Thursday, June 06, 2013

NSA spying on your phone records: Here's the part you DON'T know

It has been confirmed that the NSA collects the phone records of millions of innocent Americans. Glenn Greenwald has the story:
The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.
The right-wing bloggers (most of whom normally wouldn't give Greenwald the time of day) are making a huge to-do out of this revelation, since it can be used as a cudgel against Obama. Fine by me: Cudgel ho! I would, however, caution anyone against the naive (or deeply partisan) presumption that we might have expected better behavior from a Republican.

As Corrente notes, "Since the order is secret, we can't really know the totality of what they are collecting." Ever since an NSA man named Russell Tice gave a light blow on that famous whistle, I have presumed that the No Such Agency folks scoop up everything. Sifting through that daily data mountain is the problem. As long as no human eyes see the data, the NSA can tell itself that it does not spy on your private communications.

Marcy Wheeler, as always, has a take on this that is both unusual and informed:
Now, I think that this actually affects just a subset of all Verizon traffic: the business-focused traffic rather than Verizon Wireless or similar consumer products most people subscribe to (and if that’s so, the shitstorm that is about to break out will be all the more interesting given that rich businessmen will be concerned about their privacy for once).
My extremely wildarsed guess is that this is part of hacking investigation, possibly even the alleged Iranian hacking of power companies in the US (those stories were first reported in early May).

I say that because cybersecurity is a big part of what Verizon Enterprise (as I believe they now go by) sells to its business customers; the infographic above, warning of data breaches when you least expect it (heh), is part of one they use to fear-monger its customers. Energy consumers are one of its target customer bases. And the case studies it describes involve several Smart Grid projects. Precisely the kind of thing the government is most freaked out about right now.

After all, aside from Medicare fraud, the government simply doesn’t investigate businesses, ever. Certainly not the kind of bankster businesses we’d like them to investigate. One of the few things they investigate business activities for is to see if they’ve been compromised. Moreover, the Section 215 order requires either a counterintelligence or a counterterrorist nexus, and the government has gone to great lengths to protect large businesses, like HSBC or Chiquita, that have materially supported terrorists.

Anyway, that’s all a wildarsed guess, as I said.
My advice? Let's focus on the political utility of this revelation.

For a long time, I've argued that we should have new laws restricting the government's ability to track your location via GPS or triangulation. Quite simply, if you have done nothing wrong, there's no reason for anyone to know where you are -- not unless you have reason to want that information broadcast to others. (For example, when you are hiking.)

That's why I use an old-style cell phone which does not have GPS data. That's why I won't buy a GPS-enabled tablet. And that's why I wrote a popular post about Progressive Insurance's Snapshot device, which they say does not use GPS even though the patent for the thing says otherwise. (That post routinely evinces rebuttals from thinly-disguised trolls on the Progressive payroll.) And that's why I've been calling for new privacy legislation -- or, better, for a constitutional amendment.

The right to privacy must be the law of the land. We must insist on new laws restricting the government's ability to police us. We must spit in the eyes of those defeatists who tell us "If you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about." And we must not be cowed by manipulators who insist (as they always do) that we must toss away our rights in order to combat the threat posed by terrorists and child molesters.

If Uncle wants to know where you are or to whom you speak, tell him to get a damned warrant. If a large corporation wants that data, tell that corporation to shove it.

We need a mass movement -- a pro-privacy movement. And this latest revelation may help bring such a movement into being.

Of course, you can't expect even the tiniest amount of help from my congressman, "Dutch" Ruppersberger. The NSA is in his district, and he's a ranking member of the House Intelligence subcomittee. The intel community tends to keep those guys firmly pinned in place.

The Israeli connection. Here's an aspect of the story that will no doubt go under-discussed: "Two Secretive Israeli Companies May Have Bugged The US Telecommunications Grid For The NSA."
Two companies that bugged the U.S. telecommunications network for the National Security Agency (NSA) have extensive links to Israel's intelligence service, James Bamford of Wired reports.

NSA's chief General Keith Alexander was called before Congress last week to testify about the $2 billion Utah spy center the NSA is currently building, and he said that the NSA does not have the ability to spy on the confidential personal communications of Americans.

It seems that he wasn't lying since the NSA hired secretive contractors with extensive ties to Israel to provide hardware and software for 10 to 20 wiretapping rooms in key telecommunication points throughout the country, according to Wired.

