I have been noticing a disturbing trend in government over the last decade …
We have seen government employees review “restricted and privileged” files to satisfy their personal curiosity, to provide embarrassing information to political operatives or to sell the information for personal profit to the tabloids. The very people who hold the “keys to the kingdom” and function behind protected firewalls have become a clear and present danger to our personal privacy.
And as we have seen members of law enforcement, from local police in the Pelicano case to much higher federal levels such as the ex-FBI candidate for the TSA who spied on his ex-girlfriend’s companion using FBI resources and then lied or mislead Congress about his actions.
“WASHINGTON (AP) - A former FBI agent has been pled guilty to illegally accessing the bureau's computers as part of a wiretapping caper involving Hollywood private investigator Anthony Pellicano.” <Source>
CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act) …
“To amend title 18, United States Code, to make clear a telecommunications carrier's duty to cooperate in the interception of communications for Law Enforcement purposes, and for other purposes.”
“CALEA's purpose is to enhance the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to conduct electronic surveillance by requiring that telecommunications carriers and manufacturers of telecommunications equipment modify and design their equipment, facilities, and services to ensure that they have built-in surveillance capabilities, allowing federal agencies to monitor all telephone, broadband internet, and VoIP traffic in real-time.” <Source>
And now they want to go farther …
According to Charlie Savage, writing for the New York Times …
“U.S. Is Working to Ease Wiretaps on the Internet”
“Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is ‘going dark’ as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.”
“Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.”
And there is the problem …
First and foremost, we have seen news accounts where local, state and federal agencies have simply bypassed the requirement for a court order by contacting their friends at the telecommunications agencies which are notorious for hiring ex-law enforcement officers to staff its security operation. We have also see the Inspectors General of several federal agencies report on clear violations of existing law with little or no publicized disciplinary action for egregious violations of the law.
“The FBI and telecom companies collaborated to routinely violate federal wiretapping laws for four years, as agents got access to reporters’ and citizens’ phone records using fake emergency declarations or simply asking for them.”
“The Justice Department Inspector General’s internal audit, released Wednesday, harshly criticized how the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Communications Analysis Unit — a counterterrorism section founded after 9/11 — relied on so-called ‘exigent’ letters to get carriers to turn over phone records immediately. The letters were a hangover from the investigation into the 9/11 attacks in New York and promised telecoms, falsely, that subpoenas would follow shortly.” <Source>
Second, such backdoors into our infrastructure system can be exploited by both hackers, terrorists and those who mine communications links for commercial advantage (i.e. industrial and commercial espionage). Not to mention agents of other sovereign governments seeking both military and trade secrets. And before you pooh-pooh the possibility of disclosing military secrets, I would like to point out that highly-trained intelligence experts can often develop actionable intelligence from data mining a wide variety of open source materials.
And third, there is a commercial special interest pushing the government’s agenda to develop this additional spycraft capability. Yes, the Hollywood liberals would love to see deep-packet, un-encryption data access and mining technology put in place.
Consider that those who transmit content over their networks would be able to identify the nature of the transmissions and surcharge those transmissions based on their content. Network neutrality, where each data packet is priced the same and delivered without undue delay or restriction, would be undermined. Carriers could revert to their historic manipulation of telephone-like tariffs: one price for voice, another for text, another for video and, of course, still other confusing bundles to allow upcharging the connection.
Even worse, the content providers would be able to detect copyright violations and use the government as an enforcement agent; further criminalizing file sharing with hefty federal penalties. The industry dishonestly pursued the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in order to criminalize the breaking of electronic wrappers for material which was clearly in the public domain – thus extending their stranglehold over content in violation of the original agreement to allow the creator of copyright materials the exclusive right to exploit their work for a specified time – and then put it into the public domain for all to use without restriction.
These are the very people who forced software developers to embed individualized codes in document, audio and video files. Mandated that these codes correspond to codes supported in your hardware. How many of you actually know color copiers are printers embed machine codes in the copies? Or that certain copies and printers can detect currency and report to a remote host if internet enabled?
Of course, there is a fundamental distrust of the government itself, starting with the Nixon Administration and moving to the current Administration. All preoccupied with monitoring the opposition for political advantage. Mining dirt on candidates in order to secure a political advantage.
“The Democratic Party is moving faster and more aggressively than in previous election years to dig up unflattering details about Republican challengers. In House races from New Jersey to Ohio to California, Democratic operatives are seizing on evidence of GOP candidates' unpaid income taxes, property tax breaks and ties to financial firms that received taxpayer bailout money. <Source>
Obama’s plan …
“The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.”
Where is the Privacy Act of 2010?
Where is the privacy act legislation that ensures that the privacy of all Americans is protected and which provides for mandatory, no plea-bargain, penalties for any government official or contractor who illegally obtains information without a court order showing probable cause?
Where is the privacy act legislation that insures that information collected by the government or government contractors is not sold or misused for commercial advantage. We know that their are information collection and sharing agencies (e.g. the credit bureaus and insurance data exchanges among others) that hold non-public personal information that is sold to the government as if they were just another commercial entity – thus side-stepping prohibitions on collecting their own data and maintaining their own databases. Of course, the trusted employees of such entities often present a far greater danger of data misuse than do their government counterparts.
Bottom line …
We are living in an age when competing political agendas, some featuring actions which would benefit foreign sovereign countries that do not wish us well, are battling for the minds, treasure and labor of American citizens. All with the potential of violating our Constitution and eliminating or curtailing our personal freedoms. It is now time to consider how to mitigate these clear and present dangers before they result in another civil war fought along the lines of competing ideologies and government tyranny.
We do not have enough interpreters or intelligence analysts to actually use the data they are seeking, so it is a rather moot point when they claim they need access to everything. They can’t even deal with the information they already have and still connect the dots. And it appears that most of the actionable domestic intelligence still comes from government-paid informants.
And as I have noted in a number of previous blog posts, we are losing our freedoms, one device at a time. The government can listen into our in-car conversations without detection, monitor our movements and conduct remote surveillance without leaving their desks. They can use the results of in-car sensors to deny us insurance coverage based on the lack of seat-belt use. They can use our credit card purchases to deny us health coverage based on our eating patterns. Far-fetched, maybe. But the most important question is” “Who are ‘they” that are looking over your shoulder and invading your privacy?” I don’t know – and in the absence of a legitimate court order based on a credible, verifiable probable cause (and not a junkie confidential informant trying to lessen their sentence) we will never know.
We need to elect honest brokers to serve “we the people” and to throw that ragtag group of ideological Marxists, socialists, communists, anarchists and others out of our government. The very people who have already defined their “ends” and are willing to compromise everything, including their personal freedom, to use means, both fair and foul, to achieve their objectives.
P.S. Now that the traditional roles of the CIA (foreign) and FBI (domestic) have been blurred by the ill-managed and out-of-control Department of Homeland Security, I would prefer that all issues involving electronic intelligence be vested with the NSA (National Security Agency) which has the technical competence and dedicated personnel to render an informed opinion on the subject.
Reference Links …
“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!
“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw
“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”
“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS "The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius “A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell
“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS
"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius
“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell