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House Republicans Renew Push for Telecom Immunity 123

CNet is running an update to the controversy over giving telecommunications giants such as AT&T immunity from lawsuits involving the assistance they gave the NSA for illegal wiretaps. Republican leaders are circulating a petition which would force a vote on the bill passed by the Senate but not by the House. Democrats are holding out for a version of the FISA bill which opens the telecoms to prosecution. President Bush still intends to veto any such document. "At a wide-ranging House hearing on Wednesday, FBI Director Robert Mueller again urged passage of a bill that includes immunity for phone companies, arguing that 'uncertainty' among the carriers 'affects our ability to get info as fast and as quickly as we would want.' He admitted, however, that he was not aware of any wiretap requests being denied because of Congress' inaction."

FBI Lied To Support Need For PATRIOT Act Expansion 396

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "It probably won't surprise you, but in 2005, the FBI manufactured evidence to get the power to issue National Security Letters under the PATRIOT Act. Unlike normal subpoenas, NSLs do not require probable cause and you're never allowed to talk about having received one, leading to a lack of accountability that caused them to be widely abused. The EFF has discovered via FOIA requests that an FBI field agent was forced by superiors to return papers he got via a lawful subpoena, then demand them again via an NSL (which was rejected for being unlawful at the time), and re-file the original subpoena to get them back. This delay in a supposedly critical anti-terror investigation then became a talking point used by FBI Director Robert Mueller when the FBI wanted to justify their need for the power to issue National Security Letters."

Administration Claimed Immunity To 4th Amendment 703

mrogers writes "The EFF has uncovered a troubling footnote in a newly declassified Bush Administration memo, which asserts that 'our Office recently [in 2001] concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations.' This could mean that the Administration believes the NSA's warrantless wiretapping and data mining programs are not governed by the Constitution, which would cast Administration claims that the programs did not violate the Fourth Amendment in a whole new light — after all, you can't violate a law that doesn't apply. The claimed immunity would also cover other DoD agencies, such as CIFA, which carry out offline surveillance of political groups within the United States."

Feds Overstate Software Piracy's Link To Terrorism 448

Lucas123 writes "Attorney General Michael Mukasey claims that terrorists sell pirated software as a way to finance their operations, without presenting a shred of evidence for his case. He's doing it to push through a controversial piece of intellectual property legislation that would increase IP penalties, increase police power, set up a new agency to investigate IP theft, and more. 'Criminal syndicates, and in some cases even terrorist groups, view IP crime as a lucrative business, and see it as a low-risk way to fund other activities,' Mukasey told a crowd at the Tech Museum of Innovation last week."

Patriot Act Haunts Google Service 277

The Globe and Mail has an interesting piece taking a look at Google's latest headache, the US Government. Many people are suddenly deciding to spurn Google's services and applications because it opens up potential avenues of surveillance. "Some other organizations are banning Google's innovative tools outright to avoid the prospect of U.S. spooks combing through their data. Security experts say many firms are only just starting to realize the risks they assume by embracing Web-based collaborative tools hosted by a U.S. company, a problem even more acute in Canada where federal privacy rules are at odds with U.S. security measures."

UK Police Want DNA of 'Potential Offenders' 578

mrogers writes "British police want to collect DNA samples from children as young as five who 'exhibit behavior indicating they may become criminals in later life'. A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers argued that since some schools already take pupils' fingerprints, the collection and permanent storage of DNA samples was the logical next step. And of course, if anyone argues that branding naughty five-year-olds as lifelong criminals will stigmatize them, the proposed solution will be to take samples from all children."

US House Rejects Telecom Amnesty 614

The US House has just approved a new bill that rejects the retroactive immunity to telecommunication businesses and denies most of the new powers for the US President to spy on citizens without a warrant. "As impressive as the House vote itself was, more impressive still was the floor debate which preceded it. I can't recall ever watching a debate on the floor of either House of Congress that I found even remotely impressive -- until today. One Democrat after the next -- of all stripes -- delivered impassioned, defiant speeches in defense of the rule of law, oversight on presidential eavesdropping, and safeguards on government spying. They swatted away the GOP's fear-mongering claims with the dismissive contempt such tactics deserve, rejecting the principle that has predominated political debate in this country since 9/11: that the threat of the Terrorists means we must live under the rule of an omnipotent President and a dismantled constitutional framework."

Feds Have a High-Speed Backdoor Into Wireless Carrier 229

An anonymous reader writes "An unnamed U.S. wireless carrier maintains an unfiltered, unmonitored DS-3 line from its internal network to a facility in Quantico, Virginia, according to Babak Pasdar, a computer security consultant who did work for the company in 2003. Customer voice calls, billing records, location information and data traffic are all allegedly exposed. A similar claim was leveled against Verizon Wireless in a 2006 lawsuit."

