Millions Of Cars Tracked Across US In ‘Massive’ Real-Time DEA Spy Program

The Guardian
by Rory Carroll

American Civil Liberties Union warns scanning of license plates by Drug Enforcement Agency is building a repository of all drivers’ movements

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The DEA database has the potential to track every driver’s movements, the American Civil Liberties Union has warned. Photograph: DA Barnes/Alamy

The United States government is tracking the movement of vehicles around the country in a clandestine intelligence-gathering programme that has been condemned as a further official exercise to build a database on people’s lives.

The Drug Enforcement Administration was monitoring license plates on a “massive” scale, giving rise to “major civil liberties concerns”, the American Civil Liberties Union said on Monday night, citing DEA documents obtained under freedom of information.

“This story highlights yet another way government security agencies are seeking to quietly amplify their powers using new technologies,” Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with ACLU, told the Guardian.

“On this as on so many surveillance issues, we can take action, put in place some common sense limits or sit back and let our society be transformed into a place we won’t recognize – or probably much like.”

The advocacy group said the DEA records it obtained from the justice department were heavily redacted and incomplete.

“These records do, however, offer documentation that this program is a major DEA initiative that has the potential to track our movements around the country. With its jurisdiction and its finances, the federal government is uniquely positioned to create a centralized repository of all drivers’ movements across the country — and the DEA seems to be moving toward doing just that.”

If license plate readers continued to proliferate without restriction and the DEA held license plate reader data for extended periods the agency would soon possess a detailed and invasive depiction of people’s lives, the ACLU said, especially if combined with other surveillance data such as bulk phone records or information gleaned by the US Marshals Service using aircraft that mimic cellphone towers.

“Data-mining the information, an unproven law enforcement technique that the DEA has begun to use here, only exacerbates these concerns, potentially tagging people as criminals without due process,” the ACLU warned.

The Wall Street Journal, citing official documents and anonymous officials, reported that the programme built a national database to track vehicles in real time and stored hundreds of millions of records about motorists.

The primary goal was to seize cars, cash and other assets to combat drug trafficking but the database expanded to monitor vehicles associated with other potential crimes, it said.

Officials have publicly acknowledged they track vehicles near the Mexican border to combat drug trafficking.

But the database’s expansion “thoughout the United States”, as one DEA email put it, worried Senator Patrick Leahy, who sits on the Senate judiciary committee.

“The fact that this intrusive technology is potentially being used to expand the reach of the government’s asset forfeiture efforts is of even greater concern,’’ he told the Wall Street Journal.

Leahy called for additional accountability and said Americans should not have to fear that “their locations and movements are constantly being tracked and stored in a massive government database”.

A spokesman for the justice department, which includes the DEA, said the program complied with federal law. “It is not new that the DEA uses the license-plate reader program to arrest criminals and stop the flow of drugs in areas of high trafficking intensity,’’ the spokesman said.

According to the ACLU, the government-run national license plate tracking program dates from 2008. Information had trickled out over the years but far too little was known about the program, the ACLU said.

The Guardian

Harvard Prof: Government Mosquito Drones Will Extract Your DNA

InfoWars
by PAUL JOSEPH WATSON

mosquito-drone

Harvard Professor Margo Seltzer warned that miniature mosquito drones will one day forcibly extract your DNA on behalf of the government and insurance companies as she told elitists at the World Economic Forum in Davos that privacy was dead.

Seltzer, a professor in computer science at Harvard University, told attendees, “Privacy as we knew it in the past is no longer feasible… How we conventionally think of privacy is dead.”

Seltzer went on to predict that in the near future, mosquito-sized robots would perpetually monitor individuals as well as collecting DNA and biometric information for governments and corporations.

“It’s not whether this is going to happen, it’s already happening,” said Seltzer on the issue of pervasive surveillance. “We live in a surveillance state today.”

The professor added that miniaturized drone technology should be used for benevolent purposes, such as sending the same device into an Ebola ward to “zap the germs”.

Fellow Harvard academic Sophia Roosth also warned that an era of “genetic McCarthyism” was on the way as a result of people’s personal genetic information being available to governments via the Internet.

However, another speaker, tech entrepreneur Anthony Goldbloom, told the panel that young people no longer cared about surveillance issues and were perfectly willing to trade privacy for convenience.

“People often behave better when they have the sense that their actions are being watched,” said Goldbloom, seemingly invoking O’Brien from George Orwell’s 1984.

As we reported yesterday, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who is not known for his strong advocacy of privacy, greased the skids for the introduction of an Internet brain chip when he told Davos attendees that the world wide web would “disappear” as an external concept.

InfoWars

Samsung Responds to Privacy Concerns Over TVs Recording “Personal” Conversations

InfoWars
by PAUL JOSEPH WATSON

Private communications being sent to government?

Samsung has responded to privacy concerns over its warning that voice recognition software used in the company’s line of smart TVs is being used to record “personal” conversations and send them to third parties.

