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UK Terror Bust Caught With Wiretapping 203

Posted by Hemos
from the what-are-the-implications dept.
1cebird writes "In an AP story entitled Brothers Emerge As Focus of Plot Probe, British sources reveal that the UK -> US plane-bombing plot was uncovered by a UK wiretap. So it looks like they are getting results with their wiretapping program. Will this make governments and citizens more comfortable with the idea?"
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UK Terror Bust Caught With Wiretapping

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 12, 2006 @04:17PM (#15895643)
    I've already predicted that terrorists would get found using wiretapping. Meaning, that's what would be put in the PR, no matter what ACTUALLY happened.
  • Next? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spikestabber (644578) <spike@@@spykes...net> on Saturday August 12, 2006 @04:19PM (#15895652) Homepage
    So what will happen when the terrorists all begin using strong SSL chat sessions and avoid unencrypted communications entirely?
  • by Evro (18923) <evandhoffman&gmail,com> on Saturday August 12, 2006 @04:21PM (#15895658) Homepage Journal
    ... and so far one legitimate, serious attack has been prevented. The same attack could likely have been prevented by forcing everyone to check all luggage and allow no carry-ons.

    As for governments "warming up" to wiretapping... is it even the case anywhere in the world that the government is reluctant to infringe on the rights of its populace? People don't care anymore, they're fearful and spineless, and are more than willing to give up their rights these days.
  • Sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wetfeetl33t (935949) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @04:28PM (#15895685)
    It is nice to know that wiretaps have been useful in doing this, but the question has never been whether wiretaps should be used to counter terrorism. The issue is whether or not illegal wiretaps should be used!
  • Re:Sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pharmboy (216950) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @04:38PM (#15895717) Journal
    You make a valid, and somewhat rare point. The key arguement is whether the wiretaps are legal or not. It is difficult for anyone to say "wiretaps should always be illegal" with a straight face unless they have no historical perspective or just insane.

    The government is GOING to do wiretaps, the key is enforcing the law and making them prove they are necessary before they do them, and yes, very often, they ARE necessary. People would do better to focus on the legal/illegal aspects instead of just saying "all wiretaps are bad". Taking that stance makes someone look like a whacko, and no one will pay attention to them.

    A world where NO wiretaps are allowed is no better than a world where wiretaps go unchecked. Just a different brand of bad.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 12, 2006 @04:40PM (#15895728)
    We have real problems that could be solved with the money wasted on this terror bullshit.

    http://www.crimestatistics.org.uk/ [crimestatistics.org.uk]

    Despite increased surveillance, violent crime is soaring yet our goverments idea of punishment is handing out an ASBO. Most ineffectual government 'evar', only appear to be in power to lay the framework for a totalitarian regime.
  • by brennz (715237) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @04:41PM (#15895731)
    The West and Islam never fought before oil was discovered in the Middle East?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 12, 2006 @04:43PM (#15895738)
    It should be mentioned that the U.S. and British governments have been killing Arabs and interfering with Arab governments for more than 40 years, and that's what started the terrorism.

    And not the French, the Russians, the Chinese? In particular, have a look at France's brutal colonial record in the Arab world.

    Nice try though. The world's terrorism problems are not the exclusive fault of the US and the UK.
  • by Tweekster (949766) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @04:50PM (#15895759)
    Um wiretapping isnt new...

    It is an old tactic that is widely accepted as a legit form of investigation.
  • by lawpoop (604919) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @04:51PM (#15895763) Homepage Journal
    We've had wiretapping for a long time, and most people are comfortable with it. Here in the US, you can get a warrant from a judge for wiretapping a US citizen, and we have a special court called FISA specifically for issuing warrants for international type wiretaps. It's routine and it happens *all the time*.

    However, as I understand, wiretapping is *not* what tipped off British officials to the group who were going to carry out this plot. It was a friend/relative of one of the plotters who tipped of the police. Then, I'm guessing, the police went and got a warrant to tap this guy's phone, and worked thier way through the group, getting more warrants and taps, until they understood the group structure and their goals.