Thus the NSA has gained access to most of the domestic traffic flowing through the U.S. without actually doing it themselves.
That's an old trick, of course. Traditionally, the US has eavesdropped on UK citizens and British intelligence has eavesdropped on American citizens; after the eavesdropping, comes the exchange of data. This arrangement allows both parties to say that they don't spy on their own people.
Both Verint and Narus were founded in Israel in the 1990s. Both provide monitoring and intercept capabilities to service providers and government organizations, promoting claims that their equipment can access and retain large amounts of information on a vast number of targets.

One of the founders of Verint, Jacob "Kobi" Alexander, is a former Israeli intelligence officer.

In 2007 a former commander of the highly secret Unit 8200 (i.e. Israel’s NSA) told Forbes that the technology of Comverse (i.e. the company that owns Verint) is based on Unit 8200 technology, Wired reported.

A co-founder and former chairmen of Narus, Ori Cohen, told Fortune in 2001 that his partners have done technology work for Israeli intelligence.

Another former chief of Unit 8200 acknowledged to the Israeli paper Ha’artez last year that high-tech firms around the world employ both Unit 8200 equipment and its veteran personnel.

From Wired:
“Cautious estimates indicate that in the past few years... Unit 8200 veterans have set up some 30 to 40 high-tech companies, including 5 to 10 that were floated on Wall Street.” Referred to only as “Brigadier General B,” he added, “This correlation between serving in the intelligence Unit 8200 and starting successful high-tech companies is not coincidental: Many of the technologies in use around the world and developed in Israel were originally military technologies and were developed and improved by Unit veterans.”
Unit 8200 needs to be 86ed.

Yes, I know bibliothingy isn't the best source, but my google-fu is weak today. Anyway, they quote better sources. Re: the long-term use of ECHELON intercepts for commercial purposes by the US government/industrial complex. So I don't think the likes of thee and me need worry about being spied on, there's no money in it.
You know, in America privacy is the law of the land. That was the basis of the Roe vs Wade, decision, yes? Never saw the connection myself, but that's what their basis for the decision was.

As for your primitive mobile telephone, that doesn't keep you private. Okay, without GPS there will be less incriminating metadata in any pictures you take, but should They ever decide to peek at you, they can still use a "roving bug" and remotely activate the microphone in your phone to listen to you, and use triangulation to find out pretty much exactly where you are. There was recently a story about wifi based gesture control: in other words if you're within range of a wi-fi hotspot, it can tell when you move. Of course, that might not have been weaponised. Yet.

But if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear. And a boring sex life, presumably.
Stephen, I know that triangulation can catch you even if GPS does not. But GPS is quite a bit more precise. Besides, with an old-fashioned cell phone, you can take out the battery, which makes triangulation impossible.

A boring sex life indeed. I can't even remember the last time anyone got strangled.
The NSA's new data-hoovering facility is scheduled to open in September in suburban Salt Lake City.

Here's James Bamford's article about it.
It takes some sly cookies to get you to purchase your own tracking/bugging devices.

Cell phones and other forms of personal communication cost the NSA and other agencies nothing and cover more people 24/7 than the dreaded "1984" Telescreens.
Meanwhile, Limbaugh, Hannity, Levine, and others, provide the 2 minutes of Hate around the clock.

Personal communications Data collection has been going on since before 2001.

Fox New's (I know) Carl Cameron did an excellent report on the subject in 2002. It is easy to find if you Google - Fox Cameron Israeli spying.

Cameron addresses Amdocs Ltd., and Comverse Infosys, which was mentioned by James in a previous comment.

The NSA via various systems, Echelon and now others, has, and has had, the ability to grab all radio communications since the 1960s.

Prior to the PATRIOT act, they could not use the information they gathered against you in court.
To paraphrase what someone said, and as mentioned in this article, "It's illegal for American Intelligence agencies to spy on Americans.
But it's OK if the intelligence agencies of other countries spy on us and we spy on them and trade that information."

Well, it used to be illegal, and now it's not just radio communications, it's landlines(?), email, text, and it's in your face stop us if you can.

I wouldn't mind so much if we could watch them 24/7.

Google William Binney NSA if you wish to know more.
Personally I like this one (about an hour and a half):
Binney speaks at 54:20.
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