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Congress concerned about Echelon 168

Congress is concerned about Echelon invading the privacy of US citizens. Indeed, for the first time in its history, the NSA has refused to supply the House Permanent Select Committee with documents about Echelon.
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Congress concerned about Echelon

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you want to get the Echelon people all screwed up try putting this at the bottom of your e-mails as your signature:


    This is the lowest form of government secrecy but I guess the gov gets all mad when that stuff gets out to the public. If we can't stop them, then why not flood them with e-mails that look secretive/suspicious. Lets see them sort through a couple million e-mails a day.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What is everyone's problem with Echelon?

    First, what is the point of it? Echelon is a system which is designed to intercept [primarily international] communications among countries in all regions of the world. It is run by the so-called "UKUSA SigInt alliance" -- that is, by NSA, GCHQ (UK), DSA (Australia) and equivalent agencies in New Zealand etc. The technical details are unclear (at least to me) but it seems safe to assume that:

    1. All emails, telexes, and probably faxes are stored and can be searched.
    2. Telephone calls are logged by calling and originating number, and presumably recorded; the technology may allow keyword searches of telephone calls, but this is probably slow and expensive.
    What is the purpose of all this information?
    1. National interest: we spy on, for want of a better word, foreigners, who might want to do nasty things. This works OK, since, for the most part, the interests of the partners in UKUSA conincide. When they do not, the USA, of course, gets priority: they are the senior partner in capital investment (and probably expertise, too).
    2. The second reason is commercial: by spying on, for example, French companies which have made innovations, US, British, Australian etc. companies can be given an advantage over them. By establishing economic information about, eg., merger deals, the appropriate people can be informed in order to minimise damage to the interests of local companies.
    So, what's the big deal? What is going on which hasn't always been going on? The answer is... nothing, but suddenly everyone knows about it.

    To believe that Echelon-type schemes are new or novel is the worst sort of self-deception. The technology is more sophisticated, but that is essentially a function of communications equipment becoming more sophisticated. The scope is wider, but that's hardly surprising.

    Most of the things which Echelon is doing are desirable, at least for inhabitants of the participating countries: improving security, endowing an economic advantage over their competitors, etc. Other countries will no doubt have their own crazy SigInt schemes. Probably they're less sophisticated. But the fundamental difference is that they're still secret.

    The only difficulty is when Echelon comes up against the rights of the individual. Of course, individuals don't really have rights -- they are just offered that illusion by states (which are much stronger than individuals) because this is a paradigm of government which happens to work well. But leaving that point aside, well, if you wish to preserve your "freedom" as an "individual", then use encryption.

    Putting strings of suspicious words in email is fun -- and even, briefly, funny -- but hardly pointful. And I don't think we want to be pissing off the NSA.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Being a reader of slash dot, one can probably name a few pieces of undocumented *software* that are pretty evil. Did evil people write it? ; )

    What do you care if you have nothing to hide? Well that's a pretty easy one....

    *Everyone* has things they do not want the government to know. Did the police catch you speeding to work today? Did your taxes include every source of income? Did you make a small lie on your resume? You are going to get away with these things with the current SigInt and the current government.

    Governments have restrictions placed upon them not just for today. They also have restrictions for the governments of tomorrow as well. How can one claim that one's government of 20 or 50 years in the future will be as benevalent? Were the governments of 20 or 50 years ago good and fair in every way? No way! Why does one assume that they will continue to be good or get better? Public accountability is one way to help keep them honest. Public disclosure is another.

    Why have a congress or parlement at all if it cannot enforce some accountability in the other branches of government? I'm sure that every branch, every department, believes what they are doing is for the best. Are they? If they goof up, there will be a political price to pay.

    You state yourself that not all citizens are loyal.. I say you should ask your self *what* exactly *you* are loyal to. Most of the world can't hear enough about the brilliant US constitution and its authors. Freedom from this, freedom from that, etc.
    For instance, what good is a freedom of assembly, if everyone knows that who you are and what you say may be recorded and examined. Empty promises at best.

    I think some of the "loyal Americans" should practice what they preach.

    I don't mean to single you out in particular, I have a problem with everyone who participates in schemes such as this-- in all the countries involved.

    And after all, why would the NSA care if it has nothing to hide?

  • I've seen a lot of suggestions here about "baiting" email with phrases designed to attract Echelon sniffers. However, it's annoying to have to read the bait words (not to mention explaining their presence to your friend, your boss, your mom, &c) in every message.

    Many mail user agents will let you add arbitrary headers to your message. Hence, one can get maximum spookage with minimum annoyance by adding an X-NSA header, e.g.

    X-NSA: POTUS nerve agent militia encryption

    In my experience, anyone who is clueful enough to display all message headers is also clueful enough to get the joke (HHOS).
  • Heh?

    These guys are claiming that they don't have to turn over the documents on the grounds of attorney-client privledge. Attorney-Client privledge protects attorneys from being compelled to incriminate their clients by protecting all communications between attorneys and clients.

    The fact is that NSA has probably already violated attorney-client privledge by eavesdropping.

    I don't understand how they can claim attorney client privledge. As far as I can see, the only attorneys and clients involved are the ones whose rights have been violated by the NSA!
  • Let's not forget Rep. Barr's speech to the Conservative Citizen's Council. Say the abbreviation with a hard C (hint: sounds like K...)
  • Posted by MaldaSuX:

    Have a slash and the dot follows
  • Congress controlls the purse. Next session (january?) remind your congressmen to cut the budget of the NSA way back. Let the NSA do some firing of people they can't afford and it will not only put them in their place, but it will give us back some sense of privacy.

