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EFF Sues the Dept. of Defense Over Surveillance 141

Posted by Zonk
from the socking-it-to-them dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Electronic Frontier Foundation has launched a lawsuit against the US government, demanding the publication of information about FBI cyber surveillance operations. The EFF launched its action after the authorities failed to disclose information requested under the Freedom of Information act. The EFF wants to find out more about two electronic surveillance systems used by the government agency to monitor electronic communications." From the article: "A Justice Department Inspector General report in March said the FBI had spent about $10 million on DCS-3000 to intercept communications over emerging digital technologies used by wireless carriers before next year's federal deadline for them to deploy their own wiretap capabilities. The same report said the FBI spent more than $1.5 million to develop Red Hook, 'a system to collect voice and data calls and then process and display the intercepted information' before those wiretap capabilities are in place."
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EFF Sues the Dept. of Defense Over Surveillance

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  • > "a system to collect voice and data calls and then process and display the intercepted information" before those wiretap capabilities are in place."

    If a tree falls in a forest, but nobody's there, does it make a sound?

    If your voice calls are transcribed by a machine, but nobody submits a query to the database that retrieves your transcript, were you wiretapped?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by tygt (792974)
      If a branch hits you on the head, but the branch wasn't thrown by a person, are you still knocked out?

      Or, if a machine taps your communications and takes a transcript, even if not "directed by a person" (didn't a person have to direct the general tapping?), weren't you still tapped?

      It's kind of like saying that it's ok for the police to come through your house and make a list of what you've got and just to log it, in case someday later they should have a reason to wonder what you had before

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tackhead (54550)
        > If a branch hits you on the head, but the branch wasn't thrown by a person, are you still knocked out?

        Sure. But could you charge anyone for assault? Probably not.

        I'm not defending the practice; back when suspects were guaranteed the right of a trial, the evidence gathered in this manner would be challenged and most likely thrown out. (Ironically enough, under a doctrine named after the "fruit of the poisoned tree"...)

        Of course, if there's no trial, there's no need for the rules of evidence

        • by morcheeba (260908) *
          "back when suspects were guaranteed the right of a trial"

          Excellent point. That is language I will use in more of my discussions on this topic - thanks!
    • by mordors9 (665662) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:32PM (#16341367)
      The real question is... if a man speaks in the forest and his wife is not there to hear him, is he still wrong....
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by kfg (145172) *
        . . . if a man speaks in the forest and his wife is not there to hear him, is he still wrong....

        Yes, but that's not the real issue. The real issue is that if a woman speaks in the forest and her husband is not there to hear her he's still to blame for not doing what she told him.

        KFG
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:32PM (#16341371)
      The tree comment is not about the falling but whether "sound" exists without someone to hear it. The disturbance of the air exists, that is easy. But is that disturbance "sound" if no one can hear it?

      So, if someone taps your phone, your phone has been tapped.

      The question you are asking should be "if no one requests that tap be used, have your Rights been violated".

      Once that tap has been used, and data collected, whether any person sees that data is irrelevant. The tap has been used, the information has been collected. The tree has fallen, the sound has been heard.
    • by fm6 (162816) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:41PM (#16341487) Homepage Journal

      Yes to both questions.

      Everybody who quotes the "if a tree falls" chestnut (at least those who quote it without making a joke) totally misunderstands what Bishop B was trying to say. He wasn't arguing that there is no noise in the forest — that's a silly idea. He was arguing that since events don't occur without an observer, there must be somebody observing all the events that demonstrably occur, but don't have a human observer. In other words, he's arguing that there must be a God.

      So the trees do fall, and the FBI does indeed know about your dial-a-porn addiction. Unless you're going to argue that trees don't fall until somebody finds the rotten log, or the FBI doesn't know what it knows until they access their database. And if you're going to make that kind of convoluted rationalization, you need to get out more.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by megaditto (982598)
        You are refering to a QM paradox of Schrödinger's cat [wikipedia.org]

        The short answer to GPP is that under SCP paradigm, a computer wiretapping you becomes identical to a human wiretapping you the moment such wiretap begins.
        • by fm6 (162816)
          Nonsense. The uncertainty principle, which places fundamental limits on what you can know, has nothing to do with things you don't know because you weren't around when they happened. You can draw analogies between the quantum-level physical stuff (the uncertainty principle; the observer effect) and macrophysical phenomena: (nobody knows exactly how many trees are in Yellowstone; people change their behavior if they know you're watching them) but they're still fundamentally different.
          • by megaditto (982598)
            You are confusing the Heisenberg's uncertainty principle with the observer effect (as in quantum de-coherence/einselection).

