by Tom Burghardt
November 21, 2010
Tom Burghardt is a researcher
and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to
publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, an his
articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily,
Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing
He is the editor of Police
State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning,
distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book from
Global Research, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of
the XXI Century.
In a further sign that Barack Obama's faux
"progressive" regime will soon seek broad new Executive Branch power, The
New York Times
disclosed last week that FBI chief and
cover-up specialist extraordinaire,
Robert S. Mueller III,
"traveled to Silicon Valley on Tuesday to
meet with top executives of several technology firms about a proposal to
make it easier to wiretap Internet users."
Times' journalist Charlie Savage reported
that Mueller and the Bureau's chief counsel, Valerie Caproni,
"were scheduled to meet with senior managers
of several major companies, including
Facebook, according to several people
familiar with the discussions."
Facebook's public policy manager Andrew Noyes
confirmed that Mueller "is visiting Facebook during his trip to Silicon
Google, on the other hand, "declined to
Antifascist Calling reported that the
U.S. Secret State, in a reprise of the crypto wars of the 1990s, is
seeking new legislation from Congress that would "fix" the Communications
Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA)
and further curtail our civil- and privacy rights.
When the administration floated the proposal in September, The New York
revealed that among the "fixes" sought by
the FBI and other intrusive spy satrapies, were demands that communications'
providers build backdoors into their applications and networks that
will give 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."
And with a new "security-minded" Congress set to
convene in January, chock-a-block with Tea Partying "conservatives" and
ultra-nationalist know-nothings, the chances that the administration will
get everything they want, and then some, is a sure bet.
"All Your Data Belongs
Caproni and her cohorts, always up to the challenge when it comes to
grabbing our personal data, much like pigs snuffling about a dank forest in
search of truffles or those rarer, more elusive delicacies christened
"actionable intelligence" by our minders, avowed that said legislative
tweaks are "reasonable" and "necessary" requirements that will "prevent the
erosion" of the Bureau's "investigative powers."
Never mind that the FBI, as Wired Magazine
revealed three years ago,
"has quietly built a sophisticated,
point-and-click surveillance system that performs instant wiretaps on
almost any communications device."
Security journalist Ryan Singel reported
that the Bureau's Digital Collection System Network or DCS-3000, a
newer iteration of the
Carnivore system of the 1990s,
"connects FBI wiretapping rooms to switches
controlled by traditional land-line operators, internet-telephony
providers and cellular companies."
Documents obtained by the Electronic
Frontier Foundation through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit
revealed that the system was created to,
"intercept personal communications services
delivered via emerging digital technologies used by wireless carriers."
A second system,
Red Hook, collects "voice and data calls
and then process and display the intercepted information."
And never mind, as
Wired also informed us, that the Bureau's
"computer and internet protocol address verifier," or
CIPAV, once called Magic Lantern, is a
malicious piece of software, a virtual keystroke reader, that,
"gathers a wide range of information,
the computer's IP address
the operating system type, version
and serial number
preferred internet browser and
the computer's registered owner and
registered company name
the current logged-in user name
the last-visited URL"
Insidiously, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of
Appeals ruled at the time, since the Bureau's malware doesn't capture the
content of communications, it can be conducted without a wiretap warrant,
because, as our judicial guardians opined, users have "no reasonable
expectation of privacy" when using the internet.
And with the secret state clamoring for the broadest possible access
to our data, its become a lucrative business for greedy, I mean patriotic,
ISPs who charge premium prices for services rendered in the endless "War
Security Is Patriotic,
and Profitable Too!
Last week, The Register
informed us that privacy and security
researcher Christopher Soghoian revealed that although,
"Microsoft does not charge for government
surveillance of its users," Google, on the other hand "charges $25 per
This information was revealed in a document
(below image) obtained by the intrepid activist under the Freedom of
Slight Paranoia web site has broken any
number of stories on the collusive, and patently illegal, collaboration
amongst grifting telecoms, niche spy firms and the secret state,
revealed in March that the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) system has
already been compromised by U.S. and other intelligence agencies.
is the tiny lock that appears in your browser when you log-on to an
allegedly "secure" web site for banking or other online transactions.)
In a paper co-authored with researcher Sid Stamm,
Certified Lies - Detecting and Defeating Government
Interception Attacks Against SSL, Soghoian revealed that a "new
attack" against online privacy,
"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... is in active use."
The latest disclosure by Soghoian uncovered
evidence that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), shelled
out some $6.7 million for pen registers and $6.5 million for wiretaps.
While a wiretap provides law enforcers with
"actual telephone or internet conversations," a pen register,
"merely grabs numbers and addresses that
show who's doing the communicating," The Register averred.
While Microsoft doesn't charge the government
for spying on their users, conveniently doing away with a messy paper trail
in the process, Google receives $25 and Yahoo $29 from taxpayers for the
privilege of being surveilled.