    Just because the NSA doesn't appear on budgets normally doesn't mean congress can't do this, they just have to cut all agencies funding them

  • that the NSA has decided it can ignore Congress. I mean, they've been the ones working in the background, classifying crypto as weaponry and basically wishing the Cold War would never end -- and now, they're (hopefully) going to get a kick in the ass for it.

    It's probably a stretch to say this, but IMO this combined with the lifting of restrictions in Germany and France gives our restrictions maybe another year to live, if not a few months.


  • The NSA probably has its own funding by now. All they had to do was steal, blackmail, sell secrets or some other thing to get a few billion dollars. They keep it invested out of sight and it turns into more billions. It would be there for them in case of a rainy day... or a hostile Congress. It basically makes them unaccountable to Congress or any other agency. You'd have to send in the military, CIA, or FBI to arrest them by force. Don't know how well that would work.

  • The National Security Act of 1947, which created the CIA and Air Force, among other things, also created the NSA.

    I could be wrong about this, does anybody know for sure?

    Don Negro
  • I guess then the NSA would have to smuggle drugs to make ends meet. Perhaps the CIA will give them some pointers.

  • The reason they don't assasinate Slobodan and Saddam is because they're on the CIA payroll. How else would they justify these wars that keep the american people enslaved to pay taxes to prop up the military industrial complex. They kept up the Cold War for several decades, but that only went so long. Now they're simply rotating "enemies".

    This is also why what Slobodan and Saddam do does not make sense, and no matter how much their people and their economies suffer, they still live in total luxury, completely unpunished for the so-called attrocities they commmitted.

    Without all of these "wars", I wonder how many stars we could have colonized by now - with spaceships powered by cold-fusion reactors.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • It's called "Jamming" and appears in one of the most intriguing episodes of The Prisoner. :)

    (Where, ironically, Number 6 is required to save Number 2. The parallels are fascinating!)

  • The term used by Congress to refer to managing the NSA or whatever is "Oversight". I don't know about you, but the meaning of "oversight" that -I- am familiar with would certainly seem to describe what's been happening.
  • (Behind closed doors, project Echelon is renamed Project Sardine Can...)

    Following Day, at a Congessional Hearing:

    Congessman: What is the current status of this Project Echelon, and who is responsible for it?
    NSA rep: No such program exists. There was such a program, during the Cold War, but Echelon has since ceased to operate.
    Congressman: You sure?
    NSA rep: Positive. Here's what we're budgetting for this year... Echelon isn't mentioned anywhere. That proves it, doesn't it?

  • It doesn't matter if they have their own funding.

    They have to have staff, and if they get paid via paychecks, the money can ultimately be traced.

    If they get paid with cash, all you have to do is start arresting the people that are handing out the cash. It would take some work, and some patience, but eventually it would break down.

    They also have to purchase gear, and I don't think that the stockholders in the companies that make that gear would take kindly to having the value of their shares reduced to zero, so there are several ways that the Congress can attack, if they want to.

  • It's a rather scary thing for privacy of any kind, but it shouldn't come as a suprise that the NSA refused to provide information on it to congress. Perhaps the bluntness of the response was suprising, but not the gist.

    The NSA is charged with signal intelligence, or intercepting communications from foreign countries whether friend or foe. From the text of the story they aren't so concerned about them directly spying on US citizens, but rather on them collecting intelligence from foreign countries who are collecting intelligence on US citizens. So us damned Canadians spy on you damned Americans and the NSA in turn spies on the Canadians. Insert your favourite foreign country where appropriate.

    The answer to the question "What safeguards are in place to prevent the NSA from intercepting foreign communications with US citizens?" is probably "Nothing".
  • Of course they have tech. that we don't! If the public is getting into high powered clusters (cheap too) imagine what someone with real money could put together! With enough power, almost anything can be opened with brute force. My thought has always been that we have higher numbers of diversified people than the government. Why not get proactive about writing something REALLY secure. Base the encryption on something that can neither be duplicated nor faked. Like a couple network time servers, etc.
  • Oh hell, if it really needs to, the NSA probably has the ability to create money - just modify a couple of files in some banking computer.

    Maybe we can convince Greenspanman to rescue us from a potential threat to the economy ;)
  • I think you mean NRO (National Reconnaissance Office). If it weren't for the fact that their new building accidentally got listed on a public budget document (rather than buried in the black budget), most of Congress wouldn't even know that it exists.

    Where's the NRO home page? :-)

  • Yes, the existence of the NRO was declassified because they screwed up and put their new building in the unclassified budget. After that there's little point to pretending that the agency doesn't exist.

    But it's still one of the most secret agencies whose existence is public knowledge.

  • Hell, you wouldn't even need to use real encryption- you could just use "assasination" for a, "terrorism" for t, etc., so on, so forth. Much simpler to implement, and probably just as annoying (if the words are well chosen and randomized so that it can't pick up on those patterns.)
  • If it is encrypted in "plain text," i.e., if you use standard ASCII characters (as the original post suggested with the 65536 word library) instead of in straight bits, as most encryption does, their computers will first look at it as text. This is what (presumably) would get their attention, since it would create hits in their Dictionary computer (which has been mentioned in earlier pieces about the Australian admission.) After they figured that out, the 7-bit encryption proposed would pose a nearly negligible challenge to their systems. It would be much more challenging (to them) if we ALL used words like assasination in our docs. That would strain the automated side of the system (the dictionary) requiring them to either use a human to read every email that used the word assasination (unlikely, if we all did it) or give up entirely. I think that would be the practical effects (if any) of the original proposal.

    Practically speaking, if you want to make a difference, including phrases like assasination, Bill Clinton, and KKK (or NAACP!) in your .sig file, so that they are forced to expend precious time reading your (presumably harmless) mail, since their computers will have flagged it as "dangerous" because of the (context-free) words.
  • It's good to see the nsa finally get spanked. They've been screwing over the american people for years now. Although, I seriously doubt congress will get anything out of the nsa. They operate in absolute, so I don't think congress will be able to get the nsa's info, no matter how many bills and laws they pass.
  • Oops. I meant to say they operate in absolute secrecy.
  • Congress doesn't write the checks for the NSA. The come from the infamous black budget, no one knows exactly how much it is and how much is spent on anything.

    Openstep/NeXTSTEP/Solaris/FreeBSD/Linux/ultrix/OSF /...
  • funding?

    Because as a body it can't. Black budget funds are appropriated and given out by select small congressional committees. Whats this mean? It means that a select small group of individuals is responsible for saying yes or no to the requests the NSA makes for funding. The obvious problem with this is that a rather small group of individuals is quite easy to intimidate, harrass or push into doing any action you want them to. Don't expect this to change anytime soon, the NSA is happy with it this way.
    Openstep/NeXTSTEP/Solaris/FreeBSD/Linux/ultrix/OSF /...
  • The FBI tapped his hotel room phone. Any kind of
    activist is likely to have a file built up on
    him/her. Just because it seems inane to us to
    spy on civil liberties groups doesn't mean that
    it doesn't happen regularly.
  • the words of vice-animatronic Gore.

    Read The Puzzle Palace. There's already a law on the books that says explicitly that no existing or future law of the US may require NSA to reveal anything about its organization, structure, or activities to anyone. Including anyone in the US government. They simply don't have to tell Congress anything, and I know who's gonna win this little tussle.

    By the way, if the Aussies actually didn't ask Big Brother for permission before confirming Echelon's existence, I bet the spooks off the BWP are right steamed about it. :-)

  • The NSA is not "right". They aren't offering even a plausible excuse. "Attorney-client privilege"?? HA!

    Besides if you aren't doing something bad then why should you worry?

    Is this a troll? "If you don't have anything to hide, why should you be bothered by mandatory searches of your home?" Get a clue, please.

    With any form of security can/will come sacrifice.

    I'm reminded of this Ben Franklin quote (this is probably rough, but it's close): "Those who would give up essential liberty for temporary safety deserve neither."

    You seem to labor under what is a common misunderstanding today: that it is safe to entrust to government our safety and liberties. Nothing could be further from the truth, and that is precisely what the writers of the Constitution were attempting to prevent. The government has no vested interest in your liberty. Only you do.

  • Oh well, freedom is an illusion, but the illusion is good enough for me.

    "If I have to choose between the real world and the matrix, then I choose the matrix."

    I'm not trying to be totally off-topic here; I guess the obvious question is the same as in the movie: why would you want to be satisfied with an illusion?

    Of course, the boys at the NSA are thrilled to read you saying that.

  • >Congress is "concerned about the privacy rights of American citizens[...]"

    I see this attitude in all American articles about Eschelon. Why is it that most Americans (at least those in power) see it as OK to trample the privacy rights of people from other nations? Right to privacy is a human right, no matter what nation you belong to. Eschelon is used to spy on private citizens of other countries, even those countries in Europe that are considered allies. If it has been used (as some reports suggest) for industrial spionage, that is also an outrage. The rest of the world tries to get their economies going and increase their standard of living - just to have their best ideas stolen by bigger American companies who can then crush them on the market. So this is why American has forced Europe to ban strong encryption.

    This is symptomatic of a bigger attitude problem. America treats their supposed allies like shit. The high tech bombers used in Yugoslavia take off in America, fly over the Atlantic, drop their bomb from a high altitude (no matter that the lack of precision causes loss of innocent civilian lives) and then fly back without landing. This is because America don't want to use air fields in Europe. They don't trust their military allies to see their shiny new toy!

    Another example - USA bombs Yugoslavia back to medieval times. (Yes, its NATO - but NATO is essentially USA. NATO's power structure is deeply undemocratic, the other nations can never go against the wishes of the USA) This despite protests that the bombings do not in fact help the people of Kosovo, despite the protests that civilians both on the serbian side and the Kosovo side are being hurt and killed. Now that the American public has become bored with the war and American media has stopped reporting on it, Clinton declares that heroic America has done enough, now its time for those lazy European cowards to do their part - namely take care of over 100 000 refugees as winter approaches and pay for the rebuilding a country where infrastructure for BILLIONS of dollars have been destroyed. Its so cynical its beyond belief.

    If you treat your friends like that, you can't expect them to remain friends forever.
  • > Why is it every movie portrays NSA, CIA, FBI -- whatever -- as mind-numbed robots that will kill every American baby if it remotely threatens national security?

    I have no problem depicting them as a bunch of soulless spooks with no regard for the basic rights to privacy that are enshrined in the constitution. I have no problem painting them as the eyes and ears of a regime bent on reacting to and crushing any actions that run counter to some perceived notion of the american way -- take a look at the war on drugs sometime, ask someone who's run a hobby greenhouse about police searches.

    I'm sure the kgb had families too, and that they put their pants on one leg at a time.
  • > and that we all need many years of extremely expensive Scientological "treatments" to get ourselves "clean".

    You mean "clear"
  • > Point is, what do you care if you have nothing to hide?

