Sunday, November 25, 2007

You can't make this stuff up

As if in response to the last entry, the Washington Post provides a little article on Cellphone Tracking Powers on Request, Secret Warrants Granted Without Probable Cause. The content of the article is hauntingly familiar to the exact same behavior by DOJ relating to their new wiretap powers. To summarize:
Often, Gidari said, federal agents tell a carrier they need real-time tracking data in an emergency but fail to follow up with the required court approval. Justice Department officials said to the best of their knowledge, agents are obtaining court approval unless the carriers provide the data voluntarily.
This same "we need it now!" attitude where access to information requiring a warrant is made with the promise that such permission will be gained post-facto. Guess they just forget.

As an added bonus, the DOJ has a proposal in place that will provide automated access to high resolution gps tracing information. With the promise:
"Law enforcement has absolutely no interest in tracking the locations of law-abiding citizens. None whatsoever," Boyd said. "What we're doing is going through the courts to lawfully obtain data that will help us locate criminal targets, sometimes in cases where lives are literally hanging in the balance, such as a child abduction or serial murderer on the loose."
that they will not track the movement of law-abiding citizens. Just who would that be? Such a statement is pure bullshit and we all know it. Law abiding citizens are those people that law enforcement deems so. They are not people who make noise or question the government or assert their rights or anything of the sort. And if you are poor or black or Latino you are doubly fucked. Lay abiding citizens shut the fuck up and buy a new television already.

There is such a rich history of law enforcement violating this basic principle that it would take thousands of hours to even begin documenting it.

-Tin-Foil hats on!-
If you have a cell phone, they can track your movement to within 30 feet. With a little work it can be turned on and used as a portable remote listening device. Technology is a two edged mechanism - it is undeniably useful, but sometimes at a significant cost.
-Tin-Foil hats off!-

I will go hide under my bed now.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Same as it ever was

Things have been a little busy around the set.element household, so I have not been about to post much. To correct that, we present a little monologue on a topic I think a great deal about and which bores more people right to sleep.

Cybersecurity. Mmmmmm. More accurately, network monitoring.

Why should anybody care about such a thing? For the same reason why you should care about people opening your mail and listening in on your phone conversations. Privacy. Not that we have much in the way of that any more. Between embedded gps chips in newer cell phones, and the fast track devices that allow high speed transit across bridges, we as a society seem to be comfortable with the idea that your location is significantly less anonymous than it was even 5 years ago.

But enough of that. What I am talking about is the detailed active monitoring of internet activity in a non-directed way. This sort of dragnet activity is in direct opposition to the warrant driven CALIA actions that I have ranted about in the past. Fishing with dynamite if you will.

We start in the usual place - a request for money. On November 6 there was a request by White House officials for an additional $154 million to do two things - the first part ( $115 million) is to push forward the DHS 'Einstein' program which will be used to monitor government networks for worms and other traffic. I have opinions about this program that involve strong, salty language but for the time being all I will say is that DHS went around to other groups that had strong cybersecurity programs and asked how they did what they did. An excellent idea which should be held up as an example of doing something right, but what they seem to be looking for is so 2005, that it makes me a little squeamish.

The other far more interesting side of this is $39 million for additional DOJ monitoring activity. These are the same clowns who are targeting way more than just terrorists with their work. Remember that this is money that is earmarked for non-classified activity.
Justice, meanwhile, would receive $39 million to help the FBI investigate incursions into federal networks, increase intelligence analysis and provide technical tools for investigations and analysis.

"These are two things that are most successful and needed money," said Paller. "There will be a huge amount of money spent on cyber projects and I believe this is the budget for public facing part. The rest will be in the black budget."
Still awake?

So this is what is bothering me. Looking at the actual budget requests and modifications, we see that there is $282 million requested for cybersecurity counter-terrorism activity to be spread across the two agencies. Now, they have all the governmental networks (probably not all, but the public facing ones) covered under the Einstein blanket, so who is left? Lets play a quick game. The players are gov military, gov non-military, commercial and international. DHS and DOJ want to do more pervasive netwok monitoring under the vernacular of their anti-terrorism mission. Gov-military tells them to piss up a rope since they are the fucking military and will do whatever they want to. International has been officially covered by the NSA quite well thank you and they don't need any little newby agency messing up their fun and games looking for worms or whateverthefuck. Gov non-military is covered by Einstein. Shudder - I hate that name...

Ok so we will be looking for terrorists on the commercial networks.

Besides for blindingly evil politically skulduggery (which we can only assume), there are only two reasons why we might be doing this. The first is rather sad:
"They know monitoring works and they want more monitoring," said Alan Paller, director of research at the Sans Institute. "The money will be used to get out more monitoring more quickly and do more analysis of the data. That is useful and necessary because what they discovered is the federal perimeter is broken. One of few ways to find bad guys in [the] perimeter is a more intent analysis of traffic coming out of the computers."
it is the embodiment of an ignorant person hoping that more data will be better than less data. Is this good? As a marginally informed person on this topic you get a big maybe. Depends on who is looking at the data.

