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The Future of Tech And NSA Wiretaps 643

Posted by Zonk
from the momentous-events dept.
Tyler Too writes "Is there more to last week's story about President Bush authorizing wiretaps without court review? Ars Technica writes about what's going on behind the curtains with the National Security Agency's technology: 'When the truth comes out (if it ever does), this NSA wiretapping story will almost certainly be a story not just about the Constitutional concept of the separation of powers, but about high technology.'"
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The Future of Tech And NSA Wiretaps

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  • muddy issues (Score:5, Insightful)

    by andy314159pi (787550) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:07PM (#14304176) Journal
    The problem for the average American isn't necesarily that liberties are being taken with regard to surveillance of fringe elements who might be prone to terrorism. The real problem is in defining what is a fringe element and who might be prone to become a terrorist. The recent news that groups like Greenpeace and PETA are being investigated leads me to believe that the authorities consider anyone with an opinion about anything as being involved in a fringe element. Strangely, the NSA, FBI and other institutions harbor people who think like this regardless of the current administration and political climate. It seems that we have to clarify to them what is acceptable every couple of decades or so.
    • Re:muddy issues (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wealthychef (584778) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:13PM (#14304224)
      liberties are being taken

      Yes, literally!

      • Let's be civilized about this.

        Best 2 out of 3 at Rock, Paper, Scissors

        Winner gets to keep the liberties.
      • Re:muddy issues (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Philip K Dickhead (906971) <folderol@fancypants.org> on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:33PM (#14304433) Journal
        Yeah! Let's watch Brazil, and get nice and cozy with our futures!
        In 1975, former Monty Python cast member and celebrated animator Terry Gilliam had a great idea for a movie. Along with playwright Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead), he'd write and direct a sweeping, epic masterpiece about a world gone wrong.

        The film would take place "somewhere in the twentieth century." It would feature an oppressive, totalitarian government which systematically stripped the public of its basic freedoms in favor of an ostensibly fraudulent and hopeless war on terrorism. The term "information retrieval" would be used implicitly throughout the film, a euphemistic nickname for the gruesome torture techniques applied to suspected terrorists as they're kidnapped, secured, and readied for interrogation.

        The mechanics and systems of this "fantastical" world would need to be absurd and contradictory, serving only to bury its chief directors under bureaucracy, red tape, and endless coils of administrative paperwork. Identification cards, DNA scans and security checkpoints would round out Gilliam's view of a monolithic, technologically-driven society, and patriotic propaganda posters telegraphing a mandatory us-or-them mentality would be broadcast regularly to all citizens amidst the false cheeriness of a consumer theme park culture.

        Spot-on, Mr. Gilliam!

        Some of you guys thought it'd be like Trek. Oh, well. That was a "gimme", so we'd embrace technology as a beneficial end in itself - not just another manifestation of human tool appropriation. Technology won't make a paradise by creating super-abundance. We HAVE super-abundance, where 2% Elite own and control 96% of the resources, wealth and secondary benefits of that abundance. The rest of us fight it out over notions of artificial scarcity. That's CONTROL, baby!

        Now, you get to live in the U.S., just like the old DDR! They payed engineers 2-3 times the "worker rate", and bought allegiance there, too! "I'm not worried about the totalitarian state. They pay for my Trabant! Why shouldn't I build eavesdropping equipment? At least we are safe from the evil forces of International Capitalism and the Jew-Bankers!"
    • Re:muddy issues (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Boronx (228853) <evonreis@mohr-e[ ... m ['ngi' in gap]> on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:22PM (#14304305) Homepage Journal
      The real problem is yet another American president thinks he's above the law, as if the entire point of the revolution and the constitution and the millenia of history before that went over his head.

