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Wired-tapped
June 1, 2006 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Crashing the Wiretapper's Ball Wired News snuck a reporter into the ISS World Conference, a no-press-allowed conference for companies that sell wiretapping equipment to law enforcement, ISPs, telcos, and repressive governments. Hilarity ensues. via
posted by pithy comment (21 comments total)

 
Wired seems to be leading the whole wiretapping story.
posted by pithy comment at 7:43 AM on June 1, 2006


seems to be a formatting/css problem with your link where this one works fine..
posted by zenzizi at 7:49 AM on June 1, 2006


He said that in the Netherlands, communications intercept capabilities are advanced and well established, and yet, in practice, less problematic than in many other countries. "Our legal system is more transparent," he said, "so we can do what we need to do without controversy. Transparency makes law enforcement easier, not more difficult."

There's a lesson here.
posted by Mr. Six at 7:54 AM on June 1, 2006


There's no mention if they went back to Gene Hackman's house and got drunk, like they did in The Conversation. Now that would have been a scoop!
posted by Operation Afterglow at 7:57 AM on June 1, 2006


good story...but missed the "hilarity" part.
posted by Pacheco at 8:05 AM on June 1, 2006


Sorry about the hilarity part, that was my sometimes stupid sense of humor/sarcasm.
posted by pithy comment at 8:10 AM on June 1, 2006


This bit is worth repeating:
The popular law enforcement myth is that crooks are getting ever more sophisticated in their use of modern technology, so the police have got to acquire more "sophisticated" point-and-drool equipment to catch them. We find versions of this incantation in virtually every Justice Department press release or speech related to CALEA. But these tools -- especially in the IP realm -- are not so much sophisticated as complicated and very expensive. They're a bad alternative to old-fashioned detective work involving the wearing down of shoes and dull stakeout sessions in uncomfortable quarters such as automobiles. The chief impulse behind this law enforcement gizmo fetish is laziness, and it's a bad trend: The more policemen we have fiddling with computer equipment, the fewer we have doing proper legwork.

posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:27 AM on June 1, 2006


it's funny to me, the tone that surveilance has taken recently. I mean, with the war on terror and all that, surveillance has principally become a discussion of "how is the government listening to me in order to either a)catch terrorists, or b)pretend to catch terrorists and really just oppress me."

before 2001, i seem to remember surveillance technology being principally a matter of keeping tabs on organized crime. mob heavies were too smart to keep getting caught by lip readers outdoors, or saying anything incriminating over the phone, etc... and they were excellent at eliminating forensic evidence and shutting witnesses up. Hell, when phone phreaking first started happening, the popular theory was that reworking the phone system in order to eliminate the ability to use simple tones to make free untraceable phone calls would simply be too expensive for it to be worth anyone's time. But then law enforcement finds out that mobsters are using it to make untraceable phone calls, and that's that. the country's phone system is completely overhauled.

it all had a sort of directly perceivable cause-effect relationship, where the tech would advance, and each side would take their steps and get what they could out of the overlap between one side falling behind and the other catching up. now? who the fuck knows? is the problem really that terrorists hiding in derelict hovels, caves, and secret bunkers are keeping up with US surveillance technology too well? i don't know, but i suspect it's rather that we don't even know where to start looking in the first place. the entire thing feels like an exercise in waste, at best, and an excuse to oppress at worst.

but of course, i'm not a surveillance expert or anything. maybe i'm just spouting nonsense.
posted by shmegegge at 8:45 AM on June 1, 2006


Follow the money.
posted by mkultra at 8:53 AM on June 1, 2006


Reminds me of Gene Hackman at the surveillance conference in The Conversation (1974).
posted by stbalbach at 8:55 AM on June 1, 2006


Also worth repeating:
In the end, all this surveillance gear and attendant hype becomes meaningless with simple precautions like encrypted VOIP, a good implementation of virtual private networks, and proxies and SSH for web surfing, IM, internet relay chat, webmail and the like.
posted by mkultra at 8:59 AM on June 1, 2006


The two headed prong of creating some boogeyman issue that needs technology and administration thrown at it and then milking the public coffers for all they are worth is just so tiresome.

Surveillance, "non-lethal" weapons, the para-militarization of the police (I still bug out every time I see a chubby NYC cop with a mustache dressed in blue BDU's with full military armor and knee pads and a helmet and a chopped down m-16 all cradled to his chest delta-force style, like he's gonna get into a gun-battle with some Al Qaeda dude in the middle of Canal St.), Homeland Security funds for cornfields. It's so transparent. It seems to me like it used to be that if you wanted to embezzle you had to do it in a sneaky way or fucking smuggle coke for the Contras to get missiles for the Iranians. Now it's just, uh please make that check out to...