            Also, sorry the cat link crapped out. Here:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schrodinger's_cat [wikipedia.org]
            • by fm6 (162816)
              You're confused about what I'm confused about. And I have no interest in an "article" on Shroedinger's paradox written by a bunch of geeks who think "research" means regurgitating what they think they know.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by grymwulf (760443)
        Ahh, but Mr. Schrodinger and his cat might take exception to your statement here.

        Of course this discounts the possibility that to 'observe' an event does NOT require a sentient observer. Plants, insects, and other woodland creatures can observe things on their own. Or the tree that fell could observe it's own falling, a.k.a. the Zen answer.
    • by vertinox (846076)
      If your voice calls are transcribed by a machine, but nobody submits a query to the database that retrieves your transcript, were you wiretapped?

      Does a machine have Buddha-nature or not? ;)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Lost Penguin (636359)
      It cannot be a wiretap
      There is no legal wiretaps of non-guilty American citizens.

      Only a terrorist supporter would be worried, right? ....First they came for the terrorists. ....Next they came for the Pedophiles ....?? There is no profit for citizens on this one
    • Um, yes, even if nobody submits a query to the database that retrieves your transcript, your rights have been trampled on if you were wiretapped and the calls transcribed, machine or no.

      The mantra in the authoritarian/dictatorial sewers of our current "Administration" is "Data=Power".

      In the old days of the Hoover FBI, the buttoned-down martinets who worked for that cross-dressing queen used to confront a citizen with a big, fat file and say "Don't you want to help your Government?" and the poor schlub would
    • by Guppy06 (410832)
      "If a tree falls in a forest, but nobody's there, does it make a sound?"

      Doesn't matter, that tree was on my property and you owe me recompense for cutting it down, whether you used a remote controlled robot or not.

      All the document says is "unreasonable searches and seizures," it does not specify that, if the searching is done by non-humans, it doesn't count. Considering the nature of the document in general and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments in particular, the federal government does not get to flirt with
      • If they want to change the rules like that in the name of "fighting t3h terr0rz!" then they can get to work trying to convince 3/4 of the state legislatures that it's the right thing to do. Otherwise, "shall not" means just that.

        What constitutes an unreasonable search changes with both time and technology. No constitutional change is necessary -- the erosion of the 4th amendment will occur gradually as a reasonable person's expectation of privacy erodes. The police will never be able to go into your hom

  • Don't they have *anything* better to do w/ that money?
  • Donate to the EFF (Score:5, Informative)

    by lathama (639499) <lathamaNO@SPAMlathama.com> on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:23PM (#16341233) Homepage Journal
    Everyone make a donation to the EFF, they have done a lot......

    Website [eff.org]
  • DOD? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BobandMax (95054)
    Since when is the FBI a DOD component? The article referred to DOJ.
    Are you guys so eager to discredit the US government that you cannot read?
    • by caseydk (203763)

      That's the first thing I noticed... I saw the headline and figured that somehow the EFF was going after GPL stuff in missiles or something.
  • FBI is DOJ not DOD (Score:4, Informative)

    by _xeno_ (155264) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:24PM (#16341241) Homepage Journal

    The FBI is part of the Department of Justice, not the Department of Defense. The linked article gets this right. As far as I can tell, there's no connection with the DOD to this story at all, other than both being executive branch departments.

    The summary even refers to the DOJ (a "Justice Department Inspector General") - Zonk apparently read the article, so why the incorrect headline?

    • by merreborn (853723) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:35PM (#16341407) Journal
      Zonk apparently read the article, so why the incorrect headline?

