backtop


Print 89 comment(s) - last by leftcheek.. on May 12 at 5:36 PM

"All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not" -- former FBI agent

Are the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other federal agencies secretly working with telecommunication firms to record your every call for later use, if necessary?  That's the alarming possibility that's being raised by supposed leaks from government officials claiming that the investigation of last month's Boston bombing has refocused on phone calls the suspects placed to friends and family prior to the attack.

I. All Digital Communications Belong to Us

Concern intensified when on a segment of CNN's Out Front with Erin Burnett, former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente suggested that the FBI has access to every U.S. citizen's phone conversations past and present.  

The exchange went as follows:

Erin Burnett:
Tim, is there any way, obviously, there is a voice mail they can try to get the phone companies to give that up at this point. It's not a voice mail. It's just a conversation. There's no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them?

Tim Clemente:
No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It's not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out.

EB:
So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.


TC:
No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.


In other words, according to this former FBI agent and well respected expert, every single conversation made by an American via wired or wireless phone signals is being recorded, in most cases without a warrant.  

Further, some are extrapolating his phrasing "no digital communication is secure" -- to suggest that the government and its corporate partners are also intercepting all other forms of communication, such as instant messages, emails, and private forum posts.  If accurate, again this interception would be in most cases without warrant.

II. Veterans Charged, Harassed by FBI for Blowing the Whistle

The program in question may trace back to the Pentagon and Nation Security Agencies' "Total Information Awareness" program (TIA), which launched in 2002 following the 9/11 attacks.  Officially that project -- whose goal was ostensibly comprehensive warrantless surveillance 24/7 of every American -- was scrapped amid public outcry.  But critics say the sweeping, Orwellian, and likely unconstitutional surveillance program was slowly and iteratively installed under more innocent sounding names in years to come.

Total Information Awareness

U.S. National Security Agency official William (Bill) Binney in late 2001 resigned over the government spending "millions and millions of dollars" on TIA's predecessor "TrailBlazer".  He commented on the system, "It's better than anything that the KGB, the Stasi, or the Gestapo and SS ever had."

Mr. Binney was just one of several NSA officials to resign when they realized the scope of what the Bush administration's intelligence agencies were planning.  J. Kirk Wiebe and Ed Loomis also left in protest and joined the complaint.

A fellow Trailblazer protester, former NSA agent and U.S. Air Force and Navy Thomas Andrews Drake spent a half-decade between 2000 and 2004 working his way up the command chain filing protests and complaints against Trailblazer.  He would eventually leak allegedly non-classified information to reporters after his complaints internally fell on deaf ears.

FBI Agents
The FBI have been busy raiding the houses of whistleblowers over the last decade and charging them with ambiguous "crimes". [Image Source: Global Elite]

After decades of honorably serving their country Binney, Drake, and others found themselves under the microscope, having their homes raided by the FBI.  In 2010, the government threw virtually every ambiguous charge it could against Mr. Drake, including counts of obstructing justice, making a false state, and computer fraud for "exceeding authorized use" of a computer.  Most charges were eventually dropped, but Mr. Drake pled down, pleading guilty to the exceeding authorized use charge.

President Obama
President Obama has had no tolerance for "snitches" in the intelligence community.
[Image Source: AP]

President Obama's crackdown on whistleblowers has been called unprecedented.

III. Surveillance Continues at Room 641a and Other Secret Locations

Meanwhile, in a 2007-era whistleblower-report supporting a lawsuit filed against the federal government by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an expert witness suggested that the surveillance efforts were alive and well.  The witness in a court deposition wrote that the NSA had worked with AT&T, Inc. (T), the second largest wireless carrier in the country on a program to "vacuum up" phone traffic, internet traffic, emails, and more without warrant.

In that report, a retired 22-year AT&T technician, Mark Klein, recalls "that the NSA set up a system that vacuumed up Internet and phone-call data from ordinary Americans with the cooperation of AT&T" and that "contrary to the government's depiction of its surveillance program as aimed at overseas terrorists . . . much of the data sent through AT&T to the NSA was purely domestic."