Soghoian points out that,
"Google and Yahoo! may make more money from
surveillance than they get directly from their email users. Basic Google
and Yahoo! email accounts are free. Department of Justice
documents show that telcos
(telephone companies) may charge as much as $2,000 for a pen register."
That 2006 report from the DoJ's Office of the
Inspector General reported that to facilitate
"Congress appropriated $500 million to
reimburse carriers for the direct costs of modifying systems installed
or deployed on or before January 1, 1995."
Ten years on, and $450 million later, the Bureau
"only 10 to 20 percent of the wireline
switches, and approximately 50 percent of the pre-1995 and 90 percent of
the post-1995 wireless switches, respectively, have CALEA software
activated and thus are considered CALEA-compliant."
Sounds like a serious crisis, right? Well, not
OIG auditors averred that "we could not provide
assurance on the accuracy of these estimates," a subtle way of saying that
the FBI could be ginning-up the numbers - and alleged "threats" to the
heimat posed by an open internet and
As it turns out, this too is a proverbial red herring.
Whether or not the switches themselves are "CALEA-compliant" is a moot point
since the vast majority of ISPs retain search data "in the cloud"
indefinitely, just as wireless carriers cache cell phone geo-location and
dialed-number data in huge data warehouses seemingly until the end of time,
all readily accessible to law enforcement agencies - for a price...
Bringing the Hammer
The weakest link in the battle to preserve privacy rights, as Washington
revealed, are the corporate grifters
feeding at the federal trough. What with the "cybersecurity" market the
newest growth center for enterprising capitalist pirates, why bite the hand
Couple this with the brisk private market in grabbing online users' data and
selling it to the highest bidder, as The Wall Street Journal
uncovered in their excellent "What
They Know" series on web- and cell phone tracking, it becomes
clear that profit always trumps democratic control and privacy rights.
In light of these disturbing trends, CNET News
"Democratic politicians are proposing a
novel approach to cybersecurity: fine technology companies $100,000 a
day unless they comply with directives imposed by the U.S. Department of
Investigative journalist Declan McCullagh
informs us that legislation introduced last week by the lame duck Congress,
"would allow DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano
to levy those and other civil penalties on noncompliant companies that
the government deems 'critical,' a broad term that could sweep in Web
firms, broadband providers, and even software companies and search
Congressional grifter Rep. Bennie Thompson
(D-MS), the outgoing chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee,
claimed that the bill,
"will make our nation more secure and better
positions DHS - the 'focal point for the security of cyberspace' - to
fulfill its critical homeland security mission," right alongside the
National Security Agency as Antifascist Calling
reported last month.
Jim Harper, a policy analyst with the
right-wing Cato Institute told CNET that,
"Congress is stepping forward to regulate
something it has no idea how to regulate. It's a level of bureaucracy
that actually adds nothing at all."
While Harper's assertion is accurate up to a
point, he's missing the boat insofar as demands for expanded - and
unregulated - authority by our political minders to access anything and
everything even remotely connected to "national security," from email to web
searches and from financial transactions to travel plans, is precisely the
point of an
electronic police state.
The bill, the Homeland Security Cyber and Physical Infrastructure
Protection Act (HSCPIPA), has "other high-profile backers," including
Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) and Yvette Clarke (D-NY), the outgoing
chair of the Cybersecurity Subcommittee.
Last week, Antifascist Calling
reported that Clarke
"the likelihood of a cyber-attack that could
bring down our [electrical] grid is... 100%. Our networks are already
being penetrated as we stand here. We are already under attack."
Clarke, who raised some $267,938 in campaign
contributions during the current election cycle,
according to OpenSecrets.org,
including tens of thousands of dollars from defense and security grifters
...not to mention that sterling citizen and
beacon of financial transparency,
With a straight face, she asserted:
"We must stop asking ourselves 'could this
happen to us' and move to a default posture that acknowledges this fact
and instead asks 'what can we do to protect ourselves'?"
With the introduction of
HSCPIPA, we now have our answer!
Hardly slouches themselves when it comes to feeding at the corporate
Harman raked in $654,787 from firms such
as Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Raytheon and Science Applications
International Corporation (SAIC)
grabbed $584,938 from firms like
SAIC, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin,
...all of whom do yeoman's work, as readers are
well aware, to "keep us safe."
While no Republicans have signed onto the bill, the incoming chairman of the
House Homeland Security Committee, ultra-rightist crazy, Rep.
Peter King (R-NY),
pulled down some $664,657 from his loyal
King, an apologist for Bush-Obama "War
on Terror" policies,
told Politico earlier this month that the
practice of torturing terrorism suspects "saved many, many lives."
And, like his Democratic Party colleague Clarke,
"cyber-spies from foreign countries have
already penetrated our electrical system, mapped it and left behind
software that caused disruptions and disabled our electrical system."
While neither representative has provided a
shred of evidence to back their wild claims, both scrupulously avoid
addressing the question of who the most egregious planetary perpetrators of
"cyber espionage" actually are.