Does Anonymity In Virtual Worlds Breed Terrorism? 295

An Anonymous Coward writes "The Washington Post has an article about the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity's take on the numerous virtual worlds (e.g. Second Life) that have cropped up in recent years. IARPA's thesis is that because the Government can't currently monitor all the communication and interaction, terrorists will plot and scheme in such environments."
The Courts

Judge Backs Amazon, Raps Feds Over Book Records 113

netbuzz alerts us to a ruling in federal court that has just been made public. US Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker told the Feds to lay off Amazon in denying prosecutors' requests for records of who bought what books at the online retailer. The judge wrote, "The [subpoena's] chilling effect on expressive e-commerce would frost keyboards across America." Prosecutors had demanded 24,000 transaction records from Amazon, all in service of convicting a city official on charges of fraud and tax evasion. In the end they found customer information on the official's PC, where they should have looked in the first place.

US Official Urges Americans To Reconsider Privacy 515

Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, a deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguards people's private communications and financial information. "Protecting anonymity isn't a fight that can be won. Anyone that's typed in their name on Google understands that," said Kerr. Kurt Opsahl of the EFF said Kerr ignores the distinction between sacrificing protection from an intrusive government and voluntarily disclosing information in exchange for a service. "There is something fundamentally different from the government having information about you than private parties. We shouldn't have to give people the choice between taking advantage of modern communication tools and sacrificing their privacy." Kerr's comments come as Congress is taking a second look at the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act, requiring a court order for surveillance on U.S. soil. The White House argued that the law was obstructing intelligence gathering.

Qwest Punished by NSA for Non-Cooperation 170

nightcats writes "According to a story from the Rocky Mountain news, Qwest has received retaliatory action from the NSA for refusing to cooperate in the Bush administration's domestic data-mining activity (i.e., spying on Americans). 'The [just-released government] documents indicate that likely would have been at the heart of former CEO Joe Nacchio's so-called "classified information" defense at his insider trading trial, had he been allowed to present it. The secret contracts - worth hundreds of millions of dollars - made Nacchio optimistic about Qwest's future, even as his staff was warning him the company might not make its numbers, Nacchio's defense attorneys have maintained. But Nacchio didn't present that argument at trial. '"

Eavesdropping Didn't Help Uncover Terrorist Plot 290

crymeph0 writes "Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell asserted that the 'Protect America Act,' which frees the intelligence community from pesky things like judicial oversight while they eavesdrop on international conversations, was used to good effect in exposing the recently foiled terrorist plot to bomb US military facilities in Germany. Not so, according to other, anonymous, intelligence community officials. McConnell was forced to admit his errors in a phone call to Sen. Joe Lieberman. Turns out the military got wise to the bad guys months before the law was passed, simply due to alert military guards noticing odd behavior by some passers-by, a.k.a. good old fashioned police work."

Eavesdropping Helpful Against Terrorist Plot [UPDATED] 486

AcidPenguin9873 writes "The New York Times reports that the U.S. government's ability to eavesdrop on personal communications helped break up a terrorist plot in Germany. The intercepted phone calls and emails revealed a connection between the plotters and a breakaway cell of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad Union. What does this mean for the future of privacy in personal communications? From the article: '[Director of national intelligence Mike McConnell's] remarks also represent part of intensifying effort by Bush administration officials to make permanent a law that is scheduled to expire in about five months. Without the law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Mr. McConnell said the nation would lose "50 percent of our ability to track, understand and know about these terrorists, what they're doing to train, what they're doing to recruit and what they're doing to try to get into this country.'" Update: 09/13 12:59 GMT by J : See followup story.

FBI Remotely Installs Spyware to Trace Bomb Threat 325

cnet-declan writes "There have been rumors for years about the FBI remotely installing spyware via e-mail or by exploiting an operating system vulnerability from afar — and now there's confirmation. Last month, the FBI obtained a federal court order to remotely install spyware called CIPAV (Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier) to find out who was behind a MySpace account linked to bomb threats sent to a high school near Olympia, Wash. has posted a PDF of the FBI affidavit, which makes for interesting reading, and a summary of the CIPAV results that the FBI submitted to a magistrate judge. It seems as though CIPAV was installed via e-mail, as an article back in 2004 hinted was the case. In addition to reporting the computer's IP address, MAC address, and registry information, it also gave the FBI updates on which IP addresses the user(s) visited. But how did the FBI get the spyware activated and past anti-virus defenses? Two obvious ways are for the Feds to find and exploit their own operating system backdoors, or to compromise security vendors..."

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