting false positives that they can hide behind. More information doesn't make us smarter. We need smarter information.

Jennifer Granick checks in on TMS.

Wired News: Mass Spying Means Gross Errors

Cringley on phone tapping
Topic: Surveillance 10:04 pm EST, Jan 24, 2006

Who is listening-in on your phone calls? Probably nobody. Right now, there is huge interest in phone tapping in the United States because the Bush Administration (through the National Security Agency) was caught listening in without appropriate court orders. What I have noticed is that, for all the talking and writing on this subject, there seems to be very little real information being presented. So this column is my attempt to share what I've learned about the topic. It might surprise you.

This article by Robert Cringley contains the basics surrounding phone taps and the history surrounding the legality of them.

Cringley on phone tapping

On [Domestic] NSA Spying: A Letter To Congress
Topic: Surveillance 9:37 pm EST, Jan 16, 2006

We are scholars of constitutional law and former government officials. We write in our individual capacities as citizens concerned by the Bush administration's National Security Agency domestic spying program, as reported in The New York Times, and in particular to respond to the Justice Department's December 22, 2005, letter to the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees setting forth the administration's defense of the program.

This letter is a bit repetitive due to its structure, but the legal explanation offered here is relatively clear and concise.

On [Domestic] NSA Spying: A Letter To Congress

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