    However, what I am extremely uncomfortable with is the unaccountable and warrantless comprehensive wiretapping of all phone calls in the US. If it is not illegal in the specific wording of the law, it certainly goes against the spirit of the right to privacy and the presumption of innocence. This is very scary. Totalitarian governments love keeping records and tabs on everyone so they can harrass and dissapear them whenever some person starts speaking up.

    I'm not saying that Bush is a facist, but think about it -- would you trust Hillary Clinton ;) or whoever the next president is with such a massive, ongoing surveillance database?
  • Here's the deal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 77Punker (673758) <[ude.tniophgih] [ta] [40rcneps]> on Saturday August 12, 2006 @04:53PM (#15895770)
    I've never seen a terrorist. To me, terrorists exist on television. What I have experienced are authority figures abusing power. Until terrorists stop hanging out with Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny and end up near me, I don't care how dangerous they are.

    I'm more scared of the cops, even though I'm not a criminal.
  • by Crashmarik (635988) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @04:55PM (#15895777)
    But thank you for the canned soundbite about how the west is responsible for the crappy condition of the avg arabs life. Somehow a less biased person might look at the middle east and think that their problems stem from lousy corrupt governments that have a willingness to kill their own citizens, the subsitution of religous precepts for sane government policy and a willingness to blame everyone else in the world for their own problems.

    Hope your hairshirt fits well.
  • by ChePibe (882378) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @05:24PM (#15895879)
    Clearly, if any group were to use perfect tradecraft and communications, it would be much more difficult - if not impossible - to catch.

    But perfection doesn't come easily. Look at how many CIA, KGB, MI6, DGSE and other intelligence agencies' officers have been caught because of screw-ups. These are people trained for long period of time - often years - to accomplish their jobs, yet even among their ranks screw-ups occur.

    Terrorists, such as those caught in the UK, don't have such training. While they use many sophisticated (and many simple) means to avoid detection, they often lack the discipline to use them all the time and, in the case of Al Qaeda, often operate in such large groups as to make security hap hazard at best.

    Consider Thursday's group and Al Qaeda's MO. A group that size had probably been in the planning and recruitment phase for several months if not several years. A group of that size needed large amounts (by terrorist standards) of outside funding, training, and support. They needed to move lots of information, stay in contact with each other, all while maintaining an outward appearance of normalcy (which they also apparently failed at, as a human intelligence source played a major part in busting the plot as well). A group of 24 - some say as big as 50 - quickly becomes unwieldy, and establishing perfect discipline amongst its often panicked members can be quite difficult.

    Al Qaeda's biggest strength, and its biggest weakness, is the size of its attacks. The 9/11 attack was astounding, winning the group recognition worldwide, but it required a very large group to plan and execute. If the planned airline bombings had taken place, the result would have been perhaps equally astounding, but Al Qaeda's eyes are much bigger than its stomach - if it had targeted only one, perhaps two airliners and kept the groups small, tight, and using foreigners instead of UK citizens, it probably could have pulled it off. Look at the "shoe bomber" - he was stopped only by passengers, and his plot was unknown to counter-terrorist officials beforehand. If he'd had the smarts to try and pull it off in the airplane's bathroom, one would assume he'd have been much more successful.

    Even if the group keeps 95% of its communications perfectly secure, that 5% slip can be enough to get them. Using that pre-paid cell too many times, forgetting to encrypt a chat just once, slipping up and paying with a credit card, not properly casing a facility, failing to use proper cut-outs to wire cash, etc. Insecure communications are far more efficient and, when one is panicked or when one becomes too confident, are often opted for, which is the key to getting people. By keeping the pressure up and making these groups feel nervous, most are bound to screw up in one way or another, helping them get caught.

