Flowers By Irene
January 31, 2007 11:50 PM   Subscribe

FBI turns to broad new wiretap method. "The FBI appears to have adopted an invasive Internet surveillance technique that collects far more data on innocent Americans than previously has been disclosed." [Via TPMmuckraker]
posted by homunculus (25 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound?

Is intercepting and recording, legally speaking, a seizure if the record is locked away until a warrant is issued?

These are interesting questions. I think I posted here a year or soago that this was going to be the way of the future . . . capture everything, but keep it hermetically sealed without a warrant. . . puzzling constitutional question about chilling effect, but now that we have rational less-insane people running the Congress maybe legislation will suffice. Ah, the veto, right. . .
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:08 AM on February 1, 2007


The ubiquitous bumper sticker "I Love My Country But Fear My Government" comes to mind.
posted by amyms at 12:34 AM on February 1, 2007


Is intercepting and recording, legally speaking, a seizure if the record is locked away until a warrant is issued?

Interesting question. If you ripped a music CD to MP3 files (or otherwise make a copy of digital bits you don't legally have access to), legally speaking could you avoid being prosecuted for copyright violations if you told the judge you didn't listen to any of the music?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:01 AM on February 1, 2007


Airport x-ray machines have been doing "full-pipe" searches for years (not that I necessarily think it's ok; just saying).
posted by sluglicker at 2:09 AM on February 1, 2007


There's a definite difference between airplane searches (you're forewarned - you KNOW when you pack your bag that it's going through a scanner) and interweb surveillance (where you think that your love letters are just between you and your boss schmooopy).

That said, the FBI could from my email content infer that there was some sort of Office based plot against America. That involved a lot of cat macros.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:45 AM on February 1, 2007


where you think that your love letters are just between you and your schmooopy

Hey! How the hell did you know that I call her my schmooopy?
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:52 AM on February 1, 2007


"When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty."

-- Thomas Jefferson

"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."

-- V
The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
-- George Orwell
posted by kirkaracha at 5:07 AM on February 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


Yeah. Who cares. I don't.
posted by tadellin at 5:56 AM on February 1, 2007


any unencrypted traffic going over the internet is subject to interception by a variety of people, including the government, your cable company, long-haul internet carriers, and the other end of whatever you are communicating with.

As obnoxious as the FBI's behavior is here (if the system is running as advertised), there are so many other soft spots in the internet that are prone to interception that internet communications seem less like first class mail and more like postcards. Thing is, the bad guys already know this- they are interested in protecting themselves from hostile governments and competitors as well.

Bottom line is that bad guys are going to use steganography and crypto to communicate (and already are in many cases), and the government will mostly have records they can use to harass people a la J Edgar Hoover. This type of surveillance may catch the occasional child porn freak, but is much more useful to build up a dossier on the next MLK jr.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:08 AM on February 1, 2007


Yeah. Who cares. I don't.

That's because your innocent. And as we all know, only guilty people have anything to worry about.
posted by stbalbach at 6:20 AM on February 1, 2007


The following probably just illustrates my increasing paranoia, but this is the way I see it: By casting a huge and wide net, and then advertising it, they force thinking people (and people with something to hide) to consider things such as encryption. Then they can more easily target their searches- just look for encrypted traffic.

Same with the new chip in passports, or our upcoming "National I.D." cards. Concerned people can disable the chips (plenty of web sites suggest hitting your passport with a hammer), but then the authorities don't have to be concerned with everyone, just those whose chips are not broadcasting.

The fact that this is even happening speaks volumes about how much modern Americans have handed over their power to the government.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:23 AM on February 1, 2007


kirkaracha writes "
You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
-- George Orwell"


I had the epiphany that Orwell couldn't write 1984 (er, 2014) today. Technology has advanced to the point that the advoidance methods used by Winston are no longer feasable.
posted by Mitheral at 7:11 AM on February 1, 2007


If you ripped a music CD to MP3 files (or otherwise make a copy of digital bits you don't legally have access to), legally speaking could you avoid being prosecuted for copyright violations if you told the judge you didn't listen to any of the music?

Even if you kept the hard drive of mp3s locked up in safe deposit box, would the judge believe you?

And does it matter? Isn't the copying itself illegal (neglecting any "fair use" argument for the moment), whether or not anyone listens to it?
posted by LordSludge at 7:48 AM on February 1, 2007


Same with the new chip in passports

There are chips in passports??

plenty of web sites suggest hitting your passport with a hammer

I am so doing this!
posted by mylittlehipster at 8:26 AM on February 1, 2007


Mitheral - not to be argumentative, but your epiphany seems to rely on the viability of Winstone's avoidance techniques....did you get to the 3/4 mark in that book?
posted by Dr. Boom at 9:08 AM on February 1, 2007


more directly on this topic, I've recently decided to put up with the slower browsing resulting from using TOR. I'd be curious what other meifite opinions are on proxies, etc.
posted by Dr. Boom at 9:12 AM on February 1, 2007


Well, it's been holy smoke 20+ years since I read 1984 but IIRC, which I probably don't, Winston and Julia at least thought they could avoid detection by taking certain precautions. Today any transistor monkey can build an IR camera, bugs that fit into a dollar coin and listening devices that work by bouncing a laser off a window and the NSA has enough processing power to monitor every overseas call. The plausible opportunity to get away with out being monitored in a full out big brother state is much reduced. Winston doesn't initially flip a switch into full on not caring, he baby steps it and at least initially only proceeds because he believes the room he shares with Julia is safe.