A Seamless Global
In a sign that the collapsing American Empire will make new wiretap rules a
cost of doing business with the greatest country that ever was,
foreign governments and firms that do business in the U.S. were warned that
overseas internet service providers,
"would have to route communications through
a server on United States soil where they could be wiretapped," the
That would certainly give our corporate grifters
a leg up on the competition!
Considering that the National Security Agency's
surveillance platform, accused by the European Parliament in their
2001 report of filching communications from
EU businesses and passing them on to corporate "friends," I'm sure they'll
just smile and suck it up.
According to the report,
the NSA routinely used the program for
corporate and industrial espionage and that information was turned over to
American firms for their financial advantage.
For example, EU investigators discovered that ECHELON spies had "lifted...
all the faxes and phone calls" between the European aircraft manufacturer
Airbus and Saudi Arabian Airlines. The information gleaned was then used by
two American companies, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, to outflank their
Airbus rivals and win a $6 billion contract.
Investigators also found that the French company
Thomson-CSF lost a $1.3 billion satellite deal to Raytheon the same way.
Similarly, the new communications spying regime proposed by the FBI also has
a long and sordid history.
In January, investigative journalist Nicky
reported that under terms of New Zealand's
2004 Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Act,
"a basic interception warrant... allows them
access to all your emails, internet browsing, online shopping or dating,
calls, texts and location for mobile phones, and much more - all
delivered almost instantaneously to the surveillance agencies."
It should, since the template for global
driftnet spying originated deep in the bowels of the 'UKUSA'
Security Agreement and the National
Security Agency, the dark Pentagon entity that created ECHELON.
Hager, the author of
Secret Power, first blew the lid off
ECHELON in a 1996 piece for Covert Action Quarterly (Exposing
The Global Surveillance System).
He revealed that the origins of New Zealand's
"can be traced back 10 years to when British
researchers uncovered European Union police documents planning exactly
the same sort of surveillance system in Europe."
That secret plan Hager reports,
Enfopol 98... aimed to create 'a
seamless web of telecommunications surveillance' across Europe, and
involved EU nations adopting 'International User Requirements for
Interception', to standardize surveillance capabilities."
Who, pray tell, was in the thick of this nasty
According to Hager, European researchers
"that the moves followed 'a five-year
lobbying exercise by American agencies such as the FBI'."
Hager tells us, that similar to moves inside the
United States, the island nation's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) forced
through legislation that empowered spooks,
"to catch... communications, including
people using overseas-based email or other services, all the local
communications networks are wired up as well, to monitor messages en
The origin of these intrusive measures, Hager
reports, are the series of conferences, first hosted by the FBI-run
International Law Enforcement Telecommunications Seminar (ILETS)
beginning in the mid-1990s.
According to the document posted by the secrecy-shredding web site
Cryptome, international snoops averred that,
"Law enforcement agencies require access to
all interception subjects operating temporarily or permanently within a
telecommunications system," and that "Law enforcement agencies require a
real-time, full-time monitoring capability for the interception of
telecommunications. Call associated data should also be provided in
Fast forward a decade and we learn, Hager
writes, that alongside the United States,
"New Zealand is integrated into the
'seamless web of telecommunications surveillance' around the globe - a
system which from the start had primarily been about US agencies wanting
surveillance capabilities beyond their borders."
Thus the secret state's desire, as The New York
Times reported, for legislative authority demanding that foreign citizens
and firms route their overseas communications through U.S. servers "where
they could be wiretapped."
And with the latest push for "total information awareness" - data retention
- looming ever-larger on the horizon, ISPs and wireless carriers,
"are forced by government to store all their
customers' emails, texts, internet use and phone data... making them
available to police and spy agencies to trawl for people's past
correspondence and activities."
"These developments" Hager writes, "have
been introduced quietly. Neither the government nor the phone and
internet companies are keen to advertise their Big Brotherish
Now the repressive American domestic
intelligence agency that brought us
COINTELPRO, targets the antiwar movement for "special handling"
and gives "aid and comfort" to international terrorists like al-Qaeda triple
agent, the false-flag specialist
Ali Mohamed, is lobbying internet firms
Google in a bid to expand their onerous
As the American Civil Liberties Union pointed out last week in their
denunciation of the FBI's sought-after
"this proposal isn't simply applying the
same sort of wiretap system we have for phones to the Internet; it would
require reconfiguring and changing the nature of the Internet."
Laura W. Murphy, the Director of the
ACLU's Washington Legislative Office said they,
"remain very concerned that this proposal is
a clear recipe for abuse and will make it that much easier for the
government to gain access to our most personal information."
"Americans," Murphy averred, "should not simply surrender their privacy
and other fundamental values in the name of national security."
And with a growing revolt over egregious sexual
assaults and virtual strip searches by Transportation Security Agency goons
threatening to break out amongst air travelers, including calls
resist being bombarded with ionizing radiation and humiliating
TSA "pat-downs," are we on the cusp
of a more generalized rebellion against the capitalist surveillance state?