    While perfectly secure means of communication may well exist, the human element is what will always screw it up. Think about it this way - how easy is it to commit a "perfect murder", one that that leaves you with practically no chance of getting caught? If properly planned, not too hard, right? Yet most murderers are eventually caught. Why? They get lazy. They screw up. All too often it is the stupidity, poor planning, lack of discipline, panic, or overconfidence that gets them caught. Terrorists - who generally operate in sizable groups - often fall to the same problems.
  • still no proof (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 12, 2006 @05:27PM (#15895890)
    Where is the proof of all this BS? It could just as easily be yet another reichstagg fire type false flag operation. All we have to go on is a few governments words on this stuff, governments that are all obviously pushing totalitarianism. Buttis crap gets repeated verbating by the wire services as "true facts". Proof, let's see it. And how many government agents are inside these alleged cells, maybe directing them, egging them on?

    Sorry, this terrorism crap to get more big brother action in place is looking more and more to be mostly government run ops, to mass condition the people. Until they start really *proving* this stuff, in open courts with non anonymous sources run by neutral third parties in the international arena, at best this is just spin doctor crap, like karl rove style dirty tricks action. I don't care how many arabic sounding names they use anymore, they got so many weird inconsistences with all their utterances that there's no way anymore to seperate fact from fiction when their lips are moving. I simply do not trust these governments anymore to tell the truth on anything. They keep coming up with these wild assed conspiracy theories, then all we get is more onerous laws out of it, and a ton of big transnational companies make a lot ore profits. I mean..c'mon now! It's long past rat smelling levels. They have varied internal agendas, economic and political, to push, so labelling everything "terrorist" is a dandy way for them to do anything they want to do. Just follow the headlines, every single stinking time there's bad news for these overlords starts to sneak into the headlines WHAM they trot out some more really dubious crap to divert attention. This is beyond obvious now.

    The bad deal? Constant mucking about in the mid east and screwing them people over for the last century WILL result in the "clash of the civilizations" eventually. How much crap are those people suposed to eat from the uk and usa and the completely looney phony "gods will" zionists? Talk about your self fulfilling armageddon prophecies...

    Get the fundy loons out of all these various governments, and hammer back the international "war is great for profits!" crowd and MAYBE all the normal people could live in peace.
  • by transporter_ii (986545) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @05:35PM (#15895919) Homepage
    I find it odd that all was quite on the western front, and all of the sudden the domestic wire tapping issue & AT&T blows up in their faces...and right in the middle of it they bust a bunch of Jamaican pot heads in Florida for being terrorist. And then all of the sudden, they start busting a few more "cells," and they always tag on, "and they were caught by monitoring the Internet or by wire tapping." ...as if it is some sort of subtle advertising campaign. I mean, really, in any other type of incident, they probably wouldn't even release how they were caught for months, if at all (yeah, why not tip off the terrorist to quit using the phones or the Net). But it is almost as if we are watching some infomericals from some PR firm, not to scare the "terrorist," but to condition us and make us pro-monitoring.

    Transporter_ii
  • Yeah, IF (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tom's a-cold (253195) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @06:09PM (#15896034) Homepage
    Yeah, I might trust them IF they have warrants.

    Anyway, I don't necessarily believe them when they say they cracked the case using wiretapping. They may well be preserving operational security by saying they got the plotters by a different method than they really used. Or perhaps they're just lying like they have so many times before.

    In short, there is no new information based on this bust.

    If instead they said they caught them by sneak-and-peek, would that mean that you would no longer want protection against unreasonable search and seizure?

  • by Noryungi (70322) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @06:46PM (#15896130) Homepage Journal
    As I have said, the problem is with Islam itself. Enough political correctness, please. Islam is a religion that exhorts its followers to violence.


    *sigh* Fine, I have karma to burn, and I am feeling in a bad mood today.

    • You should get out more and meet more diverse people.
    • You should buy this book [amazon.com] and meditate its teachings on the violent background of every religion.


    Now, with the exception of radical Hinduism and unorthodox strains of pseudo-Christian religions, almost all modern religion outside of Islam considers peace to be a virtue.


    Right. And you are full of it. Religion is all about gathering a group of people around a central figure. The easiest way to do this is to create "enemies of the faith". And the easiest way to create enemies is to focus on their (alleged) sexual behaviour. Read this book [amazon.com] and that book [amazon.com] for more information on this. The bottom line is this: group dynamics and religious propaganda will always drag people toward violence , especially if religion -- or some form of religious belief -- is there to de-humanize the so-called "enemies". By the time individuals realize this, it's a full-scale religious war and it's to late to change course.