      Is that some kind of sick joke?
    • by mordors9 (665662)
      Certainly not because they know it will draw more irate comments. That part of the fringe loves the DoD.
      • by _xeno_ (155264)

        Actually, that's a very interesting question. Which draws more hatred: the DOD, the DOJ, or the FBI?

        I think "EFF Sues the FBI Over Surveillance" would have worked just as well to stir up comments, while having the added advantage of being accurate.

        In fact, with the space saved by using the actual facts, you could change the headline to "EFF Sues the FBI Over Net Surveillance" which is both accurate and guaranteed to generate comments.

        But I still wonder - which would generate the most flames, the DOD,

    • by fatboy (6851)
      The first thing that I thought when I read the headline is, "Do you know what the Posse Comitatus Act is?". I am sure it was just a typo.
    • by lawpoop (604919)
      Maybe he thinks that they're all part of the same organization?
    • by eclectro (227083)
      The FBI is part of the Department of Justice, not the Department of Defense.

      So you don't know about the "black helicopters" then?
    • by schwaang (667808)
      I don't know why the mistake in the article, but earlier this year Congress gave the Defense Intelligence Agency exemption from FOIA requests [naa.org] regarding files that "document the conduct of foreign intelligence or counterintelligence operations."

      According to this article [newstandardnews.net] about it, the head of George Washington U's National Security Archive said

      [T]hese exemptions ... create a black hole into which the bureaucracy can drive just about any kind of information it wants to. And you can bet that Guantánamo, Ab

  • by DarkBlackFox (643814) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:29PM (#16341319)
    IANAL, but how effective can any sort of lawsuit against the government be these days? Isn't it the same government that runs the courts? If the FBI feels national security is at stake by releasing the information the EFF is looking for, wouldn't they just say to the courts "oh, it's national security.. terrorists and the like, it's best if you leave us be." And the court answer would be "oh well, if it's in the name of national security, you guys are all set. Case dismissed."

    Or is there any integrity left in the government at this point.

    • Or is there any integrity left in the government at this point.

      Well, there was that one rogue judge in Michigan...

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic le/2006/08/17/AR2006081700650.html [washingtonpost.com]

      U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ordered a halt to the wiretap program, secretly authorized by President Bush in 2001, but both sides in the lawsuit agreed to delay that action until a Sept. 7 hearing.

      Integrity's there, it's just few, far between and often gets tucked away in janitor's closets.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by lawpoop (604919)
        "U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ordered a halt to the wiretap program, secretly authorized by President Bush in 2001, but both sides in the lawsuit agreed to delay that action until a Sept. 7 hearing."

        Sept. 7th of what year?
    • by jfengel (409917) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:51PM (#16341627) Homepage Journal
      There is, at least in theory, a bright line between the courts and the executive branch. Supposedly it's why judges are appointed for life: it lets them base their decisions on their own judgment, not what will get them re-elected. (In practice that just makes the nominations more partisan, and the fights over them more bitter.)

      It just so happens that the Supreme Court at the moment is as closely divided as the rest of the country. The last presidential election was 51-48, and even the heavily lopsided Senate is 55-45 (technically 55-44-1). The Supreme Court has four reliably conservative justices (Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito), four reliably liberal ones (Ginsburg, Souter, Breyer, Stevens) and one swing (Kennedy).

      That last is generally counted among the conservatives, havign been appointed by Reagan, but he has voted to curtail the President on various issues, e.g. Hamdan (the one that forced Bush to change his plan on tribunals for the Guantanamo inmates).

      So the answer to your question is that yes, there is a vague chance of the lawsuit being effective, though it's a close call, and it's probably up to one guy.

      (Though just to get political for a second, the most reliable liberal is 86 year old Justice Stevens. If he retires or dies before January, a Republican Senate will probably replace him with a young conservative, and that would make the court 5-3-1 for the next several decades. Should the Democrats win the Senate in November, and he retires/dies in the next two years, the President will send over conservative candidates until he either sends over a moderate the Democrats can't oppose without looking stupid, or they crack under the pressure of having an empty seat for too long. The upshot is that my "yes" above may be temporary.)
    • What ever happened to the branches of the federal gov? Wouldent the FBI be considered part of the executive branch and the courts would be part of the judicial? Shouldent the judicial branch be a 'check' for the executive branch?
    • IANAL either but I think the ACLU v. NSA decision mapped the path around the State Secrets defense.

