October 3, 2010
In a reprise of the crypto wars of the 1990s,
the U.S. secret state is mounting an offensive that would force
telecommunication companies to redesign their systems and information
networks to more easily facilitate internet spying.
Touted as a simple technical "fix" that would "modernize" existing
legislation for wiretaps, government security officials will demand that
telecommunication firms and internet service providers provide law
enforcement with backdoors that would enable them to bypass built-in
encryption and security features of electronic communications.
With the Obama administration rivaling, even surpassing antidemocratic moves
by the Bush regime to monitor and surveil the private communications of the
American people, The New York Times
reported last week that,
"federal law enforcement and national
security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for
Following closely on the heels of FBI raids on
antiwar and international solidarity activists, the "change" administration
now wants Congress to require all providers who enable communications,
"to be technically capable of complying if
served with a wiretap order."
Times' reporter Charlie Savage informs us that
the administration will demand that software and communication providers
build backdoors accessible to law enforcement and intelligence agencies,
thus enabling spooks trolling,
"encrypted e-mail transmitters like
BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that
allows direct 'peer to peer' messaging like Skype" the means "to
intercept and unscramble encrypted messages."
Calling new legislative strictures a
"reasonable" and "necessary" tool for law enforcement that will,
"prevent the erosion of their investigative
powers," FBI mouthpiece, general counsel Valerie E. Caproni, told
the Times, "We're talking about lawfully authorized intercepts."
Caproni's assertion that the Bureau and spy shops such as the National
Security Agency are not interested in "expanding authority" but rather
"preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to
protect the public safety and national security," is a thin tissue of lies
In fact, the state's "existing authority" to spy upon private communications
under the USA Patriot Act and assorted National Security, and Homeland
Security Presidential Directives (NSPD/HSPD) in areas as such as,
...have led to the creation of overly broad and
highly classified programs regarded as "state secrets" under Obama.
As written many times, most
recently in August (August 12, 2010 -
"Obama Demands Access to Internet Records, in Secret, and Without Court
Review"), since his 2009 inauguration President Obama has done nothing to
reverse this trend.
Indeed, he has taken further steps through the
Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI),
a highly-sanitized version of NSPD 54/HSPD 23, to ensure that the
"President's Surveillance Program" (PSP) launched by Bush remains a
permanent feature of daily life in the United States.
In a widely circulated
report last year, the inspectors general
from five federal agencies, including,
...noted that following advice from the Office
of Legal Counsel under torture-enablers Jay Bybee and John C. Yoo,
"the President authorized the NSA to
undertake a number of new, highly classified intelligence activities"
that went far beyond warrantless wiretapping in their scope,
encompassing additional unspecified "activities" that have never been
disclosed to the public.
What were once regarded by Democrats and their
ever-shrinking base of acolytes, cheerleaders and toadies as unspeakable
crimes when carried out by Republican knuckle-draggers, are now regarded
as "forward thinking," even "visionary" policies when floated by the
"progressive" occupying the Oval Office.
And with "homegrown terrorism" and "cybersecurity" high priorities on the
administration's to-do list, White House changelings and their friends from
the previous regime are pulling out all the stops.
Last week, speaking at a Washington, D.C. "Ideas Forum," former Director of
National Intelligence Mike McConnell, currently a top executive with
Booz Allen Hamilton private security
corp, said that cybersecurity is the "wolf at the door" and that a
"could impact the global economy 'an order
of magnitude surpassing' the attacks of September 11," The Atlantic
McConnell and former Bushist Homeland
Security Adviser, Frances Fragos Townsend, the current chairwoman
of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA),
a D.C. lobby shop catering to security and intelligence grifters, urged the
Obama administration to transform,
"how it defends against cyberattacks,"
claiming that the secret state, "lack[s] the organizational ability and
authorization to prevent and respond to cybersecurity threats."
Their prescription? Let
pit bulls off the leash, of course!
Townsend said that,
"the real capability in this government is
in the National Security Agency."
True enough as far as it goes, however Townsend
mendaciously asserted that NSA is legally forbidden from domestic spying,
not that it prevented her former boss from standing up NSA's internal
surveillance apparatus through programs such as
STELLAR WIND and
PINWALE, the agency's domestic email
Both Townsend and McConnell claim that the "laws haven't kept up" with the
alleged threat posed by a cyberattack and urged the administration to give
the NSA even more authority to operate domestically.
No mention was made by liberal interventionist-friendly Atlantic reporter
Max Fisher that McConnell's firm has reaped multiyear contracts worth
billions for their classified cybersecurity work for the secret state.
Hardly slouches themselves when it comes to electronic eavesdropping, the
FBI is seeking to expand their already-formidable capabilities through their
"Going Dark" program.