      Though sometimes I think a faux monarchical figure head would suit us well. No people should invest so much of their self worth in their elected officials as Americans do in their president. It shouldn't be as hard as it is to say "Bush, you fucked up. You're out. We're going to give some other horses ass a shot.".
      • Re:muddy issues (Score:5, Insightful)

        by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:41PM (#14304500)
        Exactly! All the argument about whether these particular measures are good, misses the real point: given that our President feels he can supersede the law with secret Presidential orders, and that hiding the truth is good for us, do we have ANY IDEA what else our government is up to?
        • Re:muddy issues (Score:3, Insightful)

          by wass (72082)
          It's ironic, Bush and his supporters are claiming that they are the true patriots, making America safer by exercising these illegal spying operations. He claims to support civil liberties. hmm.

          One famous founding father patriot (Patrick Henry) claimed "Give me Liberty or give me death!".

          Another famous founding father patriot (Benjamin Franklin) claimed (and this is oft-quoted here on /.) "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safet

    • Re:muddy issues (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ghstomahawks (847102)
      err ... I don't know about you, but "groups like Greenpeace and PETA" are in my mind "prone" to terrorism. Surely not every member, and probably not 99%, but I'd like to suggest that maybe their members' likelihood of participating in terrorist-type ativites would be higher than your average person's? Sure, they might have a point on some of their crusades, but PETA is sort of considered a joke (at least where I'm from). I'm not saying that it's necesarrily right what the NSA may have (or more like definit
      • PETA knows they are a joke. It's just that they feel that any publicity for their cause is worth pursuing. They've discovered by doing really stupid things they can get tons of publicity.
      • Terrorist activity (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rewt66 (738525) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:32PM (#14304411)
        Look. The word "terrorist" has a rather specific meaning. Raiding a mink farm and freeing the mink doesn't qualify as terrorism. Sabotage, economic warfare, street theater, whatever, but it isn't terrorism.

        Even if they killed the mink farmer, that's just murder. (My point is not to minimize how horrible murder is!) But it's not terrorism.

        The real problem is that "terrorism" is getting stretched to mean "anything law enforcement wants to have an easier time checking into". This trivialization of the word "terrorism" means that pretty soon, we're going to need a new word for the real thing...
        • Dictionary.com defines terrorism as- "The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons." The sort of people who drive metal stakes into trees so that any chainsaw (and more than likely person) who tries to cut down the tree get destroyed are terrorists. They are using that violence to try and influence change. Be it in the so
        • by theCat (36907) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @08:10PM (#14304762) Journal
          Nicely put. There is an exchange between Alice and HumptyDumpty that gets at this exactly:

          Humpty Dumpty: When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.
          Alice: The question is, whether you can make words mean so many different things.
          Humpty Dumpty: The question is: which is to be master - that's all.
        • by budgenator (254554) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @08:25PM (#14304887) Journal
          The other mink ranchers might disagree especialy after the third or fourth murder; let's not leave out the Dermatologist that get's murdered because he has the same last name as an OB/Gyn that does an ocasional abortion. Plenty to go arround for both the right and left here.
        • When the PATRIOT act was passed, conservatives blew off complaints that its provisions would be used to target people who were not "terrorists" in the sense that members of al Qaeda are terrorists. It was written off as liberal paranoia, and lawmakers assured us that these laws would only be used to target real enemies of the United States. Since then, the law's provisions have been used to target vandals, drug dealers, anarchists, and peace activists, and now eco-fanatics. Many people in law enforcement
    • Re:muddy issues (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vishbar (862440)
      No, the issue is that liberties are being taken with regard to surveillance.

      The National Security Agency is one of the United States' most powerful weapons, able to intercept nearly any communication. Therefore, it is ONLY for use against foreign targets. Even mentioning the name of a US Citizen that was intercepted from a foreign source is extremely tedious. By turning the NSA against the American people, the government has violated the trust of Americans in the agency.

      Situations like this could b
    • There's no mud here, except possibly in your mind. If such powers are available, they will be used and abused.

      More importantly, the powers will be abused at EVERYONE. The way Dubya's kind of absolutist self-righteous thinking works, anyone who opposes him is impeding his effectiveness, and therefore deserves to be treated as an enemy. Some people really do see the world in black and white, or "with us or against us", as Dubya put it.

