Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Evaporation of Privacy and Freedom

For some time, I have been following the development of surveillance and data collection activities in Europe, the US and other countries. Collating varied articles on this broad topic is a slow process. At some point the information I collect reaches critical mass and I get to connect the dots to see if my guesses have had any semblance to the actual events (published for public consumption). What follows is a mosaic of the future materialising, bit by bit, before our very eyes. It transcends national boundaries.

The horizon of our global future now becomes visible through the dense fog of media. Now is the time to decide if what we see is what we want.

I will update this collection of articles about the legal, technological, and political forces creating a future where surveillance and control are the sole right and privilege of government. Many Americans will be surprised to learn that the DNA from every newborn is now required and stored in a national database.

Europeans may gasp when they realise that details such as their grocery purchases can be freely accessed by the US National Security Agency WITHOUT CAUSE. It is and extra-judicial process now.

The list which connects the web of government data retention (preventive retention of personal data) is indeed horrifying as well as the emerging technological advances to enable this.
Hope you enjoy the dots and have a lovely time connecting them. I would enjoy any feedback. Related videos follow the articles.

Update July 12, 2009

The legal perspective: data held for evidence of future crimes

RFID Panopticon

Kurt Nimmo
Truth News
January 26, 2008

It’s sold in the Washington Post — the CIA’s favorite newspaper — as a wonderful world of convenience come true for consumers:

“RFID-enabled refrigerators could warn about expired milk, generate weekly shopping lists, even send signals to your interactive TV, so that you see ‘personalized’ commercials for foods you have a history of buying. Sniffers in your microwave might read a chip-equipped TV dinner and cook it without instruction… Companies say the RFID tags improve supply-chain efficiency, cut theft, and guarantee that brand-name products are authentic, not counterfeit. At a store, RFID doorways could scan your purchases automatically as you leave, eliminating tedious checkouts.”

Excuse me, but I’ll take the tedium.

The problem, critics say, is that microchipped products might very well do a whole lot more. Read more...

"Reality Mining" Inside Big Brother's Control Grid

By Daniel Taylor

Data mining is a practice long used by government agencies and companies like Choicepoint to collect a vast amount of information on individuals, trends, and other fields. Now, with the advent of new technologies, a new form of data collection is rising. This new field is called "reality mining". Social engineers, marketers, as well as government agencies with an interest in learning everything possible about you are eagerly anticipating its widespread use.

Reality mining is one of many facets stemming from a global sensor network that will monitor everything from the environment, subtle variations in human behavior, to everyday objects. It consists of an interconnected network of biometrics, machine vision, radio frequency ID tags, Global Positioning Systems, "geotagging", wireless sensors, "smart dust", and traditional surveillance equipment. This is a "system of systems". In short, everything is to be monitored in a digital real-time mirror of the real world. Read more...

Cyber Tsar to save America

30 May, 2009

President Barack Obama is creating a “Cyber Tsar” to safeguard America's cyber space security. The person who's going to take on the job has yet to be named. He or she will overlook the safety of government and military computer systems which have been subjected to hacker attacks.

Barack Obama says that right now the USA is ill-prepared to deal with any kind of cyber attack. Therefore, the country needs a “cyber superman” to handle such situations. Read more...

The Launching of U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM).
Offensive Operations in Cyberspace

by Tom Burghardt
Global Research
July 1, 2009

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates signed a memorandum on June 23 that announced the launch of U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM). A scheme by securocrats in the works for several years, the order specifies that the new office will be a "subordinate unified command" under U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM).

According to the memorandum, CYBERCOM "will reach initial operating capability (IOC) not later than October 2009 and full operating capability (FOC) not later than October 2010."

Gates has recommended that this new Pentagon domain be led by Lt. General Keith Alexander, the current Director of the ultra-spooky National Security Agency (NSA). Under the proposal, Alexander would receive a fourth star and the new agency would be based at Ft. Meade, Maryland, NSA's headquarters. Read more...

Federal Authority Over the Internet?
The Cybersecurity Act of 2009

Jennifer Granick April 10th, 2009

There's a new bill working its way through Congress that is cause for some alarm: the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (PDF summary here), introduced by Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). The bill as it exists now risks giving the federal government unprecedented power over the Internet without necessarily improving security in the ways that matter most. It should be opposed or radically amended.

Essentially, the Act would federalize critical infrastructure security. Since many of our critical infrastructure systems (banks, telecommunications, energy) are in the hands of the private sector, the bill would create a major shift of power away from users and companies to the federal government. This is a potentially dangerous approach that favors the dramatic over the sober response.

One proposed provision gives the President unfettered authority to shut down Internet traffic in an emergency and disconnect critical infrastructure systems on national security grounds goes too far. Certainly there are times when a network owner must block harmful traffic, but the bill gives no guidance on when or how the President could responsibly pull the kill switch on privately-owned and operated networks. Read more...

Federal cybersecurity director quits, complains of NSA role
Rod Beckstrom quit the post after less than a year

By Jaikumar Vijayan March 8, 2009

Computerworld - In a move that highlights differences over who should be in charge of national cybersecurity efforts, the director of a federal office set up to protect civilian, military and intelligence networks has submitted his resignation after less than a year in the job.

Rod Beckstrom, director of the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), on Friday said he is quitting because of concerns over what he said is the National Security Agency's (NSA) domination of the nation's cybersecurity efforts. The NCSC was set up within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last year to oversee and coordinate efforts to shore up the nation's defenses and responses to cyberthreats.

Beckstrom was appointed to lead the NCSC in March 2008 and was required to report directly to then-DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff.

In a sharply worded letter to current DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, Beckstrom on Friday noted that the NSA effectively controlled DHS cyberefforts "through detailees, technology insertions" and a proposed move of the National Protection and Programs Directorate and the NCSC to an NSA facility in Fort Meade. His letter, dated March 5, noted that allowing the NSA to control national cybersecurity efforts is a "bad strategy on multiple grounds."

New Military Command for Cyberspace

Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander is second from the left
June 23, 2009
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Tuesday ordered the creation of the military’s first headquarters designed to coordinate Pentagon efforts in the emerging battlefield of cyberspace and computer-network security, officials said.

Pentagon officials said Mr. Gates intends to nominate Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, currently director of the National Security Agency, for a fourth star and to take on the top job at the new organization, to be called Cybercom.

The new command’s mission will be to coordinate the day-to-day operation — and protection — of military and Pentagon computer networks. Currently, the Defense Department operates 15,000 separate computer networks and more than seven million individual computers or information-technology devices, officials said.

The Obama administration has undertaken significant efforts to protect the nation from cyberattack and prepare for potential offensive operations against adversary computer networks. The first step was creating a position of White House director for cybersecurity issues.

But the plans raised concerns that respect for privacy, diplomatic rules and sovereignty may be harmed as the administration accelerates its efforts to detect and attack adversaries on global computer networks that disregard borders. Read more...

July 5th, 2009
The Salt Lake Tribune

The National Security Agency was so confident that its nearly $2 billion plan for a new data center in Utah would be approved by Congress that it began designing the facility last November.

NSA budgeting documents also indicate that the design of the 1-million-square-foot center should be completed by February, with building to begin in June on a project that could mean thousands of construction jobs for a state that, like many others, has been stuck in a building lull.

President Barack Obama last week signed a spending bill that included $181 million for preparatory construction of the Camp Williams facility and tentatively agreed to two future phases of construction that could cost $800 million each.

The secretive agency released a statement Thursday acknowledging the selection of Camp Williams as a site for the new center and describing it as “a specialized facility that houses computer systems and supporting equipment.”

Budget documents provide a more detailed picture of the facility and its mission. The supercomputers in the center will be part of the NSA’s signal intelligence program, which seeks to “gain a decisive information advantage for the nation and our allies under all circumstances” according to the documents.

The agency is set up to collect intelligence on foreign threats, but it has been accused of also participating in the unwarranted monitoring of the communications of U.S. citizens.

A similar center is being constructed in San Antonio, Texas, and NSA documents indicate that the agency is also expanding its existing intelligence collection facilities in North Yorkshire, England, and Fort Meade, Md. The agency has been seeking to decentralize its operations in an effort to protect assets and find areas with the capacity to satiate the energy appetites of its enormous computer caches.