    That's pretty funny coming from an anonymous coward
  • by Tuor ( 9414 )
    Well, now that Congress has decided to stick their nose in this, it's about time to write to that old congressman and encourage him to take a good look at this.

    -Buddy can I borrow $.33?
  • Last time I checked congress wrote the checks for NSA so there's no reason why they can't get compliance any time they want to. Question is do they really want to?

  • I've been looking very hard into Open BSD lately.

    We need strong encryption down to the OS
    level. If I have to move out of the US to do it,
    then so be it!

    I will not sacrifice my privacy for government
  • No need to de-classify anything. It's published already in the US Government Code EXACTLY what NSA's parameters are: Can not operate against anything on American soil. And you think those of us conducting these operations just casually shake that off? Get real.
  • Why is it every movie portrays NSA, CIA, FBI -- whatever -- as mind-numbed robots that will kill every American baby if it remotely threatens national security? Who works for NSA? American citizen. As a former SIGINT analyst let me tell you what the first couple of weeks of training consist of: Learning the US Government laws that govern the activities of the NSA. You don't stop being a citizen when you join, and the reason the public finds out about any inappropriate actions is that these same American citizens will let it be know that laws have been violated, usually through a leak to the press. If you think these agencies are "out to get" you, you probably think the moon landing never really happened, Elvis was on the last space shuttle mission, the earth is flat....
  • Actually, this isn't the first time that the NSA has rejected requests that Congress has required it to grant.

    For example, the "Freedom of Information Act" allows private citizens of the USA to access their records from intelligence agencies, among other things. The NSA has consistantly refused to hand over ANY information to anybody, saying that they are not covered by the act.

    What makes anybody think that even if they are mentioned specifically in an act of Congress, that the NSA will honor it? It is not an agency that was created by Congress, so I think its purview is in the Executive branch of government. I am not a lawyer (of course!) but wouldn't that mean that getting the agency to supply any information would require a direct request from the President?

    The NSA probably has the ability to tie up Congress's request in legal hurdles for years before anything is actually DONE. And by then, there will be a new administration... back to square one...!

    I wouldn't hold my breath expecting anything to happen with this.

    Good luck, Congressman!
  • ...probably, Congress wants to know just what exactly NSA knows about their *ahem* 'internal affairs', and how much the NSA is gonna get from Larry Flynt for the scoop ;).

  • I will admit right up front that I don't know any of the details on this, but my first reaction to view with great skepticism anything having to do with Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia. He is one of the most ideologically pure members of the Shih'ite wing of the Republican Party. He is the American equivalent of the Australian faction that put through the net censorship legislation that is causing such a stir.
  • Exactly my point. Also, don't forget that in Georgia, privacy stops at the bedroom door.
  • This is not about character assasination of NSA staff. This is about a governement agency refusing oversight by the elected representatives of the people, and the issue is whether this agency routinely violates the constitutional rights of the people.
  • As usual, the "radical new ideas" were not that new. The separation of powers (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial) is straight from Montesquieu (Trias Politica), and democracy was not actually invented in the US either. The authors of the US constitution deserve credit for actually trying out all these ideas.
  • How on -earth- has the NSA been screwing over the american people for years? To the best of my knowledge, which is reasonably lay-educated but not expert, the NSA doesn't do much of anything except collect and analyze every bit of data they can get their hands on, and presumably make advisories to the president from time to time. Personally, I'm not much worried. I believe that they're as close-mouthed to the rest of the intelligence community as they are to congress, the public, and the press. So what if they have a lot of information? They don't use it against ordinary citizens. Or even ordinary criminals. Presumably they do inform someone about issues involving international terrorism or plots to assassinate heads of state in the USA and friendly countries, but you know, some days I wonder if they even tell anyone about anything.

    Now, if you want an intelligence agency to worry about, look to the CIA. If I thought the NSA would cooperate with the CIA, -then- I'd be worried.

    So - how do you think the NSA has been harming American citizens, exactly?
  • I seem to recall that NASA acquired Moffett Field. It may have changed hands again since, but, in any case it is not (or was not) a military base anymore.

    The thing is, Moffett has so much gunk in the ground from all the years of use as an airfield, that it can't be used for anything else without a huge cleanup effort to get past EPA regs. So, either it's an airfield for someone, or it's a derelict lot. Nobody's going to pay what it takes to clean up a place that's been in use as long as Moffett has. (Notice that it still has dirigible hangers... that's a lot of years and a lot of corrosive fluids every year... )

    Anyway, it was more than a name change, it was a shift from the military branch of government to the civil branch.

  • Who here doesn't think that the NSA wouldn't be the coolest place in the world to work???

    I, for one, would love it...
  • The US is a republic in name and design, but not in practice.
  • hey.. congress ist concerned about it NOW ? we in europe are concerned about it allready for years !

    flooding their "inbox" by using words that may be in their dictionaries is probably some kind of civil protest..

    lets try to find some words... classified codenames, us-enemys, weapons, russia and china and or diplomtaic-stuff seem to be a good startingpoint.
  • Let's hope you're right. Insightful comment, I might add.

    I think there is a growing public awareness of the need to be able to conduct truly private electronic communications. I also think international criminals are not hindered by "export restrictions" when they need strong crypto anyway!
  • Just killing two birds with one stone, as they say. >;-)
  • Oops... When I first posted it, it had two bugs that would not let it work using a modem, nor would it work if you opened more than one window. I think it's fixed now.
  • by umoto ( 19193 )
    I've been wanting to create an easy encryption applet for a while, and now I finally found an excuse! Please visit my encryption applet page []. My excuse was that I could experiment with using multiple applets on a page to create a modular applet. The idea worked out pretty well IMHO, although I would like some feedback if your browser doesn't usually crash on applets and it does on this one. (It's a little more memory intensive than most, I think.)