As Antifascist Calling
previously reported (May 17, 2009), the
Bureau sought - and received - $233.9 billion in FY 2010 for the development
of a new advanced electronic surveillance program.
ABC News first
disclosed the program last year, and
"the term 'Going Dark' does not refer to a
specific capability, but is a program name for the part of the FBI,
Operational Technology Division's (OTD) lawful interception program
which is shared with other law enforcement agencies."
According to ABC,
"the term applies to the research and
development of new tools, technical support and training initiatives."
The New York Times reported last week that OTD
spent $9.75 million last year "helping communications companies" develop
"interception capabilities" for the Bureau.
The administration's push for more control is all the more ironic
considering that the U.S. State Department according to Reuters,
said in August it was "disappointed" that,
"the United Arab Emirates planned to cut off
key BlackBerry services, noting the Gulf nation was setting a dangerous
precedent in limiting freedom of information."
As The Washington Post
told us at the time, UAE securocrats
"it will block key features on BlackBerry
smartphones because the devices operate beyond the government's ability
Citing - what else! - "national security
concerns," the measure "could" be motivated "in part" by state fears that
"the messaging system might be exploited by" - wait! - "terrorists or other
criminals who cannot be monitored by local authorities."
That regional beacon of 'democracy,' Saudi Arabia, said it would
In response, State Department shill P.J.
Crowley said that the United States is,
"committed to promoting the free flow of
information. We think it's integral to an innovative economy."
With a straight face, Crowley told a State
Department news briefing,
"It's about what we think is an important
element of democracy, human rights and freedom of information and the
flow of information in the 21st century."
"We think it sets a dangerous precedent," he said. "You should be
opening up societies to these new technologies that have the opportunity
to empower people rather than looking to see how you can restrict
Pointing out the Obama regime's hypocrisy,
Yousef Otaiba, the UAE Ambassador to the United States counteracted and
said it was Crowley's comments that were,
"disappointing" and that they "contradict
the U.S. government's own approach to telecommunication regulation."
"Importantly," Otaiba said, "the UAE requires the same compliance as the
U.S. for the very same reasons: to protect national security and to
assist in law enforcement."
informed us in July that Emirate officials
are concerned that the encrypted software and networks used by
Research in Motion, BlackBerry's parent
"make it difficult for governments to
Although this is precisely the autocratic
mindset that rules the roost here in the
heimat, corporate media report
identical moves by the U.S. government with nary a critical word, failing to
point out the disconnect between administration rhetoric and ubiquitous
"facts on the ground."
Among the proposals being considered by the administration, the Times
reports that officials "are coalescing" around several "likely requirements"
that include the following:
"Communications services that encrypt
messages must have a way to unscramble them."
U.S. law will apply to overseas businesses, not
just domestic firms.
The Times avers that,
"Foreign-based providers that do business
inside the United States must install a domestic office capable of
And finally, a kiss of death for privacy rights,
"Developers of software that enables
peer-to-peer communication must redesign their service to allow
Firms that fail to comply,
"would face fines or some other penalty."
The Times neglected to tell us however, what
penalties await software developers or individual users who have the
temerity to design - or avail themselves - of systems that bypass backdoors
mandated by the secret state.
Far from being an "enhanced security feature," the administration's proposal
for peer-to-peer snooping would be a boon to hackers, thieves and other
miscreants who routinely breech and exploit whatever "firewall" grifting
firms and their political allies devise to "keep us safe."
In fact, as computer security and privacy researchers Christopher
Soghoian and Sid Stamm revealed in their paper,
Certified Lies - Detecting and Defeating Government
Interception Attacks Against SSL, secret state agencies have
already compromised the Secure Socket Layer certification process (SSL,
the tiny lock that appears during supposedly "secure," encrypted online
transactions), and do so routinely.
In March, Soghoian and Stamm introduced the public to,
"a new attack, the compelled certificate
creation attack, in which government agencies compel a certificate
authority to issue false SSL certificates that are then used by
intelligence agencies to covertly intercept and hijack individuals'
secure Web-based communications."
The intrepid researchers provided "alarming
evidence" suggesting "this attack is in active use," and that a niche
Packet Forensics, is already marketing
"extremely small, covert surveillance devices for networks" to government
It now appears that the
Obama administration will soon be seeking
legislative authority from Congress that legalizes surreptitious snooping by
security officials and a coterie of outsourced contractors who grow fat
subverting our privacy rights.
Commenting on the administration's proposal in a recent post, Soghoian
points out that when wiretap reporting requirements were amended in 2000,
similar arguments were made that strong encryption would "harm national
Congress inserted language that compelled secret state agencies like the FBI
"include statistics on the number of
intercept orders in which encryption was encountered and whether such
encryption prevented law enforcement from obtaining the plain text of
communications intercepted pursuant to such order."