    When you have created nice enemies, violence will always be a consequence. Does not matter which religion you are following, including Buddhism. Jainism or Zoroastrianism may be exceptions, but this is mainly due to the fact they have both been extremely small minorities for centuries now, even millenias in the case of Zoroastrianism.

    And just as a warning to those who want to cite a few violent verses in the Bible to me as "proof" that Judaism and Christianity are as bad as Islam, I can cite just as many direct commands from God that override any "general" interpretation of those.


    This is so dumb it's not even funny. First of all, I can probably quote more scriptures from the Bible (that great big piece of religious shit) than you. Second, when will you realize that human beings focus on the violence, and not on peace?

    For every "Love thy neighbour" there is a "Kill all your enemies, and do not spare women and children". We could go tit-for-tat like this for centuries, and people have been doing exactly this all over the Internet. Interpretation of absurd commands and nit-picking regulations is what most religions are all about. And interpretation always responds first of all to bloodthirst. And we are bloodthirsty animals, all of us.

    There was a time when good Christians launched Crusades against Moslems -- whose civilization was, at the time, the most brilliant on Earth. Now Moslems are using terrorism against "Christians". History repeats itself, nothing new under the sun, yadda yadda yadda. I am sick of people like you who blame one religion for all the problems. Religion, in general, is the problem (and especially retarded religious people).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 12, 2006 @06:51PM (#15896151)
    This country once won real wars on two fronts, against the Japanese and Adolph Hitler simultaneously. We had help from our allies of course. We had allies. We have now mobilized the entire might of the US armed forces, given the president war powers, abridged the rights of our citizens, and birsmirched our international reputatation for decades to fight what? Box cutters and bottles of hair spray. It's a disgrace.

    There is no vast international Al Qaeda conspiracy; there are a handful zealots. The zealots are not new, they have always been there. They will always be there. Osama admits the paucity of their resources, laughing that even the smallest gesture on their part causes us to waste billions of dollars sending our entire nation's might to chase shadows.

    Our military efforts do not make us safer, they only inflame the passions of more zealots. If a foreign nation bombed an your American city in order to retaliate against some atrocity committed by a small band of Canadian whack jobs passing through, and in the process your family was killed by the collateral damage, I'd wager good odds you'd become a zealot yourself.

    Our surveillance efforts do not make us safer. There are so many ways a motivated individual could do harm. That fact alone puts the lie to vast Al Qaeda conspiricy theories floated by our deranged administration. If the apparatus were as vast as Dick Cheney constantly implies, we'd be feeling the pain. There are real criminals to be caught. The residents of Indianapolis, for example, are currently being terrorized by a real killing spree. Our nation's resources are not infinite. While our best agencies chase bogeymen, real killers run free.

    Instead of sending armies after ants, we should be asking ourselves just how it so happens that someone with a box cutter can bring down a skyscraper. Jumbo jets can become weapons. If you don't like that, then for fuck's sake change the system, instead of trying to pretend that you can hunt down every whacko on the planet with cruise missles, artillery, and battleship guns. Why has it taken this goddamn long for someone to realize that carry on baggage is a hazard? So is any kind of baggage, for that matter. Don't let giant cargo ships laden with natural gas steam through Boston harbor. Don't let unit trains pulling hundreds of tons of volatile chemicals into urban areas. Don't build buildings that can be wiped out with a few small well placed charges.

    My little girl wasn't afraid of monsters in the closet until my wife brilliantly decided to ask her one day "are you afraid there is a monster in the closet?" That night she had nightmares. Brilliant. The only thing remarkable about 9/11 was that it hadn't happened before. Planes have been hijacked before. Planes have been blown up before. I don't mean to diminish the tragedy, but it is imperative that we stop exaggerating the nature of the threat it implies. The threat is the same as it always was, and always will be. The only thing that has changed is the political rhetoric of our administration. Dick Cheney says "boo", and terrorizes the nation.