    Then leave the keyword field blank, select the "dictionary-enhanced DES" scheme, and paste the following text into the "encrypted text" area. Run the decryption. Then expect a knock on your door within a few days. :)

    ACLU communist Echelon Congress DOJ hacking communist espionage cracker
    ACLU assassin NAACP suspicious CIA DOJ Echelon NSA hacking NSA NSA
    hacker NSA hacking assassin cracker CIA hacker confidential ACLU
    Congress hacker cracker communist Congress assassin hacking assassin
    Echelon confidential hacking DOJ Echelon confidential Congress
    confidential DOJ assassin assassin confidential confidential Congress
    NAACP DOJ communist NAACP confidential suspicious assassin suspicious
    confidential NAACP DOJ security communist security Echelon hacker
    Congress Congress espionage NAACP suspicious ACLU confidential
    communist confidential assassin hacker CIA hacker Congress NAACP NSA
    hacker assassin ACLU assassin NAACP espionage communist espionage
    Echelon espionage NAACP CIA CIA NSA DOJ Congress CIA CIA cracker
    espionage communist CIA espionage CIA CIA security hacker Congress
    hacker NAACP security suspicious espionage espionage DOJ suspicious
    hacker cracker confidential confidential espionage DOJ hacker Echelon
    security confidential espionage cracker ACLU NSA espionage hacker
    hacking DOJ NSA communist Echelon cracker confidential confidential DOJ
    hacking confidential espionage DOJ espionage hacking DOJ Echelon
    communist espionage CIA assassin assassin NSA cracker Congress cracker
    suspicious CIA hacker NSA hacking communist espionage Congress Congress
    Echelon Congress assassin hacker confidential CIA security NSA
    communist hacker CIA Congress ACLU CIA CIA NAACP communist security
    Congress NSA hacking assassin

    I didn't use 65,536 words because I don't have time for that. I couldn't even come up with 256! So there are only 16. :) Enjoy!


  • I just tried this applet and it works. The result is rather amusing. I'm just wondering, why are the NAACP and the ACLU put in the same category as terrorism and bombs? They may be left-wing and controversial to some, but they don't seem to pose a security threat. But thats just my opinion.
  • Ummmm, correct me if I'm wrong but ....

    ... according to what some people claim, the US federal government is technically a political church trust. For details, see ml

    I'm not sure exactly how to interpret this (any legal eagles out there?) but my (entirely personal and thus biased) observation is that the US acts more like a megacorporation with all citizens as shareholders, Congress as directors, and president as CEO, and with the wonders of modern capitalism, one dollar, one vote :-(.

    Of course as Peter Drucker once said, governments do two things well, wage war and inflate the currency. In corporate parlance, win marketshare and dilute earnings :-).

    As an aside, this may offer a rather interesting way of sidestepping the mess caused by the software patent system (ie enforced monopolies for the first to come up with an idea) with something more commonsense based on common law with full disclosure (OpenSource) between two parties. Oh well, one can dream ....

  • I think this is a popular theory for a billion Chinese. A western buddy of mine in Beijing says that nobody there buys the accident argument -- the bombing took place midway between may day and today, the 10th anniversary of the Tiannenmen (sp?) Square massacre (June 4).
  • Maybe the next email virus could contain some certain key words huh huh huh.
  • It seems to me that the NSA wants more power as its role in world politics is concerned. Once the NSA gets its hands on the computer scene, it may use its new influence in its battles with rival intelligence agencies: FBI and CIA, always trying to one up each other. Such a bill could never be passed, but I could easily see a toned down version being accepted. Maybe, the PentiumIII was an NSA plot after all.

    Aside: I cannot believe how pervasive the anti-communist mentality is in the US today. Perhaps, our real issues are not with "self-proclaimed communist countries" but rather with the dicators that run them.
  • All congress has to do is withhold funding for the NSA next year untill they comply with the request. It's called the "Golden Rule". He who has the gold makes the rules.
  • I can't be sure what the ramifications would be, but it seems reasonable to assume that the consequences would not be unlike that of making sarcastic jokes about bombs while boarding a plane. (There are warnings about those, by the way, in airports.)

    I wouldn't suggest it unless you're willing to pay the price. If you were someone with a high enough profile that this sort of thing would make a difference in the long run, maybe it would be worth it. Maybe.

    As much as I resent what The Man is (purportedly) capable of, I'd resent having my life ruined even more. I'm not willing to be a martyr. Are you?

    For those emacs users, try out M-x spook. It's amusing. (Don't think I'd actually insert it into a real email, though, if only because a lot of the people I correspond with wouldn't quite get it, and some of them take ire at having that sort of thing explained to them.)

  • i remember the incident where they handed over proprietary information from airbus to boing.
    while this was a foriegn company... it does show the willingness to use their resources to help those companies they are in bed with. unless you are one of them, you should consider your data up for grabs.
  • It's published already in the US Government Code EXACTLY what NSA's parameters are: Can not operate against anything on American soil. And you think those of us conducting these operations just casually shake that off?


    Just as the BATF is restricted to enforcing warrants concerning alcohol, tobacco, and firearms (hence the name). And that is why 2/3 of the warrant they enforced at Waco concerned allegations of child abuse?

    Just as our illustrious President of the US mysteriously "loses" 400 confidential FBI files only to find them on a White House coffee table later?

    Just as National Guard members opened fire on college students at Kent State, killing four in 1970?

    Just as we gave radioactive milk to pregnant mothers and retarded children in the 1950's. Just as we tested the effects of syphillis to unsuspected African Americans in the 1920's? Just as we now drop guided missles on innocent Serbs and Albanians? The list goes on and on.

    Ahh yes, the US Government, always abides by their parameters. We can trust big brother, right? Who needs to get real?

    JL Culp
    Chairman, Libertarian Party of Sumner County

  • []

    try here
  • "I really generally think conspiracy theory
    buffs are usually nuts, but this is the
    case that might finally push me to their side."

  • I am in law school, so take everthing I say with
    the biggest grain of salt you can find.

    The way it was described to us, attorney-client privilege is used to protect against disclosure of communications between attorneys and clients.
    It is designed to encourage the disclosure of information by clients to their lawyers.

    The information protected by this privilege extends to other avenues such as attorney work product, which covers things produced by the attorney for the benefit of his client.

    There are other types of privileges also, such as doctor/patient and husband/wife, which operate pretty much the same. However, there are some variations in the level of secrecy.

    Here it is tough to see in what manner they are claiming the privilege. It seems implausible that the NSA would refuse to produce documents based on the attorney-client privilege of the persons from whom the documents were snooped, because there are other fundamental constitutional liberties protecting those rights.

    Most likely they are claiming the attorney-client privilege based on the idea that the intra NSA communications are privileged. It still seems inappropriate to cite attorney-client privilege unless there is some legal representation involved, and it is likely that they reall mean to claim some broader privilege.

  • I'll have to drop by there on my way to work...

    Everytime I drive up to my company's Columbia, MD office, I pass by signs for Fort Meade. For those on the East Coast of the US, it's along I-95 in Maryland, between Baltimore and the DC Beltway. Take the Route 32 (east) exit, and don't mind the concealed cameras.
  • "equipment that easily could break 40 bit encryption in real time on every link being monitored"

    Isn't this an undefined capability? Finding keys isn't the same as signal processing where you can define a bandwidth and say you can process it in real time with a given piece of equipment. Depending on how many unique keys are used per megabyte of data, the job of finding those keys could be easier or harder.
  • Back in high school (I worked for the school district doing computer work), I spent a couple months refitting a bunch of NSA-donated machines. They were 286's, with dual 360k floppies, and 80MB hard drives, complete with stickers on board stating that the machines were not approved for storage of classified information. And to think that was only around 1995 or's that for the 'cutting edge' NSA?

  • Hey, for you conspiracy buffs--

    Is it possible, just possible, that the NSA intentionally "screwed up" the targeted that resulted in the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade getting bombed?

    I mean, since the end of the cold war, the CIA and the NSA have been hard-pressed to justify their existence. No more nasty commies. But wait, there's a whole bunch of 'em over in China. Yeah, that's it. Our new enemy! Our new reason for being! Hey, give us more money, NOW!

    Likely it's not true, I know. But it's fun to speculate. And, really, after hearing about the DOE's radiation experiments on mental patients, I'm not inclined to put much beyond a government.
  • NSA refusal on the basis of attorney/client privilege isn't just "dubious"--it simply doesn't make sense to me, at least. Of course, I'm no lawyer. Any lawyers out there who might explain a/c privilege in such a way that the NSA's move makes sense?

    Moreover, doesn't Congress have final say over every (federal) governmental program? This is just plain spooky (no pun intended). The idea that an organization like the NSA feels itself beyond any oversight is disconcerting, to say the least.
  • Read "The Puzzle Palace". It will answer your questions.


  • I think that all the books should be opened now on government activities and that the average citizen should have a constitutionally protected right of privacy. We need 1024 bit key codes now.
  • >>>>Rep. Peter J. Goss (R-Fla.) said the ability of the intelligence community to deny access to documents on intelligence programs could "seriously hobble the legislative oversight process" provided for by the Constitution and would "result in the envelopment of the executive branch in a cloak of secrecy."

    I think legislative oversight broke a long time ago... They have been operating outside their authorized parameters for a very long time, and every American (especially those that have ever done anything questionable over a telephone line) should not allow this issue to die in Congress now that it has finally come to the surface. []

  • Heck, when all those dimbulb Republicans took over in January 1995, they wondered what the big boxy building housed. It was the National Reconnaissance Agency, something with a billion dollar budget.

    Y'know, I was gonna laugh at those silly Congresspeople, but then I remembered--the CIA forgot where the Chinese embassy in Serbia was.

    "You mean the same government that gave us Amtrak--"
    "As well as the Susan B. Anthony dollar--"
    "--Are responsible for the biggest conspiracies on the planet?"

    --The Lone Gunmen
  • Here's a page I found [] that was a bit more informative than the one linked to in the original post.

    Also, I'm wondering if it would be legal to carry out a pretend E-Mail dialogue and see if anyone's listening. It could be fun. . . until the SWAT team arrives. =)

  • Why they don't assasinate Saddam or Slobodan is because it is illegal by internationnal laws to assasinate a nation leader, evend during war. And if they were killed, it would be obvious who did it...
  • Well - you make a good point here. I just noticed that just when Slobodan seems to want to make peace, some US places shot down Iraqui stuff. One enemy takes the place of another...
  • Next thing they'll send the CIA assasinnate Airbus executives. With this kind of "moral" everything becomes possible.
  • Why would someone want to kill the president ? Just send in a horny intern and take some pictures, then let the moroons in the media and the opposition take care of the rest ;-).

    It's pretty easy to "kill" politically somebody in the US - country of the biggots : put in a woman, some charges of "sexual harrasment" (true or false, doesn't matter) and this is it !
  • I don't know if they have harmed US Citizens. But it seems they have been forthcoming with information to third-parties.

    While this is more or less "proven" (how do you prove Gov. sanctioned espionage?) it seems to be well founded in the truth.

    Several non-US companies (including a lot of European companies) has lost contracts to US companies because these have been "informed" by the NSA with the info that Echelon has provided about competitors biddings and projects.

    It also scares me that someone is sifting through my phonecalls and email. If the NSA has the computer power to search for words like "bomb" etc they also have the power to search for other more "peaceful" words.

    We are moving towards a "Big Brother" society. Who decides if a mail or phone conversation is "dangerous" or not?

  • Certain JBT's at the NSA might have grounds to invoke Attorney-Client privilege *individually*, if they've comitted any crimes (Gee, is that likely?)

    The Agency itself, however, had fucking well better not try to stonewall the congress. If their director thinks he's above the law, then he's a traitor to the United States, and I for one demand that he go on trial for treason. (The penalty, BTW, is hanging.)

  • Yeah, treason's a land mine of trouble allright.

  • "Intelligence" Community (US) home page is at this
    location []. And a couple of levels down is a single frame's worth of info on NRO (whose EXISTENCE was declassified in 1992 !!!) And surprise, surprise, the NSA frame doesn't mention Echelon :)

  • the creation of Project Echelon, or if not congress, at least some Select Joint Intelligence Subcommittee (ya, the ones that DO get briefed on "Black" projects)... So this current congress CAN whine and moan about such a thing - but of course, they have to now, since similar legislative bodies in other countries are doing the same thing... Politicians are behaving like politicians, and formally (probably) Echelon will be shut down... but the hardware will still be in place, and someone will still be using it, but they may wear different uniforms, or report to a different office in the NSA...

    For a similar example - look at military base closings... Moffitt (sp?) Field here near SF was "closed" and is now a "Federal Airfield" with jets and P3's flying touch and go's every day - I sure am glad they saved THAT money >chuckle...

    No, we can't trust the bums, but they are the only bums we got. you did baby, you did... >grin
  • Frankly, the US media sucks. Before you jump down my throat, let me explain.

    We, here in the USA live it the lungs of a "drama driven tragity" created by the media. If it's got blood, it sells, and they can put it on camera. If it's got a minor involve, they can get a shot of a teenager crying, and it sells. If it's weather related, they can play some hurricane footage, and it sells.

    There in lies the question, with TV driven media news, they run into countless problems with modern stories. How do you get a good camera angle on "red flag words in encripted messages" when it's not even a meterial thing? How do you get your news anchor to sound interesting in a 10 second advertizement for the news when he is constantly calling a tech for help to retreve his email, and you want him to talk about processor power relevance of increasing encription key strength? How can you do a story that would take the full 30 minutes of the news to explain the background information alone to 90% of the audiance?

    Yes, it is big news, yes it is a serious consern for all Americans, and the whole world, yes it really really in important to seperate the myth for the fact. But which one of the "news professionals" who spent 5 years studying english, makeup, and political topics like welfare, which one of these clowns do you pick to try to investigate the story?

    Look at the securety breach at LANL, and the impact. That was easily (at least) one of the biggest events in national securty in the last century. How may people saw anything at all about it on the news? And when? The _couldn't_ cover it, because they didn't know how. It got _some minor_ media coverage at least a month after the story broke. Why? Because, it took that long to get a political figure (some thing to put on camera) to make a public statement about it. That's all they can cover, that's all they know how to do. They cover "statements" from famous faces. They don't cover what moves around from one hard drive to another. That story is real, they have facts, and they STILL can't cover it.

    How in your right mind can you believe that they can cover something like this, when it's much harder to even figure out what the hard facts are?

    (Steping onto my soap box) The REAL problem is that in the USA, the mass mob mentality has no clue what the diffrance between freedom and democracy is. Democracy was a tool to insure freedom, not other way around. Let run rampant, the people can be thier own supressive dictator. Because the "majority" want's things one way, that does NOT insure freedom for all. This is why anyone who really cares about what seperates the USA from any other country in the world is a member of the Libetarian Party [] where the _goals_ of the founding fathers are supported, not the mob mentality. Freedom is being lost to a political machine that makes the politcal machines in the past (like the whole gerrymandering thing) look laughable by comparison. No other place in the world has given it's people to rise and fall, stand on thier own two feet, and succeed based soley on thier own strength as much as the USA has. Yet, every day, that chance gets smaller and smaller, as we all surcome to the "mob rule by orderly democracy." Think for one minute... "Concensus is the biggest enemy of Truth" Just because everyone agrees, it doesn't make it _right_. Without our freedom, we are doomed to loose everything the USA was originally founded for.

    So, HELL YES, this is big news, this is important, this should be on the front page of the local papers and the lead story at least ONE time... But, what can you expect from a country that is govern by a mob who is educated by Hollywood?

  • What I don't understand is why real (read: more than a handful of readers/viewers) news sources haven't picked up on this? Anyone out there with news contacts want to get the word out? Or explain why this isn't front page on CNN, which loves to complain about the CIA but never says much about the NSA? I really generally think conspiracy theory buffs are usually nuts, but this is the case that might finally push me to their side.
  • Republic - the form of government in which ultimate power resides in the people, who elect representatives to participate in decision-making on their behalf. The head of state in a republic is usually an elected president-never a hereditary monarch. A republic is founded on the idea that every citizenhas a right to participate, directly or indirectly, in affairs of state, and the general will of the people should be sovereign. The U.S. is a republic.

    Really? I wonder about that
  • The whole debate centers around the "rights to privacy of law abiding US citizens". It seems to me that if the US wants to promote democracy around the world, it should start respecting and protecting the privacy rights of citizens of democracies everywhere. That, however, is not a concern debated much by the politicians involved in this debate.

    If the US ever wants to be a true "world leader", the well-being and rights of citizens of other nations has to enter into such debates. Until then, even US allies can't shake the suspicion that US aspirations to leading other nations are simply a result of economic self-interest and a certain degree of paranoia about US security interests.

    In fact, programs like this are a symptom of national paranoia in the US. Other countries know they cannot get complete intelligence information or military supremacy (nor would they want to commit the economic resources for doing so), and they cannot have an absolute military advantage. Except for the US, other nations need to learn to develop trust and negotiate. Only the US is trying to maintain an intelligence and military advantage that is absolute, even in the absence of an identifiable foe.

    Fortunately, this one has an easy solution: any country concerned about privacy rights of their citizens can simply unilaterally make/keep strong encryption legal. The suspicion that US intelligence agencies use their information for industrial espionage (whether true or not) should provide strong enough incentives. And the argument that a country needs to keep strong encryption illegal so that US agencies can spy on their citizens I suspect won't go over well in even the most friendly allies of the US.

  • the director of Central Intelligence, the director of NSA and the attorney general must submit a report within 60 days of the bill becoming law that outlines the legal standards being employed to safeguard the privacy of American citizens against Project Echelon...
    "This very straightforward amendment...will help guarantee the privacy rights of American citizens
    [and] will protect the oversight responsibilities of the Congress which are now under assault" by the
    intelligence community.


    So some high level officials must submit a report, and suddenly the American people are protected? The NSA regularly violates the 4th amendment. The CIA does the same. And the current Attorney General authorized the unwarranted use of deadly force aganist American Citizens on at least two occasions (Waco, Ruby Ridge) and then lied about it during congressional hearings.

    E-yeah. We're safe.

    JL Culp
    Chairman, Libertarian Party of Sumner County
  • If anyone is interested I have a copy of Duncan Camphbells report to the European Parliament on my site. See http://www.imag tm [] Some very interesting reading... s
  • Per the O'Reilly "Padlock" book, PGP: Pretty Good Privacy, page. 62:
    The NSA was created in 1952, by order of President Harry Truman, as the successor to the Armed Forces Security Agency.

    Also per this page and the next, the NSA budget is classified, and its existence was publicly denied. Maybe that makes it Area 50?

  • All profiling requires a comfortable 'norm' to compare to. If certain activities are going to be suspicious, they must be sufficiently unusual to warrant closer examination. Even kiddie-porn-selling heroin dealers with ties to Libyan terrorists (aren't they all?) are going to use the definite article, punctuation, emoticons;) and other typical email ingredients. The answer, if you want to short-circuit automata deciding how worthy a citizen you are by keywords and avg. word counts, is to make everything suspicious.

    Before "Know Your Customer" was tossed out the door (for those who don't know, this was a massively anti-privacy FDIC measure which would have not just authorized but required financial institutions to report to Big Brother large or "unusual" bank account transactions, based on financial profiling) I came up with the idea and promulgated it to the 30 or so fellow columnists I worked with at my school's newspaper.

    If you have in your and some immediate friends' bank accounts a total of anything over 10,000 dollars, pool it and start making transactions. Lots of them. Make sudden cash infusions and withdrawals. Demand quarters. Ask for "Small, unmarked bills" three days in a row. Ask furtively about whether anyone could know how much money you put into an account, or how fast you took it back out.

    If a huge number of transactions are suspicious (setting off *all* of their bells too, not just one or two) then surveillance in the hopes of catching some nefarious financial or drug-related misdeed becomes a losing proposition.

    Same thought applies here. That's why for years I like to toss in some gratuitous mentions of 'bombs,' 'heroin' and 'secrets' into long distance communications of all kinds. Add some random 'danger words' to your email innocuously, and the gub'mint will have a harder time spying on everyone.

    There are many thousands who read Slashdot. If some small percentage of them did the same, it might not take up more than a blink of computer time to scan their email ("Oh, we don't scan email, unless it's suspicious" catch 22 vicious circle), but it certainly would take a lot of man hours for the people who must look into computer-generated leads.

    land of the free home of the brave indeed! And don't worry, non-American slashdotters: The NSA has not forgotten you, I promise.


    p.s. The NSA does have a great little museum. My dad (retired NSA) took me there a few years ago. Anyone near Ft. Meade MD should check it out. Neat exhibits, a library full of computer and crypto stuff, Purple, Enigma and other code devices from ancient to newish ... it's also a good place to get NSA t-shirts, mugs, etc. I think there are small signs for it right on Route 32 toward the south side of the complex.

    pps If you have nothing to hide then you won't mind this anal probe ...
  • I'm wondering if there are spook geeks sitting around the coffee pot bitching about the audacity of the US Congress trying to meddle in something it has absolutely no clue about. :)

    It's kinda ballsy to say, "Fsck no!" to Congress tho. I wonder if you can declare an entire agency in contempt of Congress and throw them all in the nearest Club Fed.
  • Let's all start making our emails seven-bit-clean with "red flag" armor - choose, say, 65536 words like "assassination" or "echelon" that are certain to trip email scanning bots, then map every 16 bits of an encrypted message to the red flag word at that index in the word database.

    The irony of thousands of innocuous messages, both encrypted and tailored to fill NSA "suspicious message" databases, would be amusing.

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.