      A.) You wait for the Administration to brag about how it is chasing down the "terrists" and let them adequately describe how they are breaking the law.

      B.) Find a few people with standing that probably have been damaged by those illegal actions while avoiding the need to produce specific individual records from the illegal activities.

      As long as you don't ask the Gov't to produce specific info regardi
    • IANAL, but how effective can any sort of lawsuit against the government be these days? Isn't it the same government that runs the courts?

      In most despotic nations this would be the case, but the founding fathers of the United States had in mind all too well of what happens when the government owns all three branches (legislative, executive, and judicial) and puts them to use (like the Egnlish crown).

      So they went about creating a system in which each of the three groups would "check and ballance" each other o
    • by lawpoop (604919)
      It just depends on how truly independent the judiciary is. The US government is not a monolithic, top-down entity, like the the armed forces. Even federal agencies are often at odds with one another -- refusing to co-operate, suing each other, etc.

      Also, the people who are appointed to federal judgeships are typically political wonks, a sort of political geek, who have strong views on government, the rule of law, etc. They may be in favor of a strong executive, or they may literally view themselves on th
      • by fotbr (855184)
        I'm too lazy to look it up, but there IS the case of the man who's been sitting in jail for 11+ years for contempt of court because he won't (if they exist) or can't (if they don't) produce account numbers in a rather nasty divorce.

        I'd argue that the courts ability to toss someone in jail for YEARS for "contempt" which is a rather blanket term that gets used for anything from being late to court to sleeping in court to just having a tone of voice the judge doesn't like, gives them a power that no other bran
  • Can you say.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zenhkim (962487) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:33PM (#16341381) Journal
    ....tip of the iceberg?

    This is like trying to dig up a small tree or a bush [pun intended] -- you think there isn't much to dig up, but as you excavate you keep finding more and more roots entwined under the ground.

    So to recap: we have the telco industry handing over *all* our phone call logs to the NSA, and the FBI is involved in a wireless LAN snooping program. You have to wonder what the hell we're going to find out next about the US government intelligence / law enforcement community.

    "Come on, man -- I mean, *look* at this shit! It isn't a question of whether or not you're paranoid; it's a question of whether or not you're paranoid ENOUGH." -- from the movie _Strange_Days_
    • by gosand (234100)
      "Come on, man -- I mean, *look* at this shit! It isn't a question of whether or not you're paranoid; it's a question of whether or not you're paranoid ENOUGH." -- from the movie _Strange_Days_


      Two things about this movie - Juliette Lewis topless, and the soundrack kicks ass.

    • by fotbr (855184)
      Don't like the phone company because of something it did? Switch, or do without.

      Don't want the FBI monitoring your wifi networks? Don't use wifi, run cables (not foolproof by any means, but much harder to intercept than wifi).

      They may not be options you like, but it IS a choice. Make yours and accept the consequences.

      Go vote any idiots you don't like out of office, and put in idiots you DO like. We do have an election in a month - use it.
  • Does anybody have numbers on the chances to win a lawsuit against our Big Brother?

    Seriously we some famous cases that we all memorize in class where the little guy wins. But just as we shake our heads at Microsoft throwing its weight around, is there really much we (joe citizen) can do about Govt Policies?

    • by sakusha (441986)
      Does anybody have numbers on the chances to win a lawsuit against our Big Brother?

      Well, if it's the EFF suing, the chances of winning are 0.00% And in the process of losing, they'll permanently establish the government's ability to squash another civil right.
      • They used to be good at this: they did win against the Secret Service for the wildly mis-aimed raids against Steve Jackson Games. And they've done other useful things since they dumped Jerry Berman as their leader: that man was clearly selling their soul to get lobbying money from telecoms and have a nice office in DC. But they've gotten better, and seem to be aiming at serious issues: even where they don't win, they're bringing awareness to serious issues, and getting people to bring up these issues at bu
        • by sakusha (441986)
          Wow, the EFF won a case for Steve Jackson Games about 15 years ago. What a great track record.