However in a replay of the crypto wars of the 1990s, FBI general counsel
Caproni brushed off breech of privacy concerns and told the Times that
"can promise strong encryption. They just
need to figure out how they can provide us plain text."
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) argued a decade ago
"compiling the statistics would be a 'far
more reliable basis than anecdotal evidence on which to assess law
enforcement needs and make sensible policy in this area'."
"Since then," Soghoian writes, "the Administrative Office of the US
Courts has compiled an
annual wiretap report, which reveals
that encryption is simply not frequently encountered during wiretaps,
and when it is, it never stops the government from collecting the
evidence they need."
In light of statistical evidence provided by the
government itself, demands that communications' providers cough-up their
customers' private data to unaccountable government snoops is
quintessentially a political decision, and not, as mendaciously claimed, a
"law enforcement" let alone a "national security" problem.
In fact, while police and intelligence agencies,
"look through thousands of individuals'
email communications, search engine requests or private, online photo
albums each year," they don't "obtain wiretap orders to intercept that
data in real time. Instead," Soghoian tells us "[they] simply wait a few
minutes, and then obtain what they want after the fact as a stored
18 USC 2703," the Stored Communications
"Unfortunately," Soghoian avers, "while we have a pretty good idea about
how many wiretaps law enforcement agencies obtain each year, we have no
idea how many times they go to email, search engine and cloud computing
providers to compel them to disclose their customers' communications and
other private data."
"we find ourselves in the same situation as
12 years ago, where law enforcement officials were making anecdotal
claims for which no evidence existed to prove, or disprove them."
As security expert Bruce Schneier
pointed out, while the,
"proposal may seem extreme... it's not
unique." Averring that sinister snooping laws were "formerly reserved
for totalitarian countries," Schneier writes "this wholesale
surveillance of citizens has moved into the democratic world as well."
Citing moves by Sweden, Canada and Britain to
"their police new powers of internet
surveillance" compelling "communications system providers to redesign
products and services they sell," securocrats, as is their wont, are
lusting after the capacity to transform all aspects of daily life into
On top of this, as Schneier and others such as
Quintessenz have revealed, so-called
democratic states, not just usual suspects like China (whose "Golden Shield"
was designed by Western firms, after all),
"are passing data retention laws, forcing
companies to retain customer data in case they might need to be
In their 2010 report,
The Electronic Police State,
Cryptohippie informed us that data retention,
"is criminal evidence, ready for use in a
trial, and that "it is gathered universally ('preventively') and only
later organized for use in prosecutions."
How does such a system work? What are the
essential characteristics that differentiate an Electronic Police State from
previous forms of oppressive governance?
"In an Electronic Police State, every
surveillance camera recording, every email sent, every Internet site
surfed, every post made, every check written, every credit card swipe,
every cell phone ping... are all criminal evidence, and all are held in
searchable databases. The individual can be prosecuted whenever the
As the World Socialist Web Site points out, the
proposal by the Obama regime,
"goes far beyond anything envisioned by the
While the White House claims that new
legislation is needed to combat "crime" and "terrorism," socialist critic
Patrick Martin writes that,
"the Obama administration has defined
'terrorism' so widely that the term now covers a vast array of
constitutionally protected forms of political opposition to the policies
of the US government, including speaking, writing, political
demonstrations, even the filing of legal briefs."
Just ask activists raided last month by FBI
bully-boys in Minneapolis and Chicago!
The American Civil Liberties Union
denounced the proposal and called on
Congress to reject calls "to make the Internet wiretap ready."
ACLU Legislative Counsel Christopher Calabrese derided the move,
"Under the guise of a technical fix, the
government looks to be taking one more step toward conducting easy
dragnet collection of Americans' most private communications."
Clamping Down on the Freedom
of Information Act
Entreaties by civil libertarians however, are likely to fall on deaf ears in
the Democratic-controlled Congress.
In a clear sign that the Obama administration is moving to clamp down
further on the free flow of information even as they seek access to all of
reported that the Office of the Director
of National Intelligence (ODNI),
"appears to be on the verge of prevailing in
an attempt to put some information it receives from other intelligence
agencies beyond the reach of Freedom of Information Act requests."
National Counterterrorism Center Director
Michael Leiter pushed through an onerous section to Intelligence
Authorization Act legislation that exempts so-called "operational files"
from four secret state agencies,
Apparently the American people, long the targets of illegal driftnet spying
by the intelligence and security apparatus, will soon find another door
slammed shut, even as the administration claims sweeping new powers,
including the right to assassinate American citizens deemed
"terrorists," in secret and without due process, anywhere on the planet.
And they call this transparency...