Of course the assorted ministries could downplay the abilities of the government but why would they? If anything they'd probably exaggerate their technology.
posted by Mitheral at 9:53 AM on February 1, 2007


Yes, this is wholesale, illegal warrantless search. Bush has been doing this for five years, it's a felony, and he's not in jail. We're not a nation of laws anymore, it's rule by decree in a hereditary monarchy. Just what the loyalists always wanted.

(Make no mistake, anyone in their right mind can see who the loyalists and who the revolutionaries would be if 1776 were happening right now. Christ, the man's name is George, he's mentally deficient, inherited his title, and he's running roughshod over our basic rights. How many parallels do we need?)

So, can anyone tell me if the 9/11 hijackers used the internet to discuss their plans?
posted by mullingitover at 9:56 AM on February 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


More importantly, mechanized surveillance isn’t a replacement for investigation. Fishing /= hunting. And it is easy for a human to outsmart any mechanized, uniform process. Other humans, not so much. Now, if you don’t care, you should, because this is a waste of time, resources and money better spent on supporting on-scene in-depth investigative work. One might argue that this will be a suppliment to that, but then - where’s that money come from? Are they going to raise taxes for start up costs and maintainance and additional manpower to watch the cameras? More likely it will cut the budget from manpower (as surveillance did with human intelligence in the CIA - and that’s worked oh so well hasn’t it?) But ok, let’s blow some additional money on this and not cut anything - what’s the cost-benefit analysis? That is - does this up the percentage of arrests and/or lower crime/terrorism/etc - and if so, by how much? And is that amount worth it considering the static nature of the system?

You see a big factor here is that once in place the cameras can’t be moved without a big hassle. If I put an extra guy on the street in a given location I can predict roughly the impact on criminal activity. I can’t do that with cameras - or rather - I don’t know where outside the camera eye the activity is going. And if, say, I double police patrols in a given area - and lets say I hire some new guys to cover those shifts and they do a great job and crime is halved. I can then spread those guys around and there’s no impact on my budget.

With cameras - let’s say I cut crime in half in the area and yuppies move in and gentrify the place. I now have to spend money to move the cameras or buy new ones and put them somewhere else.
This is roughly analogus to this kind of data fishing. Investigation should drive surveillance, not the other way around, otherwise it’s a far less efficient use of resources.

Once we ID a guy - sure, put a tag on him and intercept his communications. But if you hand me a file full of e-mails saying “yeah, we’re gonna blow up the brooklyn bridge” - now I have to CREATE and investigation around it. Less efficient and I can queer the op by asking questions because I’m not fully familiar with the players. Or I run the risk of only catching the smaller fish. Or, more likely, wasting time better spent on investigating from harder leads, say, from an informant.

Reminds me of cold calling vs. sales leads.

Coffee’s for closers. It takes brass balls to do counterterrorism.

But that’s all predicated on the idea that they actually want to do law enforcement rather than keep tabs on a broad swath of population. Which this actually is quite good at.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:07 AM on February 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Bush Is Not Above the Law
posted by homunculus at 10:07 AM on February 1, 2007


Yeah. Who cares. I don't.

So how does it feel to be part of the problem?
posted by ook at 10:10 AM on February 1, 2007


"I'd be curious what other meifite opinions are on proxies, etc."

I find that more and more places are actually blocking the Tor proxies.
And if you're at work where there's an IPS in place, it can easily pick out the Tor traffic and smoosh it.
posted by drstein at 11:30 AM on February 1, 2007


Dr. Boom: I've recently decided to put up with the slower browsing resulting from using TOR. I'd be curious what other meifite opinions are on proxies, etc.

I use Tor for all of my normal browsing. Most of my web reading isn't very time-critical, so the Tor delay isn't too annoying. This keeps my ISP from spying on my personal opinions and interests (as if they really care), and also keeps website owners from knowing who I am.

Of course, there are many mistakes you can make that will out who you are while using Tor:
- Login to a website with an account tied to an identifiable email
- Not clear your browser cookies between Tor/non-Tor browsing sessions.
- Access a page that has plugins that can make their own network connections

However, for agencies such as the FBI/NSA, since they have resources breaking, Tor might not be too difficult:
- The first node in your Tor circuit knows who you are (IP address) but doesn't know the content of your traffic or what website you are contacting
- Traffic from the Tor exit node is plaintext, so that node can see all communication to/from the webserver (but it doesn't know who you are)
- If FBI/NSA had a large pool of computers masquerading as Tor nodes, then their computers could easily be your entry and exit nodes for the Tor network
- Using traffic timing/data size correlation, then could potentially tie together who you are and what you are saying.

So it's better than nothing and protects well against most attackers. Government agencies are a different story.
posted by jsonic at 12:47 PM on February 1, 2007


The Psychology of Security, By Bruce Schneier.
posted by homunculus at 10:15 AM on February 8, 2007


No More Porn for You
posted by homunculus at 9:57 AM on February 14, 2007


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