      The problem is that there is no black or white in the real world. Every

    • Re:muddy issues (Score:3, Insightful)

      by argStyopa (232550)
      Greenpeace and PETA.

      Hm.

      The latter publicly advocates terroristic acts (for them, apparently justifiable).
      The former, known to fund organizations like Earth First.

      So yes, they ARE terrorists or support them significantly. I'm cheering for the US Gov't black helicopters on this one, thanks.
  • by Quaoar (614366) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:11PM (#14304208)
    The Bush administration really screwed up this time, and I'm saying this from a completely non-partisan point of view. The FISA court exists specifically for quick wiretaps when the government believes there is an immediate threat, and they even have a 72 hour period where you can get the tap authorized by FISA after the tap is placed. As far as I'm aware, they never even brought some of these cases before FISA.

    The fact that they did this without even consulting the FISA court is completely illegal, and bypasses the checks and balances of our government. I don't think anything will happen to the prez, but this is really just disgusting.
    • by plover (150551) * on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:25PM (#14304336) Homepage Journal
      I don't think anything will happen to the prez,

      That's the problem. This particular action is worthy of the worst of the Soviet Union. It's as unamerican as you can get -- secretly taking away "oversight" when the oversight mechanism itself was already as secretive as possible, and every bit as accessible as oversight can be. 72 hours AFTER the monitoring isn't enough? There can be no reason for dodging the FISA court, no excuse. If the court wasn't fast enough, he could have extended the FISA approval process to two weeks, or a month. But to remove oversight for the sake of executive secrecy? Is he implying that the FISA judges are leaking secrets to Al Qaeda? Are the oversight boards populated by "terrarists?" I don't even think any of the likely FISA judges are anything but Republicans!

      I seriously believe this is treason. This action DEFINES treason. Not some weak "censure" or "impeachment." This is stand-before-a-judge-jury-and-firing-squad serious.

      • Even worse ... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by willtsmith (466546) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @08:02PM (#14304691) Journal

        If you believe the Bush administrations definition of fast food as "manufacturing" jobs, you can start speculating what "international" and "terrorist" means.

        For instance if you place a domestic long-distance phone call, it could go over a satellite link. Well, orbit is international territory. Therefore using Bush administration verbal gymnastics, this would be an international call. And what about cell phones??? Well, all those signals go into orbit, so that could be an "international" :cough: call as well.

        What about terrorists??? Well we already know that the Bush administration considers unions (the NEA in particular), peace activists and environmental activists as "terrorists". And many Democrats subscribe to ideas of unionism, peace and environmentalism. Indeed they believe anyone who opposes this war is aiding and ebetting terrorists. Ergo, Democrats are terrorists.

        And what about any businesses that do businesses in country where there may be terrorists? Couldn't they be terrorists as well. Well I'm sure there is a lot of strategic business information that could be learned from "international" calls by "terrorists".

        The fact that Bush refused to go through the FISA court leads you to believe that this court was unlikely to approve the wire taps they wanted. This court has a history of rubber stamping pretty much anything an adminstration wants.

        The alternative thought is that Bush is asserting a new right of "presidential supremacy". This basically means that the President can do whatever he wants so long as he claims it is pursuit of his "commander in chief" duties. Frankly, this is the more disturbing option. This is the avenue that Hitler took.

        If Congress does NOT oppose these actions, Bush will have successfully established a precedent of violating the law simply because "he feels like it". This would transform GW Bush into a dictator. GW Bush could decide to cancel the next election because of "terrorist threats".

        If you are a Republican, please think long and hard about giving your approval to this. Now think whether you would approve this if it was Bill Clinton.

        Finally, consider Bush's justification. There have been no terrorist attacks since Bush started the program. Well, consider that from the first WTC attacks in '92, Al Queda made no successfull strikes until 2001. A total of NINE YEARS passed between Al Queda attacks against US territory without a SINGLE illegal wire tap (at least during the Clinton administration).