    It is abolute lunacy to believe that we can eliminate inherent technological risks through at a global social level. No military might, social engineering, propoganda, war power, surveillance, police state, or any other effort to rid the world of crazyness will succeed. There will always be a crazy asshole somewhere. And unless we rid the world of gasoline, people will always be able to use it to start fires.

    I do have one idea for how we could reduce the number of crazy people in the world though. Stop killing, injuring, and terrorizing innocent children. If anything ever happens to my children, I will not fear death and my rage will never diminish. Anyone with children knows what I'm talking about.

    There are risks in the world. It seems, however, that we are driven in social stampedes like lemmings, rather than the intelligent reasoning we forever congratulate our species for. And so the world has gone mad. Will we ever snap out of it?
  • Nope (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Antony-Kyre (807195) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @07:43PM (#15896283)
    I am not willing to trade my constitutional rights and other civil liberties in exchange for security.
  • Re:Here's the deal (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aslate (675607) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (sserpxetenalp)> on Saturday August 12, 2006 @07:54PM (#15896317) Homepage
    Terrorists do not only exist in NYC and London, although they are popular targets.

    I live in London, have done since i was born 18 years ago. I never really lived through the IRA bombings, but we just stumbled through it. The greatest freedom that i feel i've been robbed of due to terrorism at the current time? There's no bloody bins on the Tube, as they were a favourite IRA target. After the 7th July bombings they removed the bins from overground trains for about 2 weeks too.

    Since the 7th July London bombings (The biggest single attack on London since the war, and second highest loss of life since Lockerbie) the only restrictions i've noticed? Well, none. Excluding the short term removal of bins and the short term increase in visible policing, the only long-term idea proposed has been to have bomb-scanning equipment on the Tube, an idea that's been deemed unrealistic ever since it was proposed and won't be implemented.

    Ever hear of Pan-Am flight 103 [wikipedia.org] which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland [google.co.uk]. People died in that village (with population of about 4000), did you really think they believed they were a terrorist target in 1988?

    Look at the list here [wikipedia.org] to see who was a "target of terrorism" and effectively asked for it:
    July 4 2002: An Egyptian gunman opens fire at an El Al ticket counter in Los Angeles International Airport, killing 2 Israelis before being killed himself.
    October 23 2002: Moscow theater hostage crisis begins; 120 hostages and 40 terrorists killed in rescue three days later.
    July 5 2003: 15 people die and 40 are injured in bomb attacks at a rock festival in Moscow.

    Just because it's not affected you yet, doesn't mean it won't and can't. As mentioned in many comments above, wiretapping was only applied after a tip-off from a relative about the group and their intentions.
  • by MarkusQ (450076) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @12:58AM (#15897251) Journal
    The general problem with recognizing whether or not warrantless wiretaps will aid a terror investigation is that while it's true that 99% of terrorism investigation will likely never have a need for a warrantless wiretap before they will be found out, there will be that 1%* that would require it to be found out before the attack occurs.

    Huh? What would your "1% case" look like? Remember, they can already wiretap for 72 hours before getting the warrant, they can and do get warrants 24/7 (including going to the judges's houses in the middle of the night), and the warrants are essentially never turned down. Furthermore, there are multiple judges, and they have a choice of which one they use, so even the 0.00000001% case where one of the judges in in cahoots with the terrorists seems to me to be covered--they just go to one of the other judges.

    Please describe even one case where they'd have to break the law.

    --MarkusQ

    P.S. For that matter, can you even come up with a plausible reason why they'd want to? The only two I've heard that hold any water at all are that they're trying to eliminate the other two branches of government, and don't want to admit the courts have any authority, or they're following in Nixon's footsteps and spying on political opponents (presumably to get blackmail material). I'd love to hear an alternative that covers the facts.

  • by DrSkwid (118965) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @04:08AM (#15897530) Homepage Journal
    Easy way to stop terrorism, just let them blow shit up and say "so what, kill 1000 more if you like, who cares?"

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