Last November we highlighted Samsung’s global privacy policy, which advises users to, “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

Michael Price, counsel in the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, wrote that the potential of his private conversations being shared with unnamed third parties now meant he was “terrified” of his TV.

Samsung Smart TVs also log website visits, have a built-in camera for facial recognition and use tracking cookies to detect “when you have viewed particular content or a particular email message.”

Concerned blogger Joe Fabeets contacted Samsung in an effort to identify exactly who this “third party” was that would be receiving users’ private communications. Although Samsung indicates in its privacy policy that the third party is a “service that converts speech to text,” answers given by representatives of the company leave room for doubt.

Noting that he had put the same question to Verizon about communications being stored, Fabeets asked the representative, “Is that what this is, are you complying with a federal court order to record what’s going on in my living room?”

“Yes sir, exactly,” responds the representative, before contradicting herself and Samsung’s own global privacy policy by adding, “Everything is confidential, nothing is shared,” asserting that the service is merely a means of improving the features on the smart TV.

“You asked me if we complied with federal law and I did say yes,” the representative added when Fabeets attempted to clarify the question. There appeared to be some confusion about whether the representative thought that Samsung recording private information and sending it to the government was part of this compliance process.

As televisions, games consoles and a myriad of of other technological devices become more sophisticated in tailoring themselves to consumers via speech recognition and the ‘Internet of things’, the potential for private communications and activity to be monitored and shared is greater than ever before. In 2012, former CIA director David Petraeus hailed this development as a transformational boon for “clandestine tradecraft”.

Since its launch in 2010, Microsoft’s X-Box Kinect games device has included a video camera and a microphone that records speech. The company informs its users that they “should not expect any level of privacy concerning your use of the live communication features,” while Microsoft also “may access or disclose information about you, including the content of your communications.”

Last year, Microsoft was forced to deny claims that the Xbox One’s Kinect camera could see gamers’ genitals after video footage emerged which suggested the device’s IR camera was so sophisticated that it could capture the outline of a user’s penis.

Gamers also complained that Kinect was monitoring their Skype conversations for swearing and then punishing them with account bans.

InfoWars

“D” Weapons Use Appliances to Spy on Homes, Internet as Cyber Battleground: “World War III is a Guerrilla Information War”

SHTFplan
by Mac Slavo

digital-cyberwar

Though it has remained officially unsaid, the powers that be have all-but-officially designated the American people as their enemy in a foggy battleground that has become global, nebulous, highly technological and extremely paranoid.

Homeland Security and FBI protocol have set the stage for profiling Americans as potential threats, while the rising police state have often cracked down with a heavy hand and perhaps a SWAT raid. The War on Terror, global jihad, cyber attacks and a new Cold War have all contributed the necessary pretexts for an atmosphere of control and preemptive suspicion that seemingly justifies total surveillance of the population.

USCYBERCOM, activated by the federal government in 2009 and operated by the director of the NSA, adds a whole new dimension to that, by bringing home – to computer screens and devices everywhere – the cyberwar.

And since that time, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange became the first civilian designated, according to declassified information, as a military-designated “enemy of the state.” Many SWAT raids, FBI and police visits have now resulted from alleged threatening or offensive Internet activity. Likewise, StuxNet became the first major cyber attack against Iran, a (perceived) military threat. More recently, we’ve seen major cyber warfare exchanges with North Korea, resulting in an Internet blackout there following the SONY hacking scandal and diplomatic standoff over a Hollywood film.

As Daniel Taylor, of Old Thinker News, points out, the militarization and weaponization of the digital space has been a long time coming, and it might mutate into a conflict wide enough to involve you and your online activities. His article, “NSA Cyber War Will Use Internet of Things as Weapons Platform; Your Home is the Battlefield” argues:

As time goes on it will be readily apparent to the masses that the monumental surveillance architecture that will catalog and track the population is nothing more than an attempt at full spectrum domination.

[…]

New Snowden documents recently revealed that the NSA is getting ready for future digital wars as the agency postures itself in an aggressive manner towards the world. “The Five Eyes Alliance“, a cooperation between United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, is working hard to develop these weapons of Cyber Warfare.

So called “D” weapons, as reported by Der Spiegel, will paralyze computer networks and infrastructure that they monitor. Water supplies, factories, airports, as well as the flow of money are all potential targets.

Simultaneously, while handing out tech goodies to consumers, the American people have also become their dupes, their sheep and their eyes. Through the digitalization of the planet, cyberspace has brought home a front that is equal parts transformative, enticing and eerily grim.

The Edward Snowden leaks constituted notice to the world that all things digital are subject to surveillance – a total and complete surveillance that includes the participation of the population who, through carrying various “smart” devices that capture data, images and audio for meta-analysis – are feeding the powers that be with vast catalogs of spy information – including valuable proprietary consumer data. Taylor notes:

The NSA’s Cyber Weapons program will undoubtedly exploit these devices, which include household appliances, and, frighteningly, medical devices that can be hacked. Pacemakers can be remotely stopped, and insulin pumps can be made to deliver a lethal dose of insulin. With the advent of implantable devices that communicate via Wifi, the potential for manipulation and hacking is growing exponentially.