        I would submit that there was PLENTY of intelligence available to the Bush administration to stop attacks. Indeed, the Clinton administration managed to thwart multiple Al Queda attacks against the US without using illegal wire-taps (but no doubt using the legal (and secret) FISA court). John Ashcroft de-prioritized anti-terrorism to just under porn and prostitution.

        Richard Clarke was screaming as loud as he could to get access to the President and take anti-terrorism seriously. He was ignored. The intelligence fore-shadowing 9/11 was forestalled. Somehow the Bush administration had managed to bring the US airforce to a state of unreadiness whereby it could not intercept a jumbo jet.

        Please Republicans, take your party and your Constitution seriously. This man is dragging your party into ignominy. If you are a patriot you MUST support checks and balance. The President is NOT an elected king. The Presidents job is to respect and enforce the laws passed by Congress. The President cannot just "make up" laws.

        If you don't support checking the president's power, you are a fascist. If you don't like that label, than you need to change your position. You will bring this country to a state of civil war against those of us who will NOT bear a President affecting the same transformation on the US as Hitler did to Germany.

      • by ToasterofDOOM (878240) <d.murphy.davis@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @08:02PM (#14304693)
        This particular action is worthy of the worst of the Soviet Union.
        I'm not endorsing this in any way at all, in fact I'm ashamed that he did this, but you are saying that this is worse than murdering 15 million of your own people and depriving them of property and liberty as well? I understand this is a bad thing, but acting in this polarized manner is exactly why today's political climate is as vicious and childish as it is.
        • by MarkusQ (450076) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @09:11PM (#14305248) Journal

          I'm not endorsing this in any way at all, in fact I'm ashamed that he did this, but you are saying that this is worse than murdering 15 million of your own people and depriving them of property and liberty as well? I understand this is a bad thing, but acting in this polarized manner is exactly why today's political climate is as vicious and childish as it is.

          But the problem is, they never start with killing 15 million people (side note: it doesn't matter "who's people" they are). They start with a little spying here, a little bending the rules there. Lie a bit a cause a few tens of thousands of people to die. Get your people into the positions of power, eviscerate the press (if it hasn't rolled over already). Come to some accommodation with the "opposition" ("play it our way or we'll ruin you" is always popular).

          In short, make it so that no one dares move against you.

          Then you can kill 15 million people, or even twenty if you're in the mood.

          --MarkusQ

          P.S. The polarization isn't causing the problem. The polarization is a consequence of some people realizing what is going on, and others squeezing their eyes shut and hoping it goes away.

    • The fact that they did this without even consulting the FISA court is completely illegal, and bypasses the checks and balances of our government.
      Yes, and I find this as dispicable as you do

      BUT
      1. We don't have much information to base our decisions on
      2. This could end up hinging on the definition of the word 'wiretap' or 'is'
      3. Last but not least, The majority of (vocal) Republicans seem willing to take him at his word
    • something terribly wrong is going on when you feel you have to go around a court and judge system that hands out wiretaps like candy.
      • Actually, no. He didn't "go around" the court because the powers had already be granted. We can debate whether he should have but I'm confident that whatever he did was under legal council. Look, Republican or Democrat no President would wilfully risk becoming the next Nixon. If there is an argument here, it isn't "howe could this President do this" but rather, "where is the legal precident that he was advised he was working under."
    • by ceswiedler (165311) * <chris@swiedler.org> on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @08:51PM (#14305106)
      Read the article...the reason (I'm beginning to believe) they didn't get authorization under FISA was because they couldn't. The wiretapping in question was done using broad analysis of a random sampling of phone calls. How can they go to a FISA judge with that?

      They aren't stupid. They could easily have gone to the judges within 72 hours if this were normal wiretapping. It's not.
      • The wiretapping in question was done using broad analysis of a random sampling of phone calls.

        Except Bush claimed they only used this to spy on 500 people w/ what he claims were al queda ties. If that were so, they could easily have gotten 500 approvals under FISA.

