FBI’s New Secretive Surveillance Unit Can Spy on Skype and Wireless Communications:
FBI’s New Secretive Surveillance Unit Can Spy on Skype and Wireless Communications
The FBI has recently formed a secretive surveillance unit with an ambitious goal: to invent technology that will let police more readily eavesdrop on Internet and wireless communications.
The establishment of the Quantico, VA-based unit, which is also staffed by agents from the U.S. Marshals Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency, is a response to technological developments that FBI officials believe outpace law enforcement’s ability to listen in on private communications.
While the FBI has been tight-lipped about the creation of its Domestic Communications Assistance Center, or DCAC — it declined to respond to requests made two days ago about who’s running it, for instance — CNET has pieced together information about its operations through interviews and a review of internal government documents.
DCAC’s mandate is broad, covering everything from trying to intercept and decode Skype conversations to building custom wiretap hardware or analyzing the gigabytes of data that a wireless provider or social network might turn over in response to a court order…
WIKILEAKS: Surveillance Cameras Around The Country Are Being Used In A Huge Spy Network:
WIKILEAKS: Surveillance Cameras Around The Country Are Being Used In A Huge Spy Network
The U.S. cable networks won’t be covering this one tonight (not accurately, anyway), but Trapwire is making the rounds on social media today—it reportedly became a Trending hashtag on Twitter earlier in the day. Trapwire is the name of a program revealed in the latest Wikileaks bonanza—it is the mother of all leaks, by the way. Trapwire would make something like disclosure of UFO contact or imminent failure of a major U.S. bank fairly boring news by comparison. And someone out there seems to be quite disappointed that word is getting out so swiftly; the Wikileaks web site is reportedly sustaining 10GB worth of DDoS attacks each second, which is massive. Anyway, here’s what Trapwire is, according to Russian-state owned media network RT (apologies for citing “foreign media”… if we had a free press, I’d be citing something published here by an American media conglomerate): “Former senior intelligence officials have created a detailed surveillance system more accurate than modern facial recognition technology—and have installed it across the U.S. under the radar of most Americans, according to emails hacked by Anonymous. Every few seconds, data picked up at surveillance points in major cities and landmarks across the United States are recorded digitally on the spot, then encrypted and instantaneously delivered to a fortified central database center at an undisclosed location to be aggregated with other intelligence. It’s part of a program called TrapWire and it’s the brainchild of the Abraxas, a Northern Virginia company staffed with elite from America’s intelligence community. The employee roster at Arbaxas reads like a who’s who of agents once with the Pentagon, CIA and other government entities according to their public LinkedIn profiles, and the corporation’s ties are assumed to go deeper than even documented. The details on Abraxas and, to an even greater extent TrapWire, are scarce, however, and not without reason. For a program touted as a tool to thwart terrorism and monitor activity meant to be under wraps, its understandable that Abraxas would want the program’s public presence to be relatively limited. But thanks to last year’s hack of the Strategic Forecasting intelligence agency, or Stratfor, all of that is quickly changing.” So: those spooky new “circular” dark globe cameras installed in your neighborhood park, town, or city—they aren’t just passively monitoring. They’re plugged into Trapwire and they are potentially monitoring every single person via facial recognition. In related news, the Obama administration is fighting in federal court this week for the ability to imprison American citizens under NDAA’s indefinite detention provisions—and anyone else—without charge or trial, on suspicion alone. So we have a widespread network of surveillance cameras across America monitoring us and reporting suspicious activity back to a centralized analysis center, mixed in with the ability to imprison people via military force on the basis of suspicious activity alone. I don’t see how that could possibly go wrong. Nope, not at all. We all know the government, and algorithmic computer programs, never make mistakes. Here’s what is also so disturbing about this whole NDAA business, according to Tangerine Bolen’s piece in the Guardian: “This past week’s hearing was even more terrifying. Government attorneys again, in this hearing, presented no evidence to support their position and brought forth no witnesses. Most incredibly, Obama’s attorneys refused to assure the court, when questioned, that the NDAA’s section 1021 – the provision that permits reporters and others who have not committed crimes to be detained without trial – has not been applied by the U.S. government anywhere in the world after Judge Forrest’s injunction. In other words, they were telling a U.S. federal judge that they could not, or would not, state whether Obama’s government had complied with the legal injunction that she had laid down before them. To this, Judge Forrest responded that if the provision had indeed been applied, the United States government would be in contempt of court.”