To that end, the initial phase of the project is expected to include more than $52 million in preparatory electrical work — much of that is likely to be spent connecting two large power corridors that run through Camp Williams to the construction site near the base airstrip. The next phases of the project will include $340 million in electrical work, according to the documents.

About $70 million has been budgeted for security, including vehicle inspection facilities, fencing, surveillance and separate visitor control centers for construction and technical personnel.

All NSA security measures will be in addition to security that the Utah National Guard already provides for the 28,000-acre Camp Williams facility.

“Physical and technical security of the construction site will be assured,” the budget documents promise.

While the project — and the ongoing operation of the center — will bring millions of dollars into the state, the Utah Guard doesn’t stand to make a penny.

Guard spokesman Hank McIntire said the state, which manages Camp Williams, would act as “a benevolent landlord.”

Citizens Education Project director Steve Erickson, who advocates for greater military oversight, was wary.

“If we’re going to be landlords,” he said, “we should act like a good landlord and have some rules that apply to the tenants to make sure they’re behaving.”

Regrettably, he said, that’s not likely to happen when dealing with one of the most secretive government agencies in the world.

“Finally, the Patriot Act has a home,” he sighed.

Here's a lovely little article on the privacy of one's medical history. Note is it written in 2002; no doubt progress has been made since then in its ability to access global personal medical data.

DoD Database Provides Global Tripwire for Bio-Terror

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 17, 2002 – DoD personnel are on the watch for possible bio-terrorism, scanning computer databases featuring outpatient treatment information gathered from more than 300 military hospitals and medical clinics worldwide.

That effort, called the Electronic Surveillance System for Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics, or ESSENCE, is helping DoD to detect both naturally occurring outbreaks of disease -- and potential bio-terrorism attacks, noted Army Dr. (Col.) Patrick W. Kelley. He is an epidemiologist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md.

ESSENCE started up in 2000 as a pilot program to monitor the medical health of service members, family members and military retirees living in metropolitan Washington, Kelley explained.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States, he said, ESSENCE was expanded to include outpatient information from 313 Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard medical facilities around the world.

ESSENCE is on the front line of defense in the war against global terrorism, Kelley maintained. Its worldwide reach is important, he emphasized, because "infectious diseases have no borders and an attack on one country with a bio- terrorist agent could well be an attack on the globe."

Don't relax if you are in Europe.
The EU is just a bit sneakier than the USA. Who has heard of

European Homeland Security EHSA?

Well, I invite you to visit their webpage.

It's really quite interesting when you investigate the links there.

This one
is, I am sure, a high priority budget item.

Update July 10, 2009

NSA’s cyber-security grab is a
major expansion of web surveillance

By Wayne Madsen
Jun 26, 2009

With Time magazine reporting that President Obama has narrowed his top choice for the White House “cyber security czar” position to former Virginia Republican Representative Tom Davis, a leading backer of the Bush administration’s surveillance powers over the Internet, comes word from WMR’s sources that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been given a green light by the Obama White House to embark on a major effort to establish total surveillance over the Internet.

The decision is somewhat of a consolation prize to NSA director General Keith Alexander who made no secret of his desire to be named as Obama’s cyber security czar. However, it is anticipated that Davis is in lockstep with the NSA in ensuring the eavesdropping agency becomes the de facto lead organization for conducting spying on Internet users worldwide.

The NSA seeks to expand its surveillance powers over the Internet well beyond its current e-mail surveillance capabilities conducted by classified programs like Pinwale, first reported by WMR on December 4, 2005, and reported as an e-mail interception program on September 15, 2008. Using the cover of additional code-word programs, NSA is expanding its surveillance capabilities of the Internet by striking technical agreements with various software developers, hardware vendors, and service providers, including Microsoft, Intel, Google, and social networking services like FaceBook and Twitter. Read more...


Witness - Security Threat
A really excellent and thorough look at the use of profiling and surveillance technology used to
analyse personal data. Also a bit scary. 36 min

Privacy is dead - Get over it.
The inside scoop from a security expert on our digital footprints (which we leave everywhere). Like having a magician reveal a secret of a magic trick. Captivating. You might feel naked after watching this.

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