        So if what you're claiming is the reason, then it's an indirect admission from Bush that they were spying on far more than 500 people.

  • by tenchiken (22661) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:12PM (#14304217)
    To try and keep this article from devolving similar to the last one, here are a couple of notes:

    This really isn't anything new. In fact Carter used the Exact same Authority [fas.org] that Bush is using now. That executive order became Executive Order 12333 under Reagan in 1981. Gorelick also stated that Clinton used the same authority. From a CATO Report:
    The Clinton administration claims that it can bypass the warrant clause for "national security" purposes. In July 1994 Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick told the House Select Committee on Intelligence that the president "has inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches for foreign intelligence purposes." [51] According to Gorelick, the president (or his attorney general) need only satisfy himself that an American is working in conjunction with a foreign power before a search can take place. . . .

    FISA itself has ruled that:
    The courts have been explicit on this point, most recently in In Re: Sealed Case, the 2002 opinion by the special panel of appellate judges established to hear FISA appeals. In its per curiam opinion, the court noted that in a previous FISA case (U.S. v. Truong), a federal "court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue [our emphasis], held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information." And further that "we take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President's constitutional power." http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.ht ml?id=110007703 [opinionjournal.com]

    Bush also pointed out that the 9/11 resolution gave him additional authority. Here is the verbage:
    "use all necessary force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations, or persons [...] "

    • by tkrotchko (124118) * on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:23PM (#14304312) Homepage
      If the article in question is to believed, and they are scanning 1% of all US calls, they probably aren't distinguishing between foreign and citizen conversations. They're simply eavedropping on everybody and then trying to figure out what's going on.

      Ignoring civil liberties is almost never warranted, and every time we do it, it turns out that not only do we regret it, but most important *it was never necessary to do in the first case*.

      Didn't we learn anything from the internment of Japanese citzens during WWII?


      • If the article in question is to believed, and they are scanning 1% of all US calls, they probably aren't distinguishing between foreign and citizen conversations. They're simply eavedropping on everybody and then trying to figure out what's going on.

        No, the original article stated that this could cover "hundreds or maybe thousands" of people. 1% of all US calls is completly bogus. Even the NYT makes the provisos that this covers international calls that originate or terminate in the US. Hardly 1%.

        Ignoring
      • Didn't we learn anything from the internment of Japanese citzens during WWII?

        A better question might be: "Did we learn anything from the use of the 'Office of Censorship' which opened and read every international letter, postcard, package, telegram, or telephone call sent or received by US citizens from 1941-1945?" The answer to that would be a "Yes, it worked." Spies and sabateurs were caught. It was effective. And the program was terminateed when no longer needed in 1945.

        • And the program was terminateed when no longer needed in 1945.

          So, as soon as we've defeated all the terrorists, we get back our civil rights? How long will that take?

          • So, as soon as we've defeated all the terrorists, we get back our civil rights? How long will that take?

            We'll let you know when we've finished with the war on drugs.

            Just sit tight. This shouldn't take too long.

        • not to bring up a small point, but the US is NOT in a state of declared war with anybody right now. We are not "at war" with the country of Iraq.. we are engaging in a "policing action" against it's leader, and sticking around to make sure there is peace for the Iraqies. The Congress of the United States did not declare war... only they can do that. They allowed the president to use the military, but that's a different set of powers. Besides, like another reply says, the war on "terrorism" will never b
      • > If the article in question is to believed, and they are scanning 1% of all US calls, they probably aren't distinguishing between foreign and citizen conversations. They're simply eavedropping on everybody and then trying to figure out what's going on.

        "NSA is now funding research not only in cryptography, but in all areas of advanced mathematics. If you'd like a circular describing these new research opportunities, just pick up your phone, call your mother, and ask for one!"

