Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The United States of Surveillance?

143 Responses

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  • Stephen Judd,

    Don’t overlook the Telecommunications Interception Bill, described in admirable and hair-raising detail by Thomas Beagle on the Tech Liberty blog here .

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    David Simon has reconsidered a bit:

    For my part, I remain convinced that the Verizon call data should be used as a viable data base for counter-terror investigations and that its misuse should be greeted with the hyperbole that currently adorns the present moment. On the other hand, the arguments of others convinced me that while I still believe the differences between call data and a wiretap are profound, and that the standard for obtaining call data has been and should remain far more modest for law enforcement, the same basic privacy protections don’t yet exist for internet communication. There, the very nature of the communication means that once it is harvested, the content itself is obtained. And the law has few of the protections accorded telephonic communication, and so privacy and civil liberties are, at this moment in time, more vulnerable to legal governmental overreach. That’s a legislative matter, but it needs to be addressed. In this day and age, E-communication between individuals, if not public posts on public sites, should have the same measure of legal protection as telephonic communication. So that has shifted for me. This is not to say, of course, that I believe there aren’t legitimate and plausible reasons for law enforcement to sift the internet, or that a PRISM-like monitoring of the internet doesn’t have relevant counter-terror value, but that the acquistion of actual content — at least in the manner of interpersonal communications — should be subject to legal prerequisites comparable to telephonic surveillance. Thanks to those who made clear that PRISM and the telephone call data harvesting are proceeding under different standards.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22743 posts Report Reply

  • The Ruminator,

    I just want to say that at your big reveal where you tell us the logo they chose, I scrolled down and saw an ad for a Nautilus One Touch coffee machine. Which in some ways was a better gag.

    Since Apr 2013 • 54 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Nimmo,

    And in case anyone wasn’t unnerved by this concept, it adopted this extraordinary logo:

    That is the only surprising thing about this entire affair. What were they thinking?

    Wellington • Since May 2009 • 97 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    BTW I take it SCIENTIA EST POTENTIA is "Knowledge is Power"?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    And let us not forget the 1980's era United States Electronic Communications Privacy Act, with it's provision that email that has stayed on the providers servers for more than 180 days is "abandoned" so does not need a warrant (Note: there is some legal dispute about the status of messages that have been opened while keeping them on the server).

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1443 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome, in reply to Christopher Nimmo,

    I'm of the firm belief that there are a host of people in the security sector who delight in coming up with logos and names which reflect contemporary conspiracy culture. In part I think they're playing games with certain conspiracy theorists but I also think it's just the natural result of living in a world where conspiracy theories get talked about all the time.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    Don’t overlook the Telecommunications Interception Bill, described in admirable and hair-raising detail by Thomas Beagle on the Tech Liberty blog here .

    Indeed. Yikes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22743 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    I take it SCIENTIA EST POTENTIA is "Knowledge is Power"?

    or "Hey, that Science thing seems promising"
    #nolatin

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19667 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Nimmo, in reply to HORansome,

    Clearly that's just what the illuminati want you to think!

    Wellington • Since May 2009 • 97 posts Report Reply

  • steve black,

    sunny mt albert • Since Jan 2007 • 116 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Christopher Nimmo,

    I loved that logo. It screamed to me of some of the actual geeks (the ones doing the work) designing a logo by which everyone in management would ultimately be embarrased.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Christopher Nimmo,

    Clearly that's just what the illuminati want you to think!

    Dude, he's a deep mole for the Illuminati.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Gracewood,

    Can we go back and tear up that contract we signed agreeing to free services in return for advertising and privacy?

    Orkland • Since Nov 2006 • 168 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    So I’m not the only one astonished by the access Snowden seems to have had:

    Some former CIA officials said they were troubled by aspects of Snowden’s background, at least as he described it to The Post and the Guardian.

    For instance, Snowden said he did not have a high school diploma. One former CIA official said that it was extremely unusual for the agency to have hired someone with such thin academic credentials, particularly for a technical job, and that the terms Snowden used to describe his agency positions didn’t match internal job descriptions.

    Snowden’s claim to have been placed under diplomatic cover for a position in Switzerland after an apparently brief stint at the CIA as a systems administrator also raised suspicion. “I just have never heard of anyone being hired with so little academic credentials,” the former CIA official said. The agency does employ technical specialists in overseas stations, the former official said, “but their breadth of experience is huge, and they tend not to start out as systems administrators.”