I used to marvel at what foresight it took for Dwight D Eisenhower to say these words when he left office in 1961:

" This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. "


Now I realize that he was thinking really small, he had no idea. I wish that a plank in the platform of every right thinking politician (left or right God help us) was that security is important but only if it is done in a smart way where the eventual goal is MORE SECURITY. The techy/information society is to blame for this in a way, I'm glad that Wired is covering it.

Want to do an end run around all of this electronic surveillance? Don't use the phone, meet in the corner of a parking garage, don't refer to things directly. Don't talk in front of people you don't know intimately. It's only how people have been getting away with it since forever.

Want to fight the much vaunted US military to a standstill? Don't waste your time trying to find reverse in some shitty old Soviet tank, just fight an urban guerilla war with RPG's, Mortar Mines and AK's and hope the US doesn't realize (like the French and the English have in the past) that the only way to defeat a popular insurgency is to straight up kill everyone.

Yikes.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:29 AM on June 1, 2006


There was way too much of the journalist in that piece. It was all "then I did this, then I did that, I'm such a great journalist... nothing really happened". Good idea, poor execution, I'd say.
posted by reklaw at 9:39 AM on June 1, 2006


I agree with the Reklaw, but the reason is that the guy has nothing to report. From the article, he spent three days evesdropping in the lobby and hotel bar and never was able to attend a single session of the conference. There is no story here.

But it's foolish to be secretive: A determined reporter can't be thwarted

Yet they thwarted you quite easily.
posted by LarryC at 10:17 AM on June 1, 2006


I've said it before and I'll say it again. They used the "war" on drugs to take away many of our civil liberties. The "war" on terrorism will take care of the rest.

Welcome to 1984.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:22 AM on June 1, 2006


The real lesson here: Sneaking into conventions on their last day is easy and fun!
posted by pokermonk at 10:27 AM on June 1, 2006


From the article, he spent three days evesdropping in the lobby and hotel bar and never was able to attend a single session of the conference. There is no story here.

Also from the article, after getting a copy of the CD which purportedly was used as a reference for all the slides and presentation materials in all the sessions, he found it was ludricrous that they were keeping him out in the first place.

He succeeded, in a way. Sure, he never made it past the guard, but he didn't have to.
posted by thanotopsis at 10:47 AM on June 1, 2006


Nifty.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:53 PM on June 1, 2006


Seems to me that the article was meant as a threat to the conference organizers — "Just so you know, we're watching you too" — rather than a piece of informative journalism for the general public.

'Course, if the surveilance folks know we're paying attention, it might make them marginally less likely to do anything truly evil. In that sense, even a boring article on a top-secret surveilance conference serves some sort of purpose.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:54 PM on June 1, 2006


I still liked this part:

It's ironic that spooks so often remind us that we've got nothing to fear from their activities if we've got nothing nasty to hide, while they themselves are rarely comfortable without multiple layers of secrecy, anonymity and plausible deniability. While there was little or nothing at the conference worth keeping secret, the sense of paranoia was constant. The uniformed guard posted to the entrance was there to intimidate, not to protect. The restrictions on civilians attending the law enforcement agency sessions were, I gather, a cheap marketing gesture to justify their $6,500-per-head entrance fee with suggestions of secret information that the average network-savvy geek wouldn't have known.
posted by HyperBlue at 9:51 PM on June 1, 2006


"You really need to educate yourself," he insisted. "Do you think this stuff doesn't happen in the West? Let me tell you something. I sell this equipment all over the world, especially in the Middle East. I deal with buyers from Qatar, and I get more concern about proper legal procedure from them than I get in the USA."

...

"It's a valid question," I insisted. "This is powerful stuff. In the wrong hands, it could ruin political opponents; it could make the state's power impossible to challenge. The state would know basically everything. People would be getting rounded up for thought crimes."

"You're not listening," he said. "The NSA is using this stuff. The DEA, the Secret Service, the CIA. Are you kidding me? They don't answer to you. They do whatever the hell they want with it. Are you really that naïve? Now leave these guys alone; they make a product, that's all. It's nothing to them what happens afterward. You really need to educate yourself."


My reading of this passage is that the salesguy was doing everything he could to point his finger at the potential for domestic abuse. The journalist either intentionally or unintentionally assumed the sales guy was saying "don't worry" when he was really saying "be afraid, but you are afraid of the wrong danger."
posted by b1tr0t at 11:48 PM on June 1, 2006


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