By Tom Burghardt - BLN Contributing Writer
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 Google and 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 Valley;" Google, on the other hand, "declined to comment."
Last month, 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 Times 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 to Us"
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, including the computer's IP address; MAC address; open ports; the operating system type, version and serial number; preferred internet browser and version; the computer's registered owner and registered company name; the current logged-in user name and 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 on Terror."
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 user."
This information was revealed in a document obtained by the intrepid activist under the Freedom of Information Act.
Soghoian, whose 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. (SSL 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 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 CALEA compliance, "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 estimates that "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 exactly. 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 wireless networks.
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 geolocation and dialed-number data in huge data warehouses seemingly until the end of time, all readily accessible to law enforcement agencies--for a price.