    A former senior U.S. intelligence official cited other puzzling aspects of Snowden’s account, questioning why a contractor for Booz Allen at an NSA facility in Hawaii would have access to something as sensitive as a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

    “I don’t know why he would have had access to those . . . orders out in Hawaii,” the former official said.

    I guess there’s some possibility he’s not what he claims to be – the more likely alternative being that the security agency is really not secure.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22743 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I loved that logo. It screamed to me of some of the actual geeks (the ones doing the work) designing a logo by which everyone in management would ultimately be embarrased.

    It looks remarkably like a Paranoia role badge.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Interesting post by Giovanni Tiso:

    The map suggests that intelligence is still being gathered with a degree of selection, but bear in mind that the Utah data centre is not finished yet. When it comes on line, in September of this year, it might be possible to fulfil the vision suggested by PRISM: a world in which all social data that circulates is captured. It is the ultimate banality of our time to suggest that we engage in self-surveillance of our own volition, as a freely made consumer choice. Gates said of the electronically documented life that it would be ‘the ultimate diary and autobiography, if you want one’ but in fact soon enough being on Facebook or on an equivalent service will be about as optional as it was thirty years ago to have a phone (if it isn’t already). Yet how else you describe those geolocated tweets and status updates, or those situating statements – I’m at the supermarket, I’m on the bus – except as a participatory compulsion, a desire, a need perhaps to be plotted on such a map? That it should be a statement of banality is all the more unsettling. We are, each of us, most of us, boundless informants.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22743 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    Although Snowden carefully distinguishes his own actions from the indiscriminate leaking of Pfc. Bradley Manning, one observation can be made of both of them: how on earth could relatively junior staff (more so Manning than Snowden) apparently have access to everything? It is quite extraordinary.

    Their intelligence gathering appears to be based upon:
    A - gather all info they can possibly obtain.
    B - try to make sense of it.

    Part B isn't going to be a small task easily managed by few people, think collating the equivalent of the NZ census every what? Day, hour, minute... on a continual real time basis.

    There are gaps in this story that could have been closed by its source and its puzzling that they haven't been.

    It is more likely he doesn't know.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • David Russell,

    Have you seen this ?

    "Why didn't tech company leaders blow the whistle?"

    https://mailman.stanford.edu/pipermail/liberationtech/2013-June/008815.html

    Whitianga • Since Apr 2013 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    they tend not to start out as systems administrators.

    No doubt the NSA runs a tighter ship than most people, but it's impossible to do your job as a sysadmin without being entrusted with access to things you wouldn't otherwise have access to.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    didn't I already see this movie? ... except it was about Australia

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2605 posts Report Reply

  • slarty,

    In the end, WebFountain didn’t go far

    Maybe...

    Anyway, if the purpose of an activity would be defeated by making it public, then there is a long standing principle of law enforcement that secrecy can be required. Such powers were traditionally strongest in matters of national security.

    I have observed these to include requiring a staff member to keep a matter from their superiors. So don't be too harsh on firms that may well try not to be evil. It could be that their security staff (often recruited from the public sector) may simply not have told anyone.

    Of course Open Source platforms are a good defence (e.g. Truecrypt...) - sunlight...

    Since Nov 2006 • 290 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    Part B isn’t going to be a small task easily managed by few people, think collating the equivalent of the NZ census every what? Day, hour, minute… on a continual real time basis.

    It's possible that the bigger private data-houses are doing some of the feds' chewing for them. This data-mining project at Google Research was actually tested by its authors on a global terrorism dataset.

    There are gaps in this story that could have been closed by its source and its puzzling that they haven’t been.

    It is more likely he doesn’t know.

    I do wonder. A series of Powerpoint slides doesn't necessarily indicate proximity to the control room. But who knows? There are many unanswered questions here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22743 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to slarty,

    I have observed these to include requiring a staff member to keep a matter from their superiors. So don’t be too harsh on firms that may well try not to be evil. It could be that their security staff (often recruited from the public sector) may simply not have told anyone.

    I hadn't thought of that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22743 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    it's impossible to do your job as a sysadmin without being entrusted with access to things you wouldn't otherwise have access to.

    Correct. When I started running IT for a small government agency (which meant me and a tech), I had no security clearance and I raised the matter with the CE.

    He said "Why do you need one? We don't do any secret stuff."

    I said "Do you have one?"

    He said "Of course. Top Secret." (I think he was quite proud of that)

    I said "I can read your files and email. How do you know you can trust me?"

    He filed the paperwork the next day.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2929 posts Report Reply

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