The alleged interception took place at a shadowy site dubbed "Room 641a" at an AT&T facility in San Francisco, Calif.  The room allegedly used splitters to duplicate and record every single communication for the region over fiber optic lines.  The facility was reportedly just one of multiple such facilities across the country.  Mr. Klein said he believed that virtually every major telecom/internet service provider was involved in the scheme and that virtually every form of digital communication was being recorded, based on his own first-hand experience.

IV. Many Americans Happy to Live in "1984 State" in Exchange for Safety 

Many naïvely hoped that under the President Barack Obama who campaigned under the slogan "Hope" that the domestic surveillance would be scaled back.  They pointed to a noisy "liberal" minority in Congress, which included Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) who had often warned that Americans would be "shocked" to know the extent of surveillance (members of Congress cannot share information on such programs, as that would be a crime).

But much like President Bush bucked members of a vocal minority in his party like Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), President Obama's policies seemed to reject these dissenting voices and embrace his party's majority view (that all human communications must be captured in the name of fighting terrorism).  While President Obama often spoke of the need to "preserve civil liberties', he aggressively pushed to continue and expand Bush-era programs.

Bush and Obama
President Obama and his predecessor President Bush agree on many things, including that the federal government should be granted unregulated spying on its citizens.
[Image Source: WhiteHouse.gov]

The majority in both parties has embraced the perspective that the need for security trumps civil liberties.

Rep. Paul famously exclaimed on a late night television program, "Democracy isn't all that healthy in this country because if you're in a third party... you don't get in the debates... And if you ever come to the conclusion -- heaven forbid -- that the two parties aren't all that different, then what is left really?"

In 2010 when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates briefly banned the use of Blackberries over Blackberry Ltd.'s (TSE:BB) refusal to give government regulators access to its encryption codes to customer communications, President Obama condemned the move.  But just weeks later his cabinet demanded access to all digital communications "including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct 'peer to peer' messaging like Skype."

RIM eventually caved to the Arab nations' demands, installing similar surveillance systems as it allows in the U.S. and India.

In other words the consistent theme of the Obama administration's message to foreign governments has seemingly been: Do as I say, not as I DO.

Burning Constitution
4 out of 10 Americans would give up their Constitutional freedoms for safety from terrorism.  
[Source: Conservative Action Alerts]
 
But that may not hurt the administration as much politically as it would have in the past.  A poll [PDF] by CNN/TIME/ORC found out that approximately 4 out of 10 Americans would support giving up "some civil liberties" in the name of fighting an ambiguous "terrorism" threat.  That number is down just slightly since 9/11/2001, when 6 out of 10 Americans said they would gladly surrender their civil rights for safety.

While many might see merit in such arguments of safety and convenience, it's perhaps best to close with the words of Ben Franklin, who in his notes to the Pennsylvania Assembly famously wrote, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Source: CNN on YouTube



Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By arazok on 5/6/2013 12:24:24 PM , Rating: 2
No, they can go back at least months, most likely years. The FBI agent providing this revelation indicated they could go back and listen to all the calls the Boston bombers had with their mother and see if she had any involvement.

On one hand, I’m glad that this capability is only used for terrorism and national security related crimes. On the other, I find it a huge violation of my privacy to know, well, that I no longer have any privacy. At all.

Not many people know that what got Elliot Spitzer caught with prostitutes wasn’t that he got busted in some sting or other random police trap. It was because he liked the really expensive whores, and the government flagged him for withdrawing too much cash.


RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By MrBlastman on 5/6/2013 3:07:08 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
I’m glad that this capability is only used for terrorism and national security related crimes.


It is naive to think that this type of power is only used for terrorism and national security. Say something wrong to the right person in power... pretty soon you'll be looked into as well--terrorist or not.

What's going to stop those that have the power from abusing it? Nothing. Not a darn thing. Because... "talking about it is a crime."

See the problem here?

The Federal Government in no way, shape or form has any reason or legitimate right to have power like this. Ever. Terrorism or not. They should never, ever have this kind of power.


RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By RedemptionAD on 5/7/2013 10:09:10 AM , Rating: 2
1. The only realistic way that this could be happening is a "flagging" system where certain words are flagged and said communications are recorded. That method also come with the issue of false flags like a virus detector getting a false positive.

2. This capability, much like NSLs, has the great capability for malicious use by authorities unless proper oversight and fitting consequences for malicious use are utilized. It is, as long as it is done properly, a good thing for the general public.


By MrBlastman on 5/7/2013 3:25:23 PM , Rating: 2
Flagging or not, I believe it is a violation of our First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution.

A court of law should be the only thing that can authorize a search or seizure of property. Property in this case is information--or our thoughts. Our thoughts are protected by the First Amendment as it is our right to have and speak them freely without repercussions.

quote:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


The Constitution is clear on this. By collecting information based on a key word (which I don't think is the only thing they do), even then, would be a violation of the document because a Judge never issued a warrant to collect the information. Not only that, but as I see it, even looking at the information is a violation of wiretapping statutes.

Why do we tolerate this? Why do people think it is okay? Are we all resolute in our acceptance that terrorism has won and fear must dominate our lives?

Guess what? We /already/ had a provision in the Constitution to safeguard us against terrorism! It is known as the Second Amendment! There is no need to infringement upon our freedoms to keep us secure! None!

The people can police themselves. They need not rely upon our Government to keep them secure. If the people actually gave a darn enough to wake up one day and stop looking at their PDAs, start caring enough to carry protection by arming themselves and grew enough spine stand up for their neighbors... we wouldn't be where we are right now.

I'm sorry, I refuse to accept that any of this is a good thing for the general public. Even "safeguards" that supposedly can be put in place to only record "necessary" information are a weak lie at best. None of this is needed. None of this should be accepted.

As for the post after yours--even with all the checks and balances in place, it only takes one or two people to tell the Department of Justice to "look the other way" until the statute of limitations passes. Oh, now I'm sounding like Tom Clancy but perhaps his thoughts are genuinely worth consideration.

Americans need to wake up and start realizing their Freedom--their way of life, is in jeopardy and only as guaranteed as those in power want them to be right now. The people don't care enough anymore to deserve any of them.

There's no compromise on monitoring our phonecalls or computing. The moment a compromise is made is the moment more compromises can be "justified" in the name of "whatever evil is named at the moment" by those in power at the time.


RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By BRB29 on 5/7/2013 12:43:05 PM , Rating: 2
Any type of power is abused anywhere regardless if it's government or not. At least in the government, there are systems set up to stop these malicious intents. Is it perfect? no.

For example, these data centers are separate from the people using it. To use it, you need to request access and have justification. You leave a trail of evidence behind you that is not erasable despite what Hollywood makes you believe. The only problem no one will catch on until it becomes abuse and shows a pattern to raise eye brows. Unfortunately, there's not enough people to monitor everything so that is why it could take months to years before someone is caught. On top of that, an investigation must take place. That is why you always see news about someone being caught after years of their crimes.

If you don't notice, there's been a new degree program in the past few years and it's called IT Information Security. It wasn't primarily developed to stop hackers from China. That is just one of its objective. The government is hiring 10s of thousands of IT Info Sec specialists to monitor and improve the network. They also need them to assist criminal investigation and development. If you want to a quick way to get a 6 figure job right now, that is the field you want to be in.

Don't worry, the FBI or CIA won't bother to listen to any of your calls unless an investigation requires them to. They don't have that many people in their agencies and most of them are not agents. Everyone operates under clearances, agreements and oaths. Believe me, no one wants to lose their clearance or do stupid stuff for kicks. Losing your clearance means your career is gone and no one will ever employ you. On top of that, you have a good chance of going to federal prison. Yea clearances gets you high pay, cool jobs and all but your life will be boring and your liabilities are high.


By Skywalker123 on 5/7/2013 10:01:16 PM , Rating: 3
Are u really that naive?


"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007














botimage
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki