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Results From "Jam Echelon Day" 178

snotty sent us linkage to a USA Today story talking about the results of Jam Echelon Day. We mentioned this a bit earlier. Sorta a depressing followup I guess, but worth a read.
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Results From "Jam Echelon Day"

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  • is the best computer/geek/LINUX stuff........yah and it kicks BUTT big time.
  • Why would the government build a spy network, only to leave it unable to withstand this?
    Odds are that Echelon, if it even exists, probably has a failsafe or something just in case. At the most, what would J.E.D. do, make them reboot their machine?

    An idea would be interesting to see is like with, only slinging triggerwords around. With that kind of speed, the only problem is that people like me with a very crappy connection would be eating all their bandwidth up.

    If anyone has comments on that, id love to hear them.
  • The Fourth Amendment (1791):

    The right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describe the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be searched.


    Ok, first point. These all refer to physical search and siezure. They didn't have electronic communication when the Constitution was promulgated. It says nothing of the right to search non-physical things. Laws regarding wiretaps and such are an interpretation.

    Additionally, the courts have held for awhile now that you have little to no expectation of privacy on the internet (unlike the telephone).

    Furthermore, the key word is "unreasonable". Is a computer which only flags threats to national security reasonable? I think so. As it stands now the post office does inspect mail for drugs and what not. The police have been setting up sobriety checkpoints in many states now for sometime now, this too has withstood the challenge. What is the difference?

    The specific issues in the 4th Amendment that I was addressing, however was not the wording of the 4th Amendment. It was the basis on which it was written. It is based on experience. Based on long experience, you'll never have a perfect situation like I described. They simply realized that you had no assurances of "fairness". Which is why the Constitution is written the way it is written, with balance of power and all that. My machine only exists in a "perfect" world, the Constitution does not.

    This device just means that you can't say you're going to build a bomb and mean it. You can't yell fire in a crowded theater. Commercial speach (eg: ads) is not unregulated. The FCC regulates what you can say on public airwaves. You can't make threats to kill the President. You can't slander/liabel. You can't threaten to kill someone. Why should you be entitled to saying you want to blow DC at length? There are limits as to what you can and can't say. Deal with it.

  • Not totally meaningless either....

    " to be searched..."


    "...people or things to be siezed.."
  • I am surprised and disappointed by how many otherwise intelligent slashdotters are buying into this urban legend. I expect this kind of "millenialism" from the religious fanatics as we approach 2000, but I thought the Linux community was a more intelligent bunch. You guys have watched one to many X-files episodes. This is the same U.S. intelligence community that couldn't tell a Chinese embassy from a military target in Serbia....that couldn't tell a pharmaceutical plant from a chemical weapons plant in the Sudan. There is no "smoking man". The truth *IS* out there, but none of you bozos would recognize it if it bit you on the ass. The truth is, there is no Echelon. Moulder and Scully are FICTIONAL characters. Aliens are not living among us. Some of you folks need to read Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark". Free your mind of this gullibility. This Jam Echelon thing was one big chain letter email hoax...not too different than the ones the AOL kiddies keep spreading.
  • ...and I wish you people would quit sending me email.
  • No, I am not an advocate of Echelon for the previously mentioned reasons (eg: logistical and abuse factors), perhaps devils advocate. The machine of which I describe is subject to neither logistical nor abuse concerns. It may strike you as a subtle distinction, but its a hugely significant one nonetheless. The ONLY thing i'm advocating is the right to investigate those who intend bodily harm to our citizens -- all others pass through unmolested and unrecorded as specified.

    Give me something other than a gut reaction
    that this is evil "just cuz" or "because the Constitution says so".

    I highly doubt what you say about the border is accurate, but it doesn't change much. The fact of the matter is that if you want to come back from Mexico, you're subject to search. You don't have a choice. Besides you're not always made aware of what they're searching for, or how.

    What is the difference between your package being "scanned" for drugs and money, and your communications being scanned for ACTUALLY illegal content. In both cases, only the guilty are impinged on (in theory). You can call it whatever you want, but in practice its the same thing in my opinion.

    How about sobriety checks? Those have cleared constitutional challenges and are very similar.

    My speach shames you? That is kind of ironic for one who supposedly supports the Constitution. It should affirm your believe in the country that I can utter essentially unpopular views, and live to tell about it.

  • ["Theory" and "practice" are RARELY the same.]

    [Sobriety checks are included in the slip of paper signed for a driver's license. This paper includes a contractual obligation to the state which says you CAN deny an OH- check (sobriety) if and only if you agree that you will lose your license for doing so. So, yes, the sobriety test is Constitutional because you have agreed to this lifting of your rights with your signature way before it actually happens. You are not obligated to be checked for sobriety.]

    When I said shamed, I was not speaking about your right to speak, I was speaking about the content of your speech.

    Speech which says that harmful speech is a bad thing is shameful. Harmful speech in and of itself is not.

    There is a very sublte distinction in that last paragraph which requires very high level thought to understand.

    It very well seems contradictory to the untrained mind; it is not.

    Good luck, FallLine, there are many more worlds than these.

    I have no plans to kill or imprison you for your view.
  • I'm so glad our government is looking out for us :)

    Don't you mean:

    I'm so glad our government is out looking for us!

  • In other words, just participate in Usenet as usual. ;)
  • Posted by Nr9: is the best computer/kung fu/observant/lefty/ALEX OS site.
  • Talking about lefties, wut do u think about lefties?
  • Posted by Nr9:

    lefties are inferior
    there is a reason that there are more righties. humans are made to be righties
    latin for left is "sinister", which obviously has a bad connotation.
    latin for right is "dexter", which obviously has a good connotation.
  • and we have an intelligence agency that, and get this, didnt know a country had nuclear weapons until they blew one up.

    Actually, the world was aware of Pakistan's nuclear capability for quite a long time before the test blast. Quite a few nuclear countries -- eg. Israel -- have never officially announced that they have nukes, which lets them avoid IAEA inspections and trade sanctions, but they've allowed the fact to leak out, so the nukes can act as a deterrent to enemy attack.

    What caught the spooks by surprise was the actual test, which they should have been able to spot by watching troop movements, etc. Still embarrassing, but not quite as bad as you're making out.


  • by darkani ( 106122 )
    do u think slashdot people are all lefty or they are all ambdidextrous? and do u like those new Cereal Commercials'??? they are so good? and alex's observancy is good too. andre wneeds to fix his motherboard and thomas chen is djumb.
  • I agree with you, that it is a slippery slope. I see two seperate problems with Echelon (doubtfull it exists to the extent many seem to think):

    a) False positives. If this thing returns no false positives, then innocent people simply won't be affected. "Bad" people will. However, I have serious doubts about the ability to filter out false positives. If it returns even the smallest percentage of false positives, the human managers are going to be deluged with mail to read -- the system can't work.

    b) The potential for abuse. Its real enough. Though I don't believe the NSA is evil, there are some legitimate concerns that they could start using this technology to further domestic interests. Or political, or what have you...

    If you really do intend to blow up the capitol building; don't expect a great deal of sympathy from me. If you mean it jokingly, I would hope that the NSA would be able to detect it. Or they'd investigate on it discretely. They could see that you neither have the technical expertise, nor the political leanings which would make you likely to do such a thing. However, if the individual is a PhD in EE. with a couple million dollars, and connections to the Russian Mob who just happens to hate the US and is asking for plutonium....then perhaps you'd want them to investigate. And maybe even "deal" with them, though I doubt the NSA makes a habit of this.
  • Posted by Nr9:

    i don't know but ambidextrous means that you have two right hands so you are very righty if you are ambidextrous. the new cereal commercials are good but there are too much bairen in them. alex saw a tree from 5 meters away. andrew used epoxy to fix his epox board and thomas chen went to play professional badminton.

  • No again. Strong crypto can't even be deciphered by the NSA, so if they can't analyse it to be a weak crypto, they won't even bother.

    Best would be to use DES on everything. If they don't have a backdoor (which is highly unlikely), it is estimated that cracking DES still takes the NSA several minutes. IE, possible enough to try, but still takes a lot of power.

    /. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.
  • If mere key words can't trigger it, and its actually able to tell pick "bad" intent out amongst all the other noise, what is the problem?

    This is exactly why I think privacy protestors are very foolish to argue from a position of "but your filtering/monitoring method is not accurate". Accuracy is irrelevant. The point is that nobody, whether Echelon, FBI, local police, my neighbor, or my cat, should have the right to listen to ANY of my communications no matter what.

    For instance, let's say Echelon's software operated like this:

    • edit /etc/criminals_to_find and add "terrorist", "drug dealer", "porn merchant", "pedophile"
    • run /etc/rc.d/init.d/ear_to_the_wall restart

    Now let's assume as you say that it finds those and only those types of communications it has been configured to find. What happens when the also add "political agitator", "IRS resistor", "gun owner", "free speech advocate"?

    The point here is that there is no class of non-convicted individuals that it is OK to invade the privacy of.
  • I would like to encourage you once again, because you seem very intelligent and the content of my last post is very difficult to surpass in a rational way (plus I am drunk now -- I was not before).

    [(Sheesh, I live in college town -- this is pretty normal. I would hope that you look past it, and see what I am truly trying to say. TRY IT!!!, PLEASE!!!)]
  • Sounds like a gnab gib.
  • It has managed to get the "conspiracy theorists" into the news again, which cant be that bad.
    The trouble with this kind of action is theres no way to tell wether is worked or not, the NSA sure isnt gonna say "gee, they managed to break our computers by sending loads of spam", and you're not going to look over some secret airbase and see smoke rising from a computer centre. I would have contributed more, but I didnt send very many mails that day :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm so glad our government is looking out for us :)
  • by HalJohnson ( 86701 ) on Saturday October 23, 1999 @04:19AM (#1593157) Homepage
    Although it's doubtful that echelon experienced any adverse reaction to "Jam Echelon Day", the real result was a partial success.

    Most people don't have a clue as to what echelon is, or even if they did, perhaps they perceived the concept in a positive light. By having this type of protest, there was at least some media exposure. While there doesn't seem to be as much exposure as this deserves (hence, a partial success, imho), any is good. It may provide the avenue by which people can get a good wack with the cluestick.

    Greater general awareness cannot be a bad thing, if nothing else, the NSA and their echelon conspiritors will have to tread just a little more lightly, and may even (God forbid) produce some answers to congress.

    The media may be useless in many regards, but sometimes the blunt method of getting any information to the masses, is very useful. I'd rather have a slightly misinformed public than a totally uninformed one on matters like this.
  • Yes. I don't see what all the fuss is about.

    If I write or send anything subversive, I should be punished.

    Chastise me!

    Besides which I quite like the fact that self important yankee F*ckers can read my mail or get access to any of my traffic.

    It's not so much that in Britian we have no police state, but more that we are part of America's police state.
  • I, for one, don't have a problem with a DNA database as long as its only used for to match criminals to violent crimes (not abuse).

    Until you speak against the government, they duplicate your DNA stored from your last blood test and frame you for a crime to remove your threat. Sure, it may seem unlikely but there's a very large potential for abuse.

    We live in a very different age today. When the Constitution was promulgated, one man (or a small group) could not kill thousands. They had no nuclear bombs, no biological weapons, no chemical warfare, hi-yield explosives, automatic weapons, etc. The only way to kill vast numbers of people was to assemble an army. There was no need to read mail, if someone wanted to raise arms you'd know soon enough.

    And back then, if one man wanted to sink a ship, he couldn't have lit a barrel of gun power( remember, they were wooden ships)? And one man couldn't start large fires in populated areas? What if one man decided to poison the town well? Or one man decided to taint a bunch of meat? A small group of men couldn't subvertly wander from town to town murdering people in the night or starting fires? What if they burned down crops just before winter?

    Today, I can communicate securely and instantaneously with other like minded wackos in milliseconds without ever leaving my home. Conventional spying methods wouldn't even know I exist. Information is key. If there really is a way to safely analyze and trap this information before it does harm, we have an obligation to do so.

    200 years ago people could meet at my house so we could discuss the sinking of some ships in the harbor without stirring the eyes of the government before hand as well. Should we have listening monitors everywhere, including our homes, in case someone may have a friend who lives near them who may want to conspire to blow something up? Should we not be constantly monitored just to weed out a very small amount of bad eggs? We'd better monitor board rooms "in case some corporation wants to put it's interests before the interests of our citizens" too... What happens if the listener is a friend/relative of a competitor? What if a family values politician shows some un-family like attribute( and the people watching don't like him/her )? What if someone who is conversing with someone else about being gay and is still in the closet, only to have it announced by the monitor?

    The point being, when speech is monitored the possibilities for abuse far outweigh the probability of catching someone. Monitoring one or several forms of communication doesn't prevent another method of communication from being used... so it could go unnoticed. So, we have a low probability for catching someone, combined with the possibility to harm anyone for any reason the montior sees fit. Do you put enough trust in everyone else out there to not harm you? If not, why trust the monitor? If so, why have a monitor? The government and it's monitors all are operated by people who aren't necessarily any better than people who physically seek to harm you( just because they pass a security clearance doesn't mean it's completely impossible for them to want to harm someone ).

  • Not much else to say - the subject says it all. How did we expect to find out the results of such an attempt? Any slashdotters working at the NSA?
  • They had poison and low yield explosives. All which were relatively hard to obtain. Terrorism was a totally unknown concept then. The availability of massively destructive weapons was certainly a large part of it.

    I'm not saying we SHOULD have Echelon. I'm playing devil's advocate for Echelon, but only in a "perfect world" where the machine works exactly as described and there is no potential for abuse. Many people still say this is intrinsically wrong. I disagree. I don't have any problem with a computer (read Magic Black Box) which will only trap/acton content with plans to kill thousands of people.

  • by klund ( 53347 ) on Saturday October 23, 1999 @04:44AM (#1593163)
    Unfortunately, this civil disobedience thing was ill-conceived from the get-go. If we really wanted to jam echelon for a day, we shouldn't have been peppering our email with supposed keywords, we should all have encrypted *everything*.

    If you really want to bring the computers at the NSA to a grinding halt, make them spend all their cycles on decrypting your shopping lists, your notes to your girlfriend, and the access logs from your web server.

    Imagine, even if we all just used gzip, crypt(*), and uuencode, think of all preprocessing the NSA would have to do before they could scan the email and realize that all it said was "Cheezy poofs, ice cream, ciderjack".

    (*) Yes I know that crypt is totally insecure. I'm not looking for security... I'm just looking to waste cycles on some poor schmoe's machine who's going to find httpd.log when he's done "cracking".

    Better yet, why don't we all just use GPG, every day of the year?
  • Theory and Practice ARE different, I never said otherwise.

    I wouldn't say it is the least bit complex. I'm employing my intellect, not using the Constitution as a crutch. This machine would ONLY be triggered by ACTUAL plans to kill thousands. Such speach is NOT protected by the Constitution.

  • Oh well, I'm still going to leave up my mirror [] of the Echelon-encoding CGI for all you conspiracy theorists out there.... :)
  • Posted by Nr9:

    shut up, ure not funny...
  • Should be relatively easy to include the keywords in headers of all messages passing through the system. Add something like X-message-topic: or something.
    "I am not trying to prove that I am right... I am only trying to find out whether." -Bertolt Brecht

  • Auditing those other groups would simply be an abuse of power.

    Ok, lets narrow Echelon's theoretical objectives down somewhat (quickly). Let us say that its sole objective was to find people who INTEND to set off a nuclear explosion in DC in the next 3 days. If it does this with 100% accuracy (no false positives), then I have no problem with "invading" their privacy. As the ability to kill millions of people is not a right.

    If innocent people merely pass through the machine and nothing further is done with it (no logs/databse, no flags, nothing), I don't see the problem. How does this differ from having your mail not read? The problem is the logistics and the potential for abuse.
  • First, the temptation for Echelon (or anyone in their theoretical position) to abuse their power is just too high. For instance, if they are sticking right to their agenda of "terrorists" how can they not also add "people who want to shut down Echelon"?

    But let's assume they are perfectly moral. I STILL object to my email be read and my keys being cracked by them (assuming they can do this). Their agenda does not take precendence over my right to privacy. I am not allowed to exist at their sufferance. They have no more rights than I.

    The 4th Amendment supposedly protects me from search and seizure without due process. Where is the due process in Echelon's method? Sure, they don't seize anything of mine or yours but they sure do search it and they seize things that belong to nominal terrorists.
  • Even the people who *will* set off a neuclear bomb in DC in the next three days have their rights until they've actually committed a crime and have been found guilty of that crime.

  • I saw a documentary on the Discovery channel that hinted that Canada has a very similar system to Echelon, and that they trade information with each other. Thus, the NSA still spies on the USA, just indirectly.

    Therefore, even as a US citizen, I am troubled by the power of the NSA wrt Echelon.

  • Well that would be a dead-giveaway wouldn't it? No, the NSA would have to intercept the messages covertly. They would have to have taps into major backbones I guess. It's a good question, I wonder why no telecom companies have spoken up about this sort of thing?


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • My take on it is that the logical approach for the NSA would be to monitor specific hosts and links -- in particular, international links, such as those relating to *all* embassies (ours, as well as theirs, if there are international operations as well. Ours because the odds are quite good most nations would be interested in infiltrating a large embassy.)

    I'm explicitly including "friendly" nations here, because they spy on us as well and their interests do not necessarily coincide with ours.

    Add to that perhaps sensitive Nat'l Security-related companies, such as certain defense contractors, for the purpose of detecting interesting leaks.

    There's little reason to believe that sending inane keyword sequences does anything more than DOS your own provider's mail server, which in a corporate environment is grounds to get you fired (as in an individual who mailed *everybody* at Lockheed, and downed their network for several hours according to a story yesterday in the WSJ). Fact is, the NSA could not be bothered to scan most mail, and they certainly would use better than a simple keyword -- or even crypto -- search.
  • First of all, if you're really that paranoid about who is listening to your cell phone conversation, then you shouldn't broadcast it in radio to begin with. Aliens on Mars could potentially receive it as well.

    As for bombs, do you have any idea how many bombs this system mostlikely has prevented? Also, according to the Constitution, planning a crime means there's intention to commit the crime, which is illegal. Therefore writing an email planning out how to blow up the Whitehouse is illegal. So they really aren't two seperate things. Writing an email planning out a bombing is not only illegal if you're intending to carry it out, but unless your psycho, you wouldn't be doing it. There are exceptions of course, like a child's pranks, etc.
  • Do you know what the intention of government was when it was written? Its intention was to provide a military and necessary protection and order over its citizens. Therefore, the NSA has a direct, immediate financial and safety issue to handle. They operate off a budget designated by Congress (which hey, we voted for, go figure), and their sole intention is to gather as much information as they can to provide it to the government to serve and protect. What half of you people realize is that the NSA is there to protect YOU (if you're an American citizen). I guarentee the minute it becomes the least bit intrusive into the lives of citizens, congress will shit all over it. Believe it or not, you still do elect your senators and representatives. Hell, you can even RUN for Congress if you want!! Unless you feel there's a deeper conspiratorial plan being laid out, there's nothing you should worry about.
  • You haven't been reading lately. L0pht have been busy on some very nice promisc mode detection routines. Ok, they're not foolproof, but it just might work.
  • They had poison and low yield explosives. All which were relatively hard to obtain. Terrorism was a totally unknown concept then. The availability of massively destructive weapons was certainly a large part of it.

    If someone were to dump a dead, rotting animal into a town's well, it would have the same effect as biological warfare of today. The bacteria inside would cause things like dysentery and worse. People did this sort of thing going all the way back to seige warfare during medieval Europe( and probably even farther back than that ) so it's by no means a new concept. On a wooden ship, a fire, even if ignited by low-grade gun powder, would quickly burn out of control, destroying the ship.

    'm playing devil's advocate for Echelon, but only in a "perfect world" where the machine works exactly as described and there is no potential for abuse. Many people still say this is intrinsically wrong. I disagree. I don't have any problem with a computer (read Magic Black Box) which will only trap/acton content with plans to kill thousands of people.

    The magic black box is still made by a person so it would have the faults imposed by the person( or people ) who created it. The box looks for what it's told to find. All it would take is for a single person with access to have some reason( political, economical, personal, whatever ) to modify what the black box looks for, thus compromising the integrity of the system. When considering security, freedoms, etc you must always examine it from a worst case scenario to see if it outweighs the benefits. In this case, I would have to say that the losses are far more important than the miniscule gains. Because there are other unchecked methods of communication and ways to beat the system( I can think of a dozen ways of sending unencrypted, plaintext emails to people anywhere in the world about any kind of terrorism and have them not be detected by Echelon ) which makes the system pretty irrelavent( eliminating the positives ) and simply leaving the negatives.


  • I guarentee the minute it becomes the least bit intrusive into the lives of citizens, congress will shit all over it.

    You mean the people who are trying to limit the first and second ammendments? The people who steal my meager earnings because they think they know how to spend my money better than me? Congress cares about the citizens about as much as any major corporation.

    Believe it or not, you still do elect your senators and representatives. Hell, you can even RUN for Congress if you want!!

    Yep... You can run. But, if you don't have previous experience your opponent(s) will use that against you( even though the founders intended average people( ie, non career politicians ) to run government, we seem to only want experienced politicians. ) And of course, I can't run for Congress as I'm only 22, thus not old enough yet( because everyone under the age of 25( house ) or 30( senate ) obviously is too ignorant to run government( see how congress handles technology issues because they're all too old and out of touch to understand them )) Then there's that little matter of financing, where an average House run still costs over a million dollars, Senate runs are $5million + and Presidential over $40 million.


  • Are you trying to be argumentative, or are you just not listening? I'm not arguing that we should attempt to build such a device. It is ONLY the intrinsic nature of it (as described) that I concerned about here. Ignore the fallibility of the creators and the honesty of the administrators for just a second. Ask yourself IS this device wrong? I think not, period.

    If you fail to see the relevancy of such a question, then you are just hopeless.
  • Are you trying to be argumentative, or are you just not listening?

    Not to be flamebaiting, but I feel the same about your posts. Even if you are just playing devil's advocate, you seem to ignore the possibilities for misuse.

    Ignore the fallibility of the creators and the honesty of the administrators for just a second. Ask yourself IS this device wrong? I think not, period.

    If we had a magical little scrying device which could pick ONLY terrorists out of thin air without invading the privacy of non-terrorists, it would be find. Something like this wouldn't be feasible as something to build with what we know today. The best we could do today is create a system that's modifiable to search for anything the controller wants, including extremely sensative non-threatening personal ( relationships, financial, etc ) and business ( financial, intellectual ideas, etc ) materials. It's completely impossible to ignore the ( possible abuses of the )maintainers of the system because they are the ones who control the system. Would a device that allows anyone to destroy someone else( for any reason ) be wrong? Most certainly.

  • "If we had a magical little scrying device which could pick ONLY terrorists out of thin air without invading the privacy of non-terrorists, it would be find (sic)"

    Yes, I think so too. This is all I've been interested in. If you had read what i've said many times over in this thread, I stated repeatedly that such a device is impossible to create and administer in the real world. Such I am not advocating it.
  • I'm only 22, thus not old enough yet( because everyone under the age of 25( house ) or 30( senate ) obviously is too ignorant to run Yes, you are ignorant. You're very, VERY ignorant, and I'll tell you why. What experience did Jessy Ventura have when he ran for Governor of Minnesota? None. I'm sure you could do the same if you'd get off your lazy meager-earning ass and do something instead of complain. As for the government stealing your money, go move to an indian plantation or leave the country. Nobody is forcing you to stay. On another note, do you vote? If you don't, then you have no right to post a comment about how governement sucks because you're too lazy to do anything about it (or for those of you who "refuse to participate because ", you're just as lame). As for age restrictions, thank God they're there, because otherwise there would be millions of people voting for such a noble 22 year old as yourself. Your words match your experience. Enough said about that.
  • This is almost exactly the same sort of thing that happened with Windows Refund Day. It's a great -- and noble -- idea, but one that's hampered by the facts.
    On Refund Day, loads of people went to microsoft with the intention of getting their money back, despite the fact that the EULA stated clearly that it was the vendors who'd have to fork out.
    Here, we have lots of people using sentences like "My dog is called fatwa, and I put him down with an AK-47 in the name of Allah" in an attempt to crash the NSA's snoopers.
    One difference is that in this case, most people realise that the attempt is ineffectual, and it's being done solely for the publicity. However, I fear that the result will be the same in both cases; it's looked on as a bunch of zealots who don't really know what they're doing.
    As well as laughing at everyone, I suspect that there are some spooks who were delighted to see this sort of paranoia discrediting valid attempts at openness.

  • This is higly subjective. But WHY should terrorists' privacy be protected? Don't you have a duty to the thousands that will die at his hands?

    I don't want to say that the Constitution is to be taken lightly. But I think you have to look at the intent, not the letter here. They simply didn't have the technology to do what we do today. Search most certainly implied siezure at that time.

    For a moment, let us ignore the Constitution, How exactly are you adversely affected by a machine processing and ignoring your transmissions? What is the harm? And what is the potential pay off? (assuming my previous criteria)
  • My question is: If this really exists, couldn't it be detected in some way? Let's assume they're tapping some major points in the backbone. So they'd just pick out all packets on port 25. Some router doing that would quite probably have quite some latency I'd assume. There must be some way to detect that, and similar things. Anbody got any other Ideas?
  • This is ridiculous! Civil disobedience is disregarding a law on purpose in an exemplary yet harmless way in order to provoke legal consequences and generate martyrs to expose its perceived injustice; it's about taking personal risks. Neither is the case here.

    The only way to undermine the tapping efforts of the NSA an its partners is to make encryption ubiquitous, which is sucessfully defied by US crypto regulations: While it is still possible to get strong crypto for everyone, it can't be made part of the default installations of mainstream OSs (at least if they are developed in the USA).

    A real civil disobedience campaign would be e.g. if a significant part of US websites mirrored an easy to install package of free encryption software together with a note stating that this is known to be in contradition with US export laws and naming the responsible persons. But since this would mean real commitment and real risks for the activists, it's not likely to happen.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And they've hopefully gotten their systems back in normal working order:


    Our militia group reports that our wiretap of the FBI complex in Maryland has
    produced something: the terrorist group we dealt with earlier has plans to
    assassinate United States attorney general Janet Reno of the Justice
    Department, and then hijack a Boeing 747 and fly to Cuba with three
    suitcases full of cocaine as well as the fissionable plutonium obtained from
    the Chinese espionage agent in exchange for nuclear technology transfer
    funding. Our associates in Iran are very interested in using the turncoat Navy
    Seal in their Jihad against the United States government. One of their agents
    will be transporting a small nuclear device aboard Pan-am fligt 5325 on
    Tuesday, you provide cover at the airport and bring the suitcase of gold
    bullion. If we're careful, the ATF agents won't find our cache of firearms,
    and we'll be able to go forward with the attack against Nuclear Plant One as
    expected. The nuclear reactor will be your team's target. Bring enough C4 and
    nitroglycerine to get the job done, and contact Detective Smith with the state
    police and make sure he's sure about his part in the plan. The Communists have
    been diverted to Israel where they await further instruction, while the
    revolution we're attempting to incite in Argentena seems to have fizzled out.
    It may be time to use force. Our Glorious Leader has ordered the overthrow of
    those governments, and we're going to get it done!
    Hail Bill Gates!

    *** END EC*HEL0N F*0DDER ***
  • Heh, heh... yep put that email (or a slight variant) on your sig file!!! Everyone! That'll show all of those evil NSA fiends! Muh-ha-ha!
  • Of course, even if you get convicted, you still have rights. Something that the United States seems to want to forget is that prisoners have rights. We overlook some on a routine basis (unreasonable search and seizure for example), but others are respected on an ad-hoc basis (e.g. freedom of speech and the right to vote).

    Tying this into another article (I really wish you could cross-post on /.), this is also one of the largest problems with schools. Students' rights are routinely overlooked in the interest of "crowd control"....

    Gee, it's been 12 years, and I'm still bitter about high school. Go figure.
  • The Black Box machine you described is theoretical, and yet you pretend that in practice it would work. The implication of your claims is that theory and practice are the same.

    The Constitution protects all speech (except that which poses an immediate threat to the public well-being, such as shouting fire in a crowded theatre).

    Since your intellect seems to be failing you, please try your intelligence.
  • I NEVER ONCE ADVOCATED FOR ACTUAL USE. Not once in this thread. Get this through your thick skull.

    What I WAS doing was setting up a theoretical situation to discuss the intrinsic nature of this device. eg: Is this device (if it behaves exactly as described) itself good or bad -- ignoring all the extraneous situations? Many think it wrong. I disagree. This is all the justification I need. You're bringing nothing but extraneous material in, stuff that has already been covered mind you.

    The Constitution doesn't require you to wear blinders when discussing liberties. Just because the Constitution might not allow it in law, doesn't mean that you're not allowed to consider the possibilities. In fact, laws are that much stronger for it.

    Futhermore, your understanding of the Constitution is both incomplete and incorrect. It is a dynamic document and it is open to interpretation. Laws regarding wiretaps and such happen to be an interpretation. Also, a hell of alot more speach than just "immediate threats" have been restricted. You need to read up on your history, not to mention law.

    This is the last time I'll respond to any of your comments, as you obviously get your jollies off on it. If you can't see beyond the pathetic little box that is your life, atleast try to be a little bit less catty.
  • What? Students have rights?

    I doubt that even one public school in america realizes that...

  • There's no need to get into a shouting match. I'm sorry I was wrong about your intelligence. I make mistakes too.

    My standard for justification in this and all things human is evidence. Since your machine exists *only* in fantasy it is rather fruitless to be discussed. You should have made this clear in your original post on the topic. You could have saved me and a lot of others a lot of time.

    Regarding my use of extraneous material (which I'm sorry you are so bugged by), my replies are to what you have said and nothing more. I am not attempting in my replies to cover or not cover any or all of what has been said in other threads about this topic.

    Please, if you might be so considerate (I have done the same for you for nearly all of your arguments), explain to me what parts of my Constitutional understanding you have found to be incomplete and/or incorrect.

    If you do not wish to reply, do not.

    For my satisfaction, I will consider your lack of reply a formal retraction of your libelous (and baseless) claims about the quality of my life.

    Have a nice day.
  • I realize I didn't mean that. Please disregard.

    I Love my American Freedom and will defend it to the end of any thread.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...we have all your names on a list now.

    Game Over.
  • Let's say that every day at some random time an NSA agent broke your front door down (no knocking) and searched your house. If and only if they found bomb-making materials you'd be hauled off to jail. As they leave they replace the door with an exact replica. How exactly are you adversely affected by this?
  • Segfault is only reliable source of news these days. Again, they have published the truth [] while others give you government fabricated lies. In reality, Jam Echelon Day was a huge success, see this Quote: "We couldn't even telnet in to kill the process," wrote an anonymous NSA sysadmin. "We unplugged it from the network but it's got a lot of mail buffered, and it's going through it all."
  • ...Jam Echelon Day did do something? I doubt it would bring their computers to a halt, but it might give their human analysts a bit too much to work with.

    And let's say this did happen. And this other really-bad-oraganization knew it would happen, and took advantage of it. The article mentions that we might possibly find out what effect Jam Echelon Day had, say 10 years from now. What if 10 years from now, as a result of Jam Echelon Day, the world as we now know it is no more, all because we couldn't differentiate between a real message and all these fake messages.

    It's not a question of whether we would regret what was done, it's a question of how much.
  • I assumed the whole concept of "jam echelon day" was a big joke to begin with, and people put those keywords in their email out of a sense of humor.

    Of COURSE it won't have any effect on the NSA. Sheesh...

  • You want to c0nf00ze echelon? Just insert a couple of echelon-esque words into random locations in your articles. That will have a better chance of tripping up the search engine.

    Even better, engage your friends in realistic email exchanges about (fake) subversive plans.

  • With the current situation I don't consider it as invasive as the theoretical Echelon would be. This is because I have other ways to travel besides by air. Echelon is supposedly monitoring ALL communications making them impossible to avoid.

    In any case, the situations are not parallel. Air travel security is a bottleneck between a trigger and a non-linear effect. For instance, one person can use one small bomb to bring down millions of dollars of aircraft and kill many people. One email does not do the same thing. (One email can PLAN it, but planning and doing are two different things)
  • OK, so just change the details of the experiment. Let the agent come in while you (and your spouse) are gone to work and the kids are off to school. They still break down the door, but remember they are replacing it with an exact replica so you don't notice when you come home. Now what do you think about it?

    My basic point is that what I say or do is absolutely no one's business but my own unless and until I committ a crime. That's exactly what the 4th Amendment is all about: the "due process" generally involves showing a judge that you have "probable cause" that a crime has been committed.

    Your first objection is going to be "we can't wait until after the terrorist strikes to put him in jail". We don't have to: conspiracy to commit a crime is also a crime. But, and this is the crux of my argument, Echelon (or whoever) has to have probabe cause BEFORE listening to my communications. The listening itself cannot be the probable cause.
  • Really? If I were to go by the article posted here I'd have to conclude that Echelon exists mainly in the paranoid fantasies of gun-toting militiamen out in Montana. In fact, the word 'militia' was where I stopped reading so I can't tell you much about the rest of the coverage.

  • I am NOT advocating Echelon. I think the potential for abuse is high, maybe too high. Much the same reason why you wouldn't want these other things.

    The case I was trying to setup is a Magic Black Box Scenario. Where it only marks content which threatens national security, everything else is left unmolested. I don't have a problem with this explicit scenario. But I'll be the first to tell you that this is virtually impossible.

    I, for one, don't have a problem with a DNA database as long as its only used for to match criminals to violent crimes (not abuse).

    Police searching your vehicle and the like, is totally different. Here you're clearly being inconvenienced. Not to mention the cops aren't gauranteed to behave properly. How about instead of searching your car, they merely use a highly accurate machine (or dog) at the border to sniff for drugs? Oh wait, they already do that. Is this wrong? Or mail? They inspect that too. If you go to the airport, they X-ray your baggage. Sometimes they sniff it too.

    We live in a very different age today. When the Constitution was promulgated, one man (or a small group) could not kill thousands. They had no nuclear bombs, no biological weapons, no chemical warfare, hi-yield explosives, automatic weapons, etc. The only way to kill vast numbers of people was to assemble an army. There was no need to read mail, if someone wanted to raise arms you'd know soon enough.

    Today, I can communicate securely and instantaneously with other like minded wackos in milliseconds without ever leaving my home. Conventional spying methods wouldn't even know I exist. Information is key. If there really is a way to safely analyze and trap this information before it does harm, we have an obligation to do so. But, I reiterate, this doesn't mean I advocate Echelon. It just means that I think we should THINK about it, not just dismiss it offhand.
  • by orangecat ( 98507 ) on Saturday October 23, 1999 @11:27AM (#1593223) Homepage
    This reminds me very much of that "Don't buy gas for a day to protest gas prices" campaign earlier this year. Possibly well intentioned, but ill thought-out and probably ineffectual.

    As has already been pointed out by many people, Echelon probably has filters built in that will seperate out simple lists of keywords, which is what most people were sending. Or even emails with too many keywords (at some point it becomes obvious you're just trying to draw attention to yourself. A real threat would be more likely to have only one or two keywords, if any). Someone mentioned in the original post about this topic that this list may even have originally been released by the NSA, and is peppered with false keywords that would indicate a specific message should be ignored. Even if it wasn't actually released by the NSA, they certainly heard of it, and likely adjusted their search algorithms to adjust for it (such a system would unlikely be static. What particular words constitute threats must change on a daily basis).

    This kind of thing may actually do more harm than good. Assume that this prank actually did have some effect. Do you think the NSA is going to say "Its obvious our system doesn't work. Lets give up!" No, they're going to put billions of taxpayer dollars into improving the checking algorithms.

    The NSA is not stupid. They've got some of the best people in the industry. And they'll be able to learn from any mistakes that they do happen to make. Jam Echelon Day simply provides them with a proving ground for their system.

  • Here they're violating the sanctity of your home -- things which you might not share with ANYONE. For many people this would be a huge issue. But also, you've got HUMAN AGENTS who're highly subjective. You may walk in on them. They'll certainly not be able replace everything exactly. Who may decide they don't like other things they don't see (porn, etc).

    Let us imagine that instead of going in your home, they flew over your house for chemical or thermal (FLIR) precursors, of say drug production. It observes this and nothing else. Would you have a problem with this? They've done it before.

    My BlackBox scenario is setup such that it is not subjective, and its only searching for things that are an immediate threat to national security. While I suppose some may be highly sensitive about a machine reading their email, within my scenario its not a sufficient objection.

    I'm not advocating that we throw the Constitution out the window. But how exactly do you propose we stop lunatics from conspiring to build bombs? With the internet, they've got a vast resource of information on bomb building, a few milliseconds away, without ever having to leave your home. No traditional investigation techniques are sufficient.

    What if Echelon were perhaps smarter, more impartial, and more discrete than any judge. That it could decide if something is "bad" before it lets anyone see, or act on it. I'm asking you to identify WHAT exactly is so evil about the machine I describe (though I dont think it possible).
  • Unless the entire world sent emails on the 21st, I don't think it would have even slowed the NSA's computers a bit.
    In an excerpt from the NSA's web page of facts and figures, Here []

    NSA is the Baltimore Gas Electric (BGE) company's 2nd largest customer, and the 2nd largest user of electrical power in Maryland. NSA's yearly electrical bill is more than $21 million. Under a partnering agreement, in exchange for an annual credit to the NSA electric bill, BGE can request NSA to operate on-site emergency generators to produce electrical power during severe peak demand periods. This significant partnership with NSA allows BGE to serve additional customers and decreases the need for "rolling blackouts" in the area during peak demand periods.

    I don't have a very good idea of how many computers that is, but it seems like an awful lot of power, including the backup generators.
  • What makes you think that the NSA can't break strong crypto? Just because you don't know how to factor products of two large prime numbers doesn't mean that they don't. The biggest problem with strong crypto is that it's based on a big unproven assumption about the difficulty of factoring large numbers.

    If the NSA did know how to break strong crypto quickly, they would probably try to hide that fact by vocally opposing any attempts to make its use more prevalent, thus encouraging the belief that it's secure. Just like they're doing.

    (Question for crypto gurus and math geeks: obviously not all 1024 bit numbers are products of two large primes. In fact, most of them aren't. So how many (approximately) are there? Are there few enough that it might be feasible to actually find them all and just store them (in a compressed format in some multi-exabyte database)? My guess is that there are way too many, but I'd like to know for sure.)


  • They describe some of their supercomputing systems: .html Signal processing capabilities: c.html etc. etc. I mean... Really... The publish this kind of stuff on their web page. Just how stupid do you really think they are?
  • While I agree that the NSA routinely does the "Cannot confirm or deny" tapdance..they do seem to have some semblance of a PR department, at least they have a spokesperson who was directly quoted in the article.

    "...''The agency doesn't discuss alleged intelligence operations,'' NSA spokeswoman Judith Emmel said. ''It doesn't confirm or deny any Echelon-type technology.''..."

    You did read the article didn't you?

  • I wonder why no telecom companies have spoken up about this
    sort of thing?

    maybe they haven't spoken up because the NSA would "dispose" of them and their familys. That would be enough to persuade me to keep it shut.

    matisse:~$ cat .sig
  • Those who would trade safety for liberty deserve neither safety nor liberty.
  • No one's reading your email.

    It's just a computer, looking for words. If it triggers an alert, it sends it to a new program for more analyis. If it still is ringing bells, an actual human takes a look to see if it's something to worry about. At that point, you've obviously sent something that people should be worried about, or it's a huge mistake. If it's a mistake, then they go "oops" and hit delete. There's no way on earth that they could amass enough storage to keep logs on every communication that everyone makes.

    So far as objecting to the NSA sitting around cracking your keys... If they can, then you need new keys. Don't get angry at them if you're using keys that aren't long enough anymore. That's your problem, and only yours.

    You also have to remember that the US Gov't/Military are responsible for building what we call the internet. It is a public resource, but only because they let us use it. If you don't like that, send mail the old fashion way: in envelopes. Much safer than email. And there's due process involved in intercepting your mail. If you're going to use the convience of the internet, then you have to realize that for the convience, you sacrafice some privacy

    Personally, I am kind of intimidated by the idea that everything i do or say could be monitored, but honestly, I don't think anyone would wantto waste any spare cycles on me. I'm just not that interesting. :)
  • A terrorists' privacy is NOT the problem here.

    The citizenary's privacy (as protected under the Constitution as well as just being a generally good idea) is the problem with Echelon-style monitoring.

    The letter and intent of the Constitution were the same with regard to unreasonable search and seizure. Arbitrarily monitoring general communications of U.S. citizens violates this. Back when the Constitution was penned, people could be assured of privacy in communications simply by talking in private (such as whispering in a closed room).

    For example:

    I am not adversely effected by having my DNA put on file with the FBI (unbeknownst to me after my last blood test at the doctors), if my DNA does not match a criminals.

    I am not adversely effected by having my car searched the next time I'm pulled over by a police-officer, if they do not find anything.

    I am not adeversely effected by forced urine tests, if I have not ingested/injected any controlled substances in the past couple weeks.

    I am not adversely effected by having my mail opened and read (then resealed to its orignal condition), if there was nothing criminal found in my mail.

    I am not adversely effected by answering police questioning about a crime, so long as I did not commit the crime.

    What is the harm? And what is the potential pay off?

    I guess you could say that, so long as I am doing nothing wrong, then I should not object to search or seizure. Apparently, and this is the matching piece that fits into the puzzle your question poses, if I do object, then I must be doing something wrong. In fact, not wanting to be searched would mean I have something to hide.

    I do not agree with that.
  • Why not have it send emails containing the triggerwords to a server somewhere where they are deleted immediately. From what I understand, Echelon will intercept communication en route, so it doesnt need to be stored. Then, instead of slinging away, possibly code the client to send the email every, oh, say half hour? But send a bunch at a time.

    I dont know if this makes sense or is feasible, but just imagine if the /. effect was unleashed upon Echelon...
  • by / ( 33804 )
    False positives. If this thing returns no false positives, then innocent people simply won't be affected. "Bad" people will.

    That assumes that only "bad" people are targeted in the first place. Lack of fales positives only indicates that they're nabbing the ones they intend to nab. There were no false positives in the FBI Files scandal a few years back, but that doesn't mean innocent people's rights weren't trampled.
  • >>Even better, engage your friends in realistic email exchanges about (fake) subversive plans.

    If you're in the US that might have BAD results. Remember you don't have to atually do anything to be convicted of Conspiracy to (insert scarry sounding word here). If they are listening and you're making plans (faux or otherwise) can get the feds interested in you. That is not something you want. There's nothing that can make my butt pucker the way it did when I had two armed federal agents on my front porch asking me "Is your name 'Lord Kano*' ? " .

    I'd say a signature designed to randomly thrown in Echelon key words shoould get the desired effect without raising too much attention.

    *-My real name replaced here


  • The saying is that no matter how much intelligence you have working for you, 99% of the intelligence is still working somewhere else. Luckily, that goes for the NSA too.

    The good thing about factoring is that it is an old, well understood field, known to anyone who studies number theory. Unlike say symmetric cryptoanalysis, where the NSA might arguably have more competence within their walls than exists outside, it is unlikely that they do in factoring. If you look at the complexity of some of the latest factoring methods (and the proofs behind them) you realize that if the NSA could factor in polynomial time they would be ahead of the rest of the world not only in this, but in mathematics in general.

    /. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.
  • If I were to build such a system, I'd first build a filter - probably some radio astronomy software together with neural net or a GA - to look for patterns with intelligent content. That would avoid dealing with 99% of the inane emails, usenet postings and "instant messenger" posts.

    That would also allow you to detect the use of cyphers in images. An image would have a very different type of information content, depending on whether there's a cypher there or not. At this point, you wouldn't be interested in knowing what the cypher said, or where it was, only in knowing that it's there.

    Once you've pre-screened (using much the same techniques as SETI does every day to sort out intelligent messages from the noise humans make), you've only messages with genuine information left. 99.9% of that will be irrelevent, and you can screen it out by checking source, destination and degree of encryption. If the source or destination are known places to watch, or the message is encrypted heavily (ie: the apparent randomness is much higher than you'd expect, given the determined level of information present), then you've got a message that's likely to be of interest.

    Encrypted messages could be broken (provided the method of encryption was known), and then I'd imagine the messages would go through a final filter. Routine messages (ie: anything not indicative of bahaviour flagged as of interest) would be archived, and anything else would be sent to human operators for final analysis.

    If Echelon uses anything even vaguely close to this, the "Jam Echelon Day" would never have passed the first filter, as it's not keyword-based, but information-based, and random spam is very low on information. Even keywords in meaningful messages'd be rejected, as it would fail on the source/destination test.

    This would also solve the VPN problem, and the volume of information on the Internet as a whole. By operating on a EXCLUSIVE basis, rather than an INCLUSIVE one, the volume and the protocol become side issues.

    IMHO, this seems a likely aproach for something like Echelon, but how it would be implemented is anyone's guess. The fact remains, though, that exclusive systems can't be jammed by trivial means, and it's naive to assume the NSA would leave themselves vulnerable to trivial junk.

  • by FallLine ( 12211 ) on Saturday October 23, 1999 @05:09AM (#1593250)
    If Echelon is as good as many seem to think it is, why raise all the fuss? If mere key words can't trigger it, and its actually able to tell pick "bad" intent out amongst all the other noise, what is the problem? eg: assasinate president in the name of allah, blow DC up, blow airplane up, etc etc etc.

    Unless this thing returns a significant number of false positives (which it might); I, for one, am not that alarmed by this. If only terrorists and criminals are affected, I couldn't give a damn.

    The issue is when they use this technology to audit anything they don't like -- abusing the power. I suppose this is a legitimate concern, but many advocates of "Jam Echelon" bring nothing but FUD to the table. They ought to give a coherant and rational argument as to how it could affect decent citizens adversely.
  • by mjg ( 21046 ) on Saturday October 23, 1999 @05:10AM (#1593251)

    I was this over on HNN [] a while back, related to Echelon and a patent the NSA has for "document retrieval" which would, according to the information on their site, ignore the type of stuff people were sending for "Jam Echelon Day".

    Basically, it can figure out what a document is about in spite of things such as keywords being planted in the document (ala the Jam Echelon plan), and is not dependant on the language of the document. It works by relating the document to a database of other document fragments, they say.

    The NSA's website [] has some information about it, and this [] is the patent itself.

    If this stuff exists and works, then Jam Echelon was a waste of time on the technical side - but I think the main point was to raise awareness, and that it has done.

  • by ajs ( 35943 ) <> on Saturday October 23, 1999 @05:22AM (#1593252) Homepage Journal
    Echelon has already got to be getting sloppy. There's so much traffic that's going to be hard to handle. For example, VPNs are becoming quite popular, and while I'm sure the NSA has the technology to crack the top 10 hardware-VPN strategies, I'm also sure that the fact that, e.g. F5's BigIP ships with a myriad of encryption options has got to be pissing them off. This could be defeated by making a "deal" with companies that ship VPN hardware, but still, software VPNs aren't uncommon at all, and they too have a myriad of options.

    I also can't see the NSA throwing compute resources at every single Email message with image attachments (unless they just have a statistical analyzer that tells them if a given image might have been dicked with to embed encrypted text).

    Overall, I'd say that Echelon is now pretty much stuck with three classes of analysis:

    1. By individual (e.g. anything coming from the Iraqi embasy or from an anonymous remailer is probably worth breaking).
    2. By analyzing plain text (it's amazing how much info can be gained by looking at what isn't obfuscated).
    3. By breaking certain cyphers which they have standard attacks for. For example, it's basically a given at this point that they have built the next-generation of the DES craker, and can probably take DES-encrypted data-streams apart in real time. 3DES is probably just as unsafe.

    Given the above and the fact that almost no one encrypts phone converstations, I'll bet Echelon gets quite a bit, but it would be easy to move data through in the noise in such a way that it would be almost impossible to detect, much less break.

    How would I do it? Probably by setting up several VPNs which constanntly move random data. I would use several encryption technologies, and occasionally move small chunks of the real data over arbitrary subsets of the pipes. The real data would, of course, be encrypted once re-assembled using yet another scheme. Just to muddy the waters, I would also move chunks of the newspaper this way at least once a day.

    Of course, I would only do this if I had something to hide, but these days, every business has something to hide, because you never know if your competition is bribing some lacky at the NSA to get your Email. Sure, that would be hard. Just look at the excellent security that the DOE was maintaining.... :-(

    These days businesses can't affort to not be paranoid. And, yes, I know there are several simple flaws with the above, but if I told you exactly what I'd do, someone would write an engine to detect it, and that would defeat the point.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Definetly. I think the bringing to light and media attention of lurking shadow organizations and entities like Echelon seems to be one of the greatest political strengths of the Internet age.

    Echelon has argueably been around for quite some time, but before the Internet, public awareness of things like this could only spread via the ratings obessed eager-to-please mass media. Some part of the attention to Echelon can be acredited to the EU (which in a larger sense goes to show that the union of the European powers IS threatening the US in its only-superpower and world-police role) but for the most part it is the Internet and truely free forums like Slashdot (mandatory suckup) that are doing the real work here.

    An analogy is that comes to mind for me is the Church of Scientology. Before the Internet was a public medium, very few people knew anything at all about Co$, and could easily be sucked in by the false promises and celebirty testimonials (look how happy Tom Cruise and John Travolta are). They could keep out of the spotlight by harrassing and threatening mass media, and such operate in the shadows where they worked best. Until the Internet, even for all their legal victories and people they have destroyed on the Internet, the cat is out of the bag. Even the press dares write about Co$ now.

    And the same thing goes for Echelon. Just as more and more people are saying "I have heard about you nuts" when approached by CoS preachers, more and more people are thinking "Echelon" before they pick up a phone or send an email. A more informed public is always a step in the right direction.
  • It's a slippery slope. The potential for abuses to law-abiding political dissenters is huge. Eschelon (if it exists) amounts to an unordered wiretap on everyone using the internet. If you don't see a problem with government agencies eavesdropping on people in clear violation of their (US citizens) constitutional rights, the privacy cause is lost on you.
    Furthermore, since the NSA denies that the system even exists, I assume that any evidence gathered by it can't be used in a court of law. Meaning that if you or I fire off an email saying that we want to buy a nuclear warhead to blow up the Capitol building, we will never see a jury of our peers, but will be quietly "dealt with" by the NSA.
    To beat an old quote to death, who watches the watchmen? The NSA hides under a blanket of secrecy, which allows it to operate without any significant oversight. Power corrupts, and there is no check on the power of the NSA if it's leaders become corrupted.
    So here's the FUD I bring to the table. I fear the NSA because it's uncertain what they are doing, and I doubt anyone outside Fort Meade knows what's really going on.
  • So here's the FUD I bring to the table.

    Thats exactly what it is, FUD. The NSA has never denied the existence of Echelon. In fact, the NSA has never denied the existence of ANYTHING, simply because the NSA has NO PUBLIC RELATIONS DEPARTMENT. Nobody at the NSA has ever spoken to the press about anything. As for denying the existence of Echelon? Congress told us about that. The NSA demonstrated Echelon to Congress a couple years ago, and Congress was who officially acknowledged Echelon.
    As for your example, if you were to buy a nuclear bomb, the spooks at the NSA wouldn't get you, it'd be the CIA (assuming you're not inside the country), and if the CIA were to work inside the country to get you, I'd hope they would kill you, and I believe they would have every right to with Executive consent. The NSA is a bunch of really, really, really smart nerds who gather information. Thats all they do. They don't kill people, restrict your rights, etc. all they do is try to gather as much information as they can for the sole means of providing unbias information to our leaders. Is this bad? Absolutely not. If it weren't for the NSA, NYC, DC, Seattle, Boston, etc. would have mostlikely been blown up by zealots by now. Just remember that they're citizens too. They are not law enforcement, just information gatherers. Live with it.

  • I realize you're not going to agree, no matter what I say. Your example is different in many ways, because its physically invading your domain. Where as mine is strictly bits, which you have no direct attachment too.

    I just want you to answer one question. WHAT is intrinsically wrong with the described machine? Pretend the 4th Amendment does not exist for just a minute. The 4th Amendment is a law based in fact and EXPERIENCE, not a shield from private intellectual thought.

    You're sending messages via RF out into the world. The RF is intercepted and processed, unimpeded on its journey. You never hear, smell, know, or are affected by it, unless you happen to actually be planning to kill many people. It never enters your house. Only what you communicate with others is readable by this machine. Only messages in which you intend to harm a great many people are reported or acted upon to anyone. Many tragedies could be avoided with such a device. Where is the evil?

    In reality, I have serious issues with building such a machine. Because such a machine simply can't be built. Nor can we necessarily trust anyone with such a responsibility. This what the Fourth Amendment speaks to, the practical considerations. But within my described scenario, I don't see the issue.
  • "I require free and private speech period." Your freedom and privacy is 100% intact, unless you happen to be building a bomb. I hardly see how anyone can have a moral objection to a computer processing your data (as described). As it stands now, your packets are already being processed by many machines before it reaches its destination. Not to mention the chance that someone else may be sniffing it. Or it may end up in the wrong mailbox. Or end up in root@'s mail. You name it.

    I suppose I require a lower level explanation, as I don't regard freedom from computer parsing to be a fundamental natural law, or what have you.
  • That's just paranoia. You don't really think that the NSA is using terrorism to keep tabs on American communications, do you? It would never work. Someone would spill and then the media would eat it up.


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • An NSA engineer, after reading the Jam Echelon day news item, laughed so hard he spilled a cup of coffee onto one of the echelon keyboards.

    Downtime: about 45 seconds before he could plug in new keyboard.

    Damages: A $20 keyboard and a slightly burned lap.

  • I also found sending wordlists over the internet a little too naive an approach, sure a system capable of word recognition will have enough speech recognition or even a match against a simple knowledge base to sort this out. They even had enough time to test these features, since some people always appended an echelon trailer.

    Also the system probably looks out for context patterns (e.g. sender recipient relation/distance), so if you send your spouse the trailer appended to the shopping list, the message will probably not even be looked at. If you really want to bring the system to a grinding halt, i think you shouldn't try to exhaust machines (though 'encrypting' (aka gzip, uuencode) enough stuff might slow things down a while but in the end will only be an argument for dedicating more computing power to echelon) but humans. Thus one should make up messages that must be read by humans, even better engage in longer email conversations.

    Maybe the best and most fun way to do so would be playing 'conspiracy games'. Maybe you know the games where you can 'poison' other players by attaching some post-it note to the bottom of their coffeecup saying 'poisoned'. I heard after a week of this you become really paranoid. Now play this thing in teams, do the coordination via emails (best by forwarding around ca. 3-4 email accounts), discuss tactics with other players etc. etc. And hey it's fun, so you don't do it on one 'Echelon day' (well know by the NSA) but in your own 'paranoia week' (or whatever). Even the context pattern will look more 'catching'.

    If you get humans pondering over a lot of these messages, needing at least some seconds to figure out if that's a real bomb or just an empty cokecan you want to attach to that car and if there's enough people having fun with this then one might see some effect ... even if not, at least it's fun with spy vs. spy games.
  • Okay, we have a government that barely manages to sqeek along in its daily functions without coming to a grinding halt. We have law enforcement agencies that spend more time busting people with a taillight out than it does looking for murderers, and we have an intelligence agency that, and get this, didnt know a country had nuclear weapons until they blew one up.

    So where exactly are these geniuses coming from who built and maintain echelon and all of the other supposed government conspiracy centers? Either the government has technology a few decades beyond the rest of the world or they've got a beowful cluster the size of NY city hidden away somewhere to monitor the sheer volume of net traffic out there. Sure, they dont need to bother with actually scanning 99% of it, but they still need to filter every bit sent and decide if it's part of an email message and then store it and process it if it is. Now think about how much data is sent per second over the US's data networks. Remember when those 4 lines got cut out in ohio or wherever? Me and some friends of mine sat down the day that happened and figured out that those 4 lines transmitted the equivalent of a filing cabinet full of cd's every 3 seconds. That was 4 lines out in ohio, can you Imagine the volume of traffic there exists to monitor?

    Beyond the sheer amount of crap they need to monitor, lets look at this supposed filtering software of theirs. Not only does it decrypt every form of encryption known to man on the fly (it would have to be since there's no way theyre going to store that amount of info for later processing) but it also scans for intent in the message. Nothing does this. So far as I know there's no software anywhere in the world that anybody has written that can figure out what a person meant from what they wrote. If it were even possible with current technology dont you think there'd be a program out there somewhere available for spell and grammar checking documents using something that wont try to replace people's names or come up with such ringing substitutions as "in the african american" (yes, i know that was a hoax, but you get my drift)?

    And all this from the same government that spent millions trying to figure out if the president was getting his knob polished by his secretary. Dont get me wrong, I'm an american and I quite like my country, but I also realize that our government is really rather corrupt and generally inept most of the time.. i truly cannot imagine that same government not only having a network like echelon supposedly is, but also keeping it secret from everyone except the UK..

  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Saturday October 23, 1999 @06:08AM (#1593281) Homepage
    'Jam Echelon Day' did have some effect, but it wasn't the effect of choking off the NSA that some around here (rather naively) desired. I mean, let's face it: the NSA isn't running a couple of Perl scripts on an old pimped-out P100 running FreeBSD, and the people they've got doing the coding probably aren't first-year CS majors.

    We're dealing with the best in the world here. The money ensures that.

    No, what Jam Echelon Day did was accomplish the only thing we outside the system could have hoped to: raise awareness. The only way that this sort of crap goes on is because people don't know about it. Jam Echelon Day got press coverage, and that's ultimately what spooks like the NSA fear.

    This is the part where we see a feature on '60 Minutes' about how the Big Bad Government is reading all of your 'private emails' (no matter how oxymoronic that term is). You'll see Mike Wallace walking past a row of Origins and talking incredulously about how our rights are being violated using our own tax dollars. He's good at that. Then, a couple of the higher-brow talk shows will include Echelon in their next 'CyberScare' episodes.

    Then the congressional hearings start. That's what we can hope for. Hopefully, the violations of the rights of American citizens will be so bad that they'll dissolve the NSA or at least put it under some sort of realistic oversight.


  • and all he found was a load of supercomputers running quake 5. Pity, there were no big explosions (other than the ones on the 2' flat screen displays)

Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. -- F.M. Hubbard