Category Archives: National Security

NSA PRISM, Writs of Assistance, Rattlesnakes, and the Fourth Amendment

British Crown dragnets of information against smuggling led to the U.S. Fourth Amendment, and U.S. defense against those dragnets was the origin of the Gadsden rattlesnake flag. Those colonial Writs of Assistance were much like that FISA court order for Verizon call logs and the NSA PRISM wide-range domestic communications dragnet, while Senators Feinstein and Chambliss act like the colonial royal governors who issued those Writs.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Senators Feinstein and Chambliss admit there is no probable cause, and no particular description of the place to be searched or the persons or things to be seized.

The Fourth Amendment was proposed because of things very like that FISA court order to Verizon back in colonial times, namely writs of assistance to stop smuggling:

In 1760, governor [Francis] Bernard of Massachusetts authorized the use by revenue officers of writs of assistance. Writs of assistance were Continue reading

Senators Feinstein and Chambliss shuffle their feet about FISA

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) lamely tried to defend the Verizon call log wiretapping, which they full well know is actually part of a dragnet of all U.S. communications. Ed O’Keefe wrote for the Washingtohn Post yesterday, Transcript: Dianne Feinstein, Saxby Chambliss explain, defend NSA phone records program,

Dianne Feinstein:

As far as I know, this is the exact three month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years. This renewal is carried out by the FISA Court under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore, it is lawful.

It has been briefed to Congress and the letters that we have distributed — and you’ll note on the dates, this is prior to the Patriot Act amendments coming before the body, each of those. As you know, this is just Continue reading

NSA domestic spying: we stopped it in 1977 and we can stop it again

After seven years or more, it’s good people are finally noticing the NSA spying program: now maybe enough people will do something about it like we did in 1977.

Don’t believe it’s just limited to who calls who: since at least 2005, AT&T (and most likely all the other telcos) has been sending all telecommunications to NSA. This stuff started after 9/11 and was legalized by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. Before 9/11 NSA respected a rigorous wall between it and domestic spying. Time to put that wall back up. Bruce Schneier wrote 29 December 2005, Project Shamrock,

Decades before 9/11, and the subsequent Bush order that directed the NSA to eavesdrop on every phone call, e-mail message, and who-knows-what-else going into or out of the United States, U.S. citizens included, they did the same thing with telegrams. It was called Project Shamrock, and anyone who thinks this is new legal and technological terrain should read up on that program.

Project SHAMROCK…was an espionage exercise that involved the accumulation of all telegraphic data entering into or exiting from the United States. The Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA) and its successor NSA were given direct access to daily microfilm copies of all incoming, outgoing, and transiting telegraphs via the Western Union and its associates RCA and ITT. Operation Shamrock lasted well into the 1960s when computerized operations (HARVEST) made it possible to search for keywords rather than read through all communications.

Project SHAMROCK became so successful that in 1966 Continue reading

Banana Republic, DC: Telecom Lobbying Revolving Door

800px-Banana_republic.svg.png Greenwald notes that AT&T spends more in three months for lobbying than EFF’s entire budget for a year. Then he spells out how the lobbying revolving door works, and concludes:
The “two sides” referenced there means the House Democratic leadership and the telecoms. Congressional leaders are “negotiating” with the telecoms — the defendants in pending lawsuits — regarding the best way for immunizing them from liability for their lawbreaking, no doubt with the help of the former Democratic members and staffers now being paid by the telecoms to speak to their former bosses and colleagues about what they should do. To describe the process is to illustrate its oozing, banana-republic-like corruption, but that’s generally how our laws are written.

None of this is particularly new, but it’s still remarkable to be able to document it in such grotesque detail and see how transparent it all is. In one sense, it’s just extraordinary how seamlessly and relentlessly the wheels of this dirty process churn. But in another sense, it’s perhaps even more remarkable — given the forces lined up behind telecom amnesty — that those who have been working against it, with far fewer resources and relying largely on a series of disruptive tactics and ongoing efforts to mobilize citizen anger, have been able to stop it so far.

How telecoms are attempting to buy amnesty from Congress, Glenn Greenwald,, Saturday May 24, 2008 06:48 EDT

Remember, AT&T and the other telcos and cablecos are the same companies that want to nuke net neutrality in the name of competition and progress; two other flags they behind, just like the banana republic flag of national security.


Privacy: U.S. Government Taking the Gloves Off

PH2005090102080.jpg In a previous job, Donald Kerr said he was concerned about
the “hollowing out” of U.S. manufacturing of satellite components. Although he said the design capability for the vehicles has remained in this country, “so much production has moved offshore that potentially has left us weaker.”

Reconnaissance Office Role to Be Reviewed, Satellite Agency’s Place Is Uncertain, By Walter Pincus, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, September 2, 2005; Page A27

In his current job as deputy director of national intelligence, what he’s recommending will drive more production offshore, because fewer qualified people will want to work in the U.S. Plus a government that wants to know everything about everyone online is not a government that will facilitate competition among ISPs, so the U.S. will continue to fall farther behind in Internet access, speed, and applications.
Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people’s private communications and financial information.

Intel official: Expect less privacy By Pamela Hess, Associated Press Writer, Updated: 11/11/07 11:47 PM

The article is full of bad arguments by Kerr. I suppose real arguments don’t matter when you’re taking the gloves off and revealing the true hand of government intervention in private matters. Continue reading

Wiretapping before 9/11: AT&T, NSA, Verizon, Level 3

kleincropped-tbn.jpg Why would an administration that currently has access to all data going over the Internet want more competition in the ISP market?

Mark Klein going to Washington to blow the whistle some more on AT&T on giving NSA unfettered access to AT&T’s network:

“If they’ve done something massively illegal and unconstitutional — well, they should suffer the consequences,” Klein said. “It’s not my place to feel bad for them. They made their bed, they have to lie in it. The ones who did [anything wrong], you can be sure, are high up in the company. Not the average Joes, who I enjoyed working with.”

A Story of Surveillance, Former Technician ‘Turning In’ AT&T Over NSA Program, By Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post Staff Writer, Wednesday, November 7, 2007; Page D01

While the Washington Post, for example, does get at one main point:
Contrary to the government’s depiction of its surveillance program as aimed at overseas terrorists, Klein said, much of the data sent through AT&T to the NSA was purely domestic. Klein said he believes that the NSA was analyzing the records for usage patterns as well as for content.
It neglects to mention an even bigger point: Continue reading

U.S. Broadband Competitiveness: Let’s Study It To Death

countries.gif Let’s study it to death:
The United States is starting to look like a slowpoke on the Internet. Examples abound of countries that have faster and cheaper broadband connections, and more of their population connected to them.

What’s less clear is how badly the country that gave birth to the Internet is doing, and whether the government needs to step in and do something about it. The Bush administration has tried to foster broadband adoption with a hands-off approach. If that’s seen as a failure by the next administration, the policy may change.

In a move to get a clearer picture of where the U.S. stands, the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday approved legislation that would develop an annual inventory of existing broadband services — including the types, advertised speeds and actual number of subscribers — available to households and businesses across the nation.

U.S. sees some countries overtake it in broadband speeds, but is there a problem? Associated Press, 30 Oct 2007

On the one hand, this sounds like a popular approach to global warming by its deniers: now let’s ask some scientists to study it. After all, the Okefenokee and surrounds burned more acres than in living memory, western wildfires have increased fourfold since 1970, 30 million people in half a dozen southwest states may run out of water in the next decade or so, and 12 million people in the Atlanta metro area are less than 3 months from having no water. And hundreds of climate scientists have already turned in their verdict. But, hey, now let’s ask some scientists to study it.

On the other hand, this is Ed Markey’s committee, and he has seemed serious about doing something, so maybe he’s just cojmpiling a case. Sure, he’s probably reacting to people like this who are taking the same tack as outlined above: Continue reading

FCC: Trick or Treat! Media Consolidation

kevin_martin.jpg Today is November First, which is the deadline for comments on the FCC’s media consolidation move. There’s still no notice on the FCC web pages of a hearing on November 2.

Oh, wait! Kevin Martin held a hearing two days earlier, on Halloween instead! Without ever announcing it on the FCC web pages.

Dissident commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein appeared at a rally outside the FCC’s office in Washington to object to Martin’s chicanery. “Neither we nor the public received any confirmation that the hearing would occur until … just 5 business days before the event,” the commissioners said before entering the building for the hearing. “This is unacceptable and unfair to the public.”

Joining Copps and Adelstein were political, labor and community leaders who condemned Martin’s assault not merely on media diversity but on the basic standards for making regulatory shifts.

No Treats for FCC Chair and Media Monopolists, John Nichols, The Nation, Wed Oct 31, 6:03 PM ET

Jesse Jackson, National Organization of Women, United Church of Christ, Future of the Media Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives; they all protested.

Martin even has the Parents Television Council against him.

Notice of a meeting only five days before to the other commissioners, and apparently none to the public? You’d think Martin didn’t know how to talk to the press. Yet just a few days ago he was chatting with the New York Times about ending cable monopolies to apartments.

I wonder if he told the telcos about that Halloween meeting more than five days before? Nah, that would be corruption.


FCC, Telcos, Congress, and FISA

court_rules.gif The FCC won’t investigate possible illegal telco activities:
The head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission declined to investigate reports that phone companies turned over customer records to the National Security Agency, citing national security concerns, according to documents released on Friday.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin turned down a congressional request for an investigation as a top intelligence official concluded it would “pose an unnecessary risk of damage to the national security,” according to a letter National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell sent to Martin on Tuesday.

FCC won’t probe disclosure of phone records, By Reuters, October 6, 2007, 4:00 PM PDT

It seems unlikely the FCC will investigate active wiretapping, either. National security: the root password to the Constitution.

But Congress won’t let the telcos off the hook, well, not completely:

House Democrats have refused to submit to Bush administration requests to save telecommunications companies that assisted in a warrantless wiretapping scheme from lawsuits or prosecution, and they want to require judicial approval for future efforts to spy on Americans.

Under the new law, the Attorney General or Director of National Intelligence would be authorized to receive blanket warrants to eavesdrop on several foreign intelligence targets who could call into the United States, but the bill would restore FISA court reviews of targeting procedures and steps taken to “minimize” Americans’ exposure to surveillance. If an American is to become the “target” of surveillance, intelligence agencies would be required to seek an individualized warrant from the FISA court.

Proposed FISA update would not give telecom companies legal protection, by Nick Juliano, RawStory, Tuesday October 9, 2007

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court already is so secretive that although its court rules say it has a seal, there’s no image of it available anywhere on the web that I could find, and it already lets intelligence agencies apply within a few days for retroactive authorization for wiretaps.

Of course, this bill would have to pass the Senate and get signed by the president or get enough votes to override a veto. But at least the former law didn’t retroactively immunize the telcos, and this bill doesn’t, either.