    • Truly then, we must await the criminal intent and use of such immense power for personal greed.... Hmm, I imagine this evidence is forthcoming as we all more effectively keep our eyes on the money. Who financially profits from terror and death? Globalist elite megalomanics? America takes seriously our role of thug in the global protection racket; Bush benefits, we all benefit. No worries here..., head down, work hard, and we shall be free.
    • by Sebastopol (189276) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:35PM (#14304454) Homepage
      Except that Bush lied about it to the American public. From the whitehouse website via salon.com:

      [["Now, by the way," he said, "any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think 'Patriot Act,' constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."

      That certainly seems to be different from what Bush is saying now -- that over the past three years, he has authorized and repeatedly reauthorized the "interception" of communications without warrants.]]

      • "Now, by the way," he said, "any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap,

        Well, that's when you don't count the top secret warrantless taps, which they weren't talking about because they're top secret

    • Factual error (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Linux_ho (205887) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:46PM (#14304536) Homepage
      The difference that you missed between what the Bush Administration has done and what past presidents have done is this: FISA only allows warrantless surveillance of NON-US-PERSONS. Warrants are still legally required under FISA and the Patriot act for surveilling US Citizens. Which is why the FISA court was set up - so they could get a warrant in minutes if necessary, or even within 24 hours AFTER the surveillance had begun. So what's their excuse? Judicial oversight just too much hassle, with that minutes-long waiting period?
  • How about this plan:

    We begin the call in the clear. We tell each other our public encryption key.

    Go silent and key in the other parties public key.

    Begin speaking again and the voices are encrypted using the public keys.

    On the receiving end, the encrypted packets are decrypted using the private keys.

    There we have a phone call that's impossible to tap.
    • Right. Lame, old school encryption.

      NSA is probably a decade ahead technology-wise - so if they don't yet have quantum computing they have something pretty darn fast to crack your scheme. Your solution just changes detection from immediate to postponed, which is probably Good Enough(tm) since I doubt the first telephone call a terrorist will make is going to be "I'm about the push the button."
    • by David McBride (183571) <david+slashdot@nOspam.dwm.me.uk> on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:31PM (#14304402) Homepage
      All the NSA (or some other attacker) need to do is sit between you and the person you're trying to call. You exchange keys with the NSA, the NSA exchanges keys with the other person, and everything else they can pretty much just relay verbatim -- listening in the whole time.

      The only slightly tricky part of this is that the NSA have to convincingly imitate the other person when you're exchanging keys.

      Classic Man-in-the-middle attack; see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_in_the_middle [wikipedia.org]

      • by zoloto (586738) *
        The mods here don't know anything about pki to have modded this up so high. The NSA would also have to have each senders private keys to decrypt the messages. This is extremely difficult if proper security is used with each users private keys.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PKI [wikipedia.org]
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PGP [wikipedia.org]
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GPG [wikipedia.org]
        • by Incongruity (70416) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @08:20PM (#14304850)
          The mods here don't know anything about pki to have modded this up so high. The NSA would also have to have each senders private keys to decrypt the messages. This is extremely difficult if proper security is used with each users private keys.

          Except, it's right on:

          Let's use a conversation between Andrew and Charles, aka A and C... Now, assume I'm some ill-willed person named Bob, aka B that wants to play a man in the middle attack on A and C. If I can convince A that I'm C and C that I'm A initially, before they exchange public keys as the OP stated, I'm home free. Why? It should be clear... I give my public key to both A and C and they both give me their public keys. I can, therefore, receive messages from both (and decrypt them using my private key) and send messages to both A and C, using their public keys. So, A sends me a message encoded with my public key, I decrypt it, store the contents and then re-encrypt it with C's public key and send it along to C, etc. A B C but both A and C think they're talking directly to each other.

          Prior exchange, out of band, of the public keys would make the man in the middle attack harder to do.