The other is a little more pragmatic:

US-China Economic and Security Review Commission's annual report to Congress says "Chinese espionage activities in the US are so extensive that they comprise the single greatest risk to the security of American technologies." The report recommends investigating whether China's own military technology is benefiting from US research conducted in China. The report also says that the Chinese military is developing the capability for launching cyber attacks that could have the "magnitude of a weapon of mass destruction."
Last thing. Where does the additional money come from? You will really like this:
To pay for the launch of the initiative, Bush proposed cutting back several homeland security and law enforcement programs, including funding for the Coast Guard, Hurricane Katrina rebuilding, border security, Homeland Security's inspector general's office and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Kevelighan said that shifting that money to cyber security and other counterterrorism programs would "utilize funding resources more effectively."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Well the smart moneys on harlow and the moon is in the street
And the shadow boys are breaking all the laws
And you're east of east saint louis and the wind is making speeches
And the rain sounds like a round of applause
And napoleon is weeping in a carnival saloon
His invisible fiances in the mirror
And the band is going home, its raining hammers, its raining nails
And its true theres nothing left for him down here
As Congress debates new rules for government eavesdropping, a top intelligence official says it is time that people in the United States changed their definition of privacy.
And they all pretend they're orphans and their memory's like a train
You can see it getting smaller as it pulls away
And the things you cant remember tell the things you cant forget
That history puts a saint in every dream
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.
Well she said shed stick around until the bandages came off
But these mamas boys just don't know when to quit
And mathilda asks the sailors are those dreams or are those prayers?
So close your eyes, son, and this wont hurt a bit
Kerr's comments come as Congress is taking a second look at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act...
Oh its time time time, and its time time time
And its time time time that you love
And its time time time

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Human Redaction

Don't have much time, but I thought that this rather interesting case might find interest in some people. I have been thinking and reading a little more about the 'Recursion' entry of a while back. The recursion topic was about Abdallah Higazy:
Abdallah Higazy is an Egyptian national who was detained by the FBI and who, in the course of interrogation, made a false confession. (Apparently the FBI's interrogation techniques "worked.") Among other things, Higazy claims that the FBI threatened to identify Higazy's family to Egyptian authorities. Fearing his family could be tortured, Higazy alleges this threat induced him to confess. After his release, Higazy sued and, in an opinion last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that his suit could proceed.
This is the opinion - ie that of the Second Circuit - that is redacted in the blog entry. There is another, related case involving Majid Khan who is a CIA detainee. Ok, prisoner. What is happening there is that the CIA is attempting to prevent the release of information detailing his treatment by them. So the government kidnap and tortures you, then says that you do not have the right to tell anybody (except perhaps your attorney who is not allowed to tell anybody else) about what was done to you.


More about classification pathologies here.

I would like to compare this attitude to a historical example from the second world war. Sorry for the long quote - I will not indent to keep it from running on and on. From Orcinus:

Moreover, even the slightest hint of abuse of American prisoners during the war brought the house down upon anyone thinking of it. For instance, during the efforts to ascertain the loyalties of Japanese prisoners incarcerated during the war -- a subject explored in great detail in Eric Muller's superb new book, American Inquisition: The Hunt for Japanese American Loyalty in World War II, -- it happened that some of the interrogators at the Fort Missoula internment camp, where a couple thousand suspect Japanese nationals were being held, began applying abusive techniques, and nearly created an international incident in the process.

Carol Van Valkenburg, in her book An Alien Place: The Fort Missoula, Montana, Detention Camp, 1941-44 describes this in some detail:
While Alien Hearing Boards were investigating the loyalties of the hapless Japanese, Immigration Service immigrant inspectors were busy interrogating many Japanese at Fort Missoula who they suspected were in the United States illegally. Those interrogations created an incident with international repercussions considered so potentially severe the United States government kept information about it under wraps for more than forty years.

The incident began when Herman Schwandt, an inspector in charge of detention and deportation, came to Fort Missoula from Seattle in late March 1942, bringing with him some Japanese who were to be detained in the compound. While in an office building at the fort, he overheard these shouted remarks: "You lying yellow son-of-a-bitch, you have been lying long enough! If you don't tell the truth now I am going to knock your teeth down your throat!"

Schwandt reported what he had overheard and the Justice Department immediately launched an investigation. What caused apprehension in Washington, however, was a formal complaint filed with the State Department in June 1942 through the Spanish consulate in San Francisco. The International Red Cross had been told of claims of mistreatment when a representative visited Fort Missoula. It was reported to the Spanish ambassador, whose embassy acted on Italy's behalf since diplomatic relations between the United States and Italy were severed when war was declared. The United States government was particularly concerned that any mistreatment be stopped because it feared reprisals against Americans held in enemy countries if word of the mistreatment spread.
Not sure what more to say to that one. We need to take these assholes and put them in jail. Forever.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

What, you egg!

So I have been chased around by this thing for years now. It constantly reminded me of the relentless march of time, by shrinking at an alarming rate and growing a little fuzzy around the edges.

Upon reading Macbeth, I finally realized the danger of such 'shaggy hair' and vowed to do something about it:
First Murderer
He's a traitor.

Thou liest, thou shag-hair'd villain!

First Murderer
What, you egg!
(Stabbing him)
Young fry of treachery!

He has kill'd me, mother:
Run away, I pray you!

See what I mean. Nothing but trouble.

None the less it is a little odd. In mentioning my desires to people, the reaction is a little odd. Mostly quite negative - like I am not supposed to cut off my hair since that would mess up the box that everybody has put me in. Myself included I guess. None the less I think that it is a good thing, and feel quite a bit of relief now that it is gone.

For the record, here is the troublesome stub:

A little weird really. Like a toe in a jar of formaldehyde. I think I will name it Frank.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


This is in response to Mrs. set.element, who is not only cute but highly observant of the human condition as well.

Speaking of ill-informed, post-modernist style thinking we have the following. In a famous October 2004 article on the Bush administration, journalist Ron Suskind described his encounter with a 'senior adviser' to the president:
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way that the world works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."
This was, naturally, taken from Chris Mooney's excellent book, "The Republican War on Science."