          Lobbying and "consciousness-raising" doesn't mean squat, when the battleground is Federal Court. And every time the EFF loses in Federal Court, the Government has a new legal precedent AGAINST the rights the EFF was trying to protect. With friends like the EFF, who needs enemies?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by element-o.p. (939033)
      Vote for the little guy in the next election. I intend to, anyway. And if enough people are upset enough to vote for the little guy instead of the Dem/Rep candidate, then yes, there is something that can be done.

      Or at least, I hope so....
      • by COMON$ (806135)
        I would love to vote for the little guy. As long as his/her politics are in line with what I want seen done. Or at least they have one or two things I stand for on their plate.

        But once they are in office they are just one voice and without money backing them what chance do they stand? You have to have clout in Washington or in local administrations, that is why the Dem/Rep parties are so promanant, they can squish any independent we vote in. Money and Power talk very very loud.

  • Granted, the EFF is trying to protect our rights as citizens, and in my opinion they are doing a decent job as such; however, people please.. it is your responsibility to protect your own privacy, and if you are doing something that you do not want others to know about, please please use a Good Encryption [gnupg.org] system, a Good Anonymizing Proxy [blastproxy.com] for browsing the web, and definately get a Good Web Browser [getfirefox.com]. If people would follow these three little tips, it would make eavesdropping on your communications about 100 t

    • by bwcbwc (601780)
      You mean the proxies that the feds subpoena to get the user data?

      And the encryption algorithm that contains the government mandated backdoor?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      How do you know that blastproxy.com isn't actually being run by the FBI as a honeypot to entrap people who need anonymous access to acheive their nefarious ends on the web? Come on now, instead of sifting through ALL the traffic on the web, isn't it a lot easier to just create a service that criminals will naturally gravitate towards, while at the same time floating rumours that you are actually sifting through all the traffic, thus driving those who don't want to be traced to the service you created?
    • Unfortunately, such encryption isn't ubiquitous enough to protect non-critical transmissions: normal business and personal email, cell phone conversation, and many IM-style tools aren't remotely secure enough. Even for common encryption techniques such as SSL, the keys are rarely well-protected enough to prevent "law enforcement" from stealing them and monitring traffic secretly.

      There are technologically reasonable techniques, such as the so-called "Trusted Computing" tools that are growing in use, but noti
  • This is the reason (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gillbates (106458) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:59PM (#16341735) Homepage Journal

    Why we support the EFF. The EFF helps citizens keep the government in check. This is just one of the many scandals the EFF has brought to the public's attention.

    Instead of whining about the erosion of our civil liberties, do something about it - support the EFF.

  • by pfz (965654)
    It's amazing that EFF takes the lead in going after the government when it steps out-of-bounds. It is scary to think what the government would do if there was nobody playing watch-dog (the same goes for the ACLU, PIRG's, etc...). What's even more freaky is what evil plans might already be in the works! Help us, Superman! (or Help us, ___________! -- insert your favorite superhero)

    ALTERNATIVE FREEDOM

    A documentary about the invisible war on culture.
    Features EFF Attorney JASON SCHULTZ, RMS, DANGER MOUSE (of G
  • Its the NGA thats watching you pick your nose in your backyard.
  • October 03, 2006 EFF Sues for Information on Electronic Surveillance Systems

    FBI Withholds Records on Tools to Intercept Personal Communications

    Washington, D.C. - The FLAG Project at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed its first lawsuit against the Department of Justice Tuesday after the FBI failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records concerning DCS-3000 and Red Hook -- tools the FBI has spent millions of dollars developing for electronic surveil

  • I am not terribly concerned honestly, and it's not because 'I have nothing to hide and are therefore clean', but rather the FBI as a whole is generally so by-the-book it's sickening. On average they the boyrgscouts who don't break laws because it's illegal and they would never do anything illegal. When I talked to the EFF guys @ defcon, this was a point we all agreed on, they have no problem with wiretaps from the FBI because they sit down and do the necessary paperwork.

    This isn't a lawsuit like the one

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