  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:14PM (#14304240) Homepage Journal
    When the truth comes out (if it ever does)

    You'll be pushing 70, at a minimum, and the technology will seem quaint, though cool from a historical perspective.
  • Soft Triggers... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tenchiken (22661) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:18PM (#14304272)
    The article talks about "Soft Triggers" which are interesting. A lot of focus has gone on keywords, but there are far more efficent technologies out there for building predective models. Why do you want a predective model? Simply put with Petabytes of data out there from intercepted transmissions you have to predict based on the content of a message if a message in innocent or threat. Replace the words "threat" with "spam" and all of a sudden technologies like Bayes and other data mining techniques are interesting.

    If you don't think this is valuable, go read a book on Enigma and find out how much exactly reading your opponents mail helps.

    However technologies such as this are not covered by FISA. I think it would have been better to revise FISA to cover technologies such as this, but non-withstanding that, it's really nothing new in terms of excercise of power then anything Clinton or even Carter did.
  • The "softer trigger" here is a phrase that's on a watch list, or a call with an abnormally high volume of a certain type of vocabulary. The "agility" bit is a reference to the technology's ability to move from call to call, taking small slices. That's also probably what's behind the claim that the technology is less intrusive than a traditional wiretap, because the time slices are very short.

    I'm not 100% sure how this is different from Echelon except for the fact that they're intercepting calls originating

  • Wiretaps - Easy.
    Slashdot taps - ???
  • by wilstrup (726073) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:25PM (#14304335)
    We've read a lot about the network wiretapping technologies in use by the intelligence agencies, Carnivore, and similar At least one of the technology providers allows us to take a closer look at the actual technologies used. Unispeed openly claims [unispeed.com] to provide solutions to police and intelligence agencies. They'll even let you try the stuff for yourself [unispeed.com]
  • Wartime?? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Freaky Spook (811861)
    I understand the nessecity for wiretaps & high levels of secrecy to avoid intelligence falling into the wrong hands,
    but we keep hearing we are at war with terrorists, no body is safe.

    I know there is a large imminent terrorist threat, but is this a war or more just a large unkown fear placed by the administration onto the population. So many people are fearful of nothing, they don't understand whats going on or why it needs to be done & the more it all goes on people are getting more and more frustra
  • by jlowery (47102) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:28PM (#14304365)
    If the Dems manage to gain back a majority in the house next election, I would think they would be obliged to begin impeachment proceedings against Bush. It would have a lot more validity than the impeachment of Clinton, and they would look like wimps if they didn't.
  • by MonkeyBoyo (630427) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @07:42PM (#14304504)
    arstechnica.com cannot be found right now.

    and the article is not in the google cache.
    • I wish I had, then I might be able to make some sensible comment on it.

      Sadly, Arstechnica does not currently appear in DNS space visible from New Zealand, as of a few hours ago. I have retreived an IP address from cache and tried to traceroute to it, but no joy.

      I too would like to see a cached copy. Anyone?

      Vik :v)
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @08:11PM (#14304767) Homepage
    ...that they didn't think they could get the FISA court to rubberstamp?

    The FISA court has only turned the government down, what, twenty times in thirty years? And the law allows them to wiretap first and get court approval afterwards... and if the court turns them down they can appeal to another secret court, and if that court turns them down they can appeal to the Supreme Court, meeting in secret session with only the government in attendance.

    The mind boggles. What could they possibly have been afraid to take to FISA court?
    • The FISA court has only turned the government down, what, twenty times in thirty years?

      Actually, even less than that. Quoting Bruce Schneier: "In all that time, only four warrant requests were ever rejected: all in 2003." And "all that time" here actually does refer to the entire period of time where that secret kangaroo court existed.

    • Any legitimate security issue would have gone through the FISA court without problems. Somebody is hiding something they shouldn't have been doing, and it's probably going to be really embarassing when it comes out.
  • by remove office (871398) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @08:15PM (#14304801) Homepage
    You can read a summary of the past 5 years of spying on Americans in their own country here [thedailybackground.com]. Included are reasons why Ashcroft chose the N.S.A. instead of the F.B.I. and a timeline of the whole complicated story.

The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives. -- Admiral William Leahy, U.S. Atomic Bomb Project

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