Cell phone companies see spike in surveillance requests:
Cell phone companies see spike in surveillance requests
Mobile phone carriers received more than 1.3 million requests last year from U.S. law enforcement agencies for their customers’ phone records and the requests are on the rise, according to data gathered as part of a congressional inquiry into cell phone surveillance. Representative Edward Markey released data on Monday from nine wireless carriers revealing the number of requests in 2011 for cell phone records. Neither law enforcement nor companies are required to report such requests, making the inquiry and release of information from the companies the first public accounting of law enforcement’s use of cell phone surveillance. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, sent letters to nine wireless carriers last month asking for information on the volume and scope of the requests after The New York Times reported in April that cell phone tracking had become a common practice for police with little or no oversight. Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc and Vodafone Group Plc; AT&T Inc; Sprint Nextel Corp; T-Mobile USA, a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG; MetroPCS Communications Inc; C Spire Wireless; Cricket Communications Inc, TracFone, a unit of Mexico’s American Movil, and U.S. Cellular responded to Markey’s inquiry. According to the data, No. 1 U.S. carrier Verizon Wireless reported an average spike in requests of about 15 percent a year over the last five years, with around 260,000 requests last year. No. 4 carrier T-Mobile USA said it has seen a 12 percent to 16 percent increase each year, but it did not provide the number of requests it received annually. “We cannot allow privacy protections to be swept aside with the sweeping nature of these information requests, especially for innocent consumers,” said Markey, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “Law enforcement agencies are looking for a needle, but what are they doing with the haystack?” The companies said they maintain teams to deal with the requests, and said they only release the information when ordered by subpoena or if law enforcement officials certify there is an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury. The Computer and Communications Industry Association, a tech industry trade group, said it was concerned that the growing government demand for user information was coming less from warrants that require a judge’s approval and more from subpoenas without oversight. The group, which includes Google Inc, Facebook Inc, Sprint Nextel and Microsoft Corp called on lawmakers on Monday to overhaul the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to expand full warrant protections to online and mobile content and to location information. “As access to our wireless data gets easier to obtain by government, and we move to using communications methods that don’t involve voice such as email and text messaging, there is less reason for them to go through the process of getting a wiretap warrant,” CCIA attorney Ross Schulman said in a blog post. AT&T said in its letter to Markey that 0.25 percent of their wireless subscribers would have been affected by law enforcement requests last year, assuming each request was for a different customer. This was up from 0.18 percent in 2007. AT&T’s data included instances where it provided information for 9-1-1 call respondents while Verizon’s did not. AT&T said it has 100 full-time employees to review and respond to law enforcement requests. Verizon said in its response to Markey that it has a dedicated team of roughly 70 employees, and staffs the legal team 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sprint employs a team of 36 analysts who receive and review court orders for wiretaps and trace devices and an additional 175 analysts to respond to court orders for subscriber information, it said in a letter to Markey. T-Mobile also told Markey that it has a dedicated “law enforcement relations” team that works closely with its legal department and privacy team. The Obama administration is looking for ways to give consumers more control over personal information while surfing the Internet on laptops and mobile phones.
British authorities unveil plan for mass electronic surveillance:
British authorities unveil plan for mass electronic surveillance
British authorities on Thursday unveiled an ambitious plan to log details about every email, phone call and text message in the U.K. And in a sharply worded editorial, the nation’s top law enforcement official accused those worried about the surveillance program of being either criminals or conspiracy theorists. Officials insist they’re not after content. They promise not to read emails or eavesdrop on phone calls without a warrant. But the surveillance proposed in the government’s 118-page draft bill would provide British authorities a remarkably rich picture of their citizens’ day-to-day lives. Home Office Secretary Theresa May said in an editorial published ahead of the bill’s unveiling that only evildoers should be frightened. “Our proposals are sensible and limited,” she wrote in the Sun, a mass-market daily. “They will give the police and some other agencies access to data about online communications to tackle crime, exactly as they do now with mobile phone calls and texts. Unless you are a criminal, then you’ve nothing to worry about from this new law.” Yet plenty of people were worried, including a senior lawmaker from Ms. May’s ruling Conservative Party. “This is a huge amount of information, very intrusive to collect on people,” lawmaker David Davis, one of the proposal’s most outspoken critics, told BBC radio. “It’s not content, but it’s incredibly intrusive.” Authorities and civil libertarians have been debating the plan for weeks, but Thursday marked the first time that the government itemized exactly what kinds of communication it wants to track, and how it plans to. The bill would force communications providers – companies such as the BT Group PLC or Virgin Media Inc. – to gather a wealth of information on their customers. Providers would log where emails, tweets, Skype calls and other messages were sent from, who they were sent to, and how large they were. Details of file transfers, phone calls, text messages and instant conversations, such as those carried over BlackBerry Messenger, also would be recorded. The bill also demands that providers collect IP addresses, details of customers’ electronic hardware, and subscriber information including names, addresses and payment information. Even physical communications would be monitored: Address details written on envelopes would be copied; parcel tracking information would be logged as well. All the data would be kept for up to a year or longer if it was the subject of legal proceedings. The measure remains a draft bill, which means it’s subject to change before it is presented to Parliament.