If the developers of these internet connected devices don’t willingly work with the NSA to place back-doors in the technology, the agency is hard at work trying to find and exploit them.

Through the emerging Internet of Things (IoT), household appliances, smart meters, street lights and more will create a total digital picture of life, capturing real time data per appliance that creates a total information grid. Taylor writes:

The Der Spiegel report does not mention the wider issue of the expanding network of everyday objects and appliances that are connected to the internet. According to CIA chief David Patraeus the Internet of Things will have a monumental impact on “clandestine tradecraft.” Richard Adhikari writes for Tech News World that the Internet of Things is “…ripe for exploitation by the NSA”

Consumer appliances are now becoming activated and “smart.” RFID chips and wireless internet connections enable devices like televisions, refrigerators, printers, and computers to communicate with each other and generally make life easier for us. This comes at a price, however. Your privacy is eliminated.

[…]

Think the idea of your appliances spying on you is crazy? According to Samsung’s new privacy policy, their smart TV can monitor your conversation. The policy states, “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

This digital surveillance age does not make spying on persons of interest merely possible or probable in any theoretical sense. Instead, it is a living matrix that defaults to spying. It is set up to flag aberrant and eccentric behavior and patterns, and will prompt a due response – whether you have done anything wrong or not.

The scheduled blurring of legitimate military targets and average civilian members of the population will present a different type of war, with weaponized information and data. Putting it all in perspective, Taylor cites a media pioneer from a time before the digital age had dawned:

World War III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.” – Marshall McLuhan, Culture is Our Business, 1970

Such a war will likely be the ultimate battle between the individual and the state. Unless stopped or slowed, it will  accomplish, systematically, what no Cold War secret agency working on the ground and in the shadows could ever hope to gain.

SHTFplan

New Police Radars Can ‘See’ Inside Homes

USA Today
by Brad Heath

At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance.

Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person’s house without first obtaining a search warrant.

The radars work like finely tuned motion detectors, using radio waves to zero in on movements as slight as human breathing from a distance of more than 50 feet. They can detect whether anyone is inside of a house, where they are and whether they are moving.

Current and former federal officials say the information is critical for keeping officers safe if they need to storm buildings or rescue hostages. But privacy advocates and judges have nonetheless expressed concern about the circumstances in which law enforcement agencies may be using the radars — and the fact that they have so far done so without public scrutiny.

“The idea that the government can send signals through the wall of your house to figure out what’s inside is problematic,” said Christopher Soghoian, the American Civil Liberties Union’s principal technologist. “Technologies that allow the police to look inside of a home are among the intrusive tools that police have.”

Agents’ use of the radars was largely unknown until December, when a federal appeals court in Denver said officers had used one before they entered a house to arrest a man wanted for violating his parole. The judges expressed alarm that agents had used the new technology without a search warrant, warning that “the government’s warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions.”

By then, however, the technology was hardly new. Federal contract records show the Marshals Service began buying the radars in 2012, and has so far spent at least $180,000 on them.

Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said officials are reviewing the court’s decision. He said the Marshals Service “routinely pursues and arrests violent offenders based on pre-established probable cause in arrest warrants” for serious crimes.

The device the Marshals Service and others are using, known as the Range-R, looks like a sophisticated stud-finder. Its display shows whether it has detected movement on the other side of a wall and, if so, how far away it is — but it does not show a picture of what’s happening inside. The Range-R’s maker, L-3 Communications, estimates it has sold about 200 devices to 50 law enforcement agencies at a cost of about $6,000 each.

Imgur

Other radar devices have far more advanced capabilities, including three-dimensional displays of where people are located inside a building, according to marketing materials from their manufacturers. One is capable of being mounted on a drone. And the Justice Department has funded research to develop systems that can map the interiors of buildings and locate the people within them.

The radars were first designed for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. They represent the latest example of battlefield technology finding its way home to civilian policing and bringing complex legal questions with it.

Those concerns are especially thorny when it comes to technology that lets the police determine what’s happening inside someone’s home. The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that the Constitution generally bars police from scanning the outside of a house with a thermal camera unless they have a warrant, and specifically noted that the rule would apply to radar-based systems that were then being developed.

In 2013, the court limited police’s ability to have a drug dog sniff the outside of homes. The core of the Fourth Amendment, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, is “the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.”

Still, the radars appear to have drawn little scrutiny from state or federal courts. The federal appeals court’s decision published last month was apparently the first by an appellate court to reference the technology or its implications.

That case began when a fugitive-hunting task force headed by the U.S. Marshals Service tracked a man named Steven Denson, wanted for violating his parole, to a house in Wichita. Before they forced the door open, Deputy U.S. Marshal Josh Moff testified, he used a Range-R to detect that someone was inside.

Moff’s report made no mention of the radar; it said only that officers “developed reasonable suspicion that Denson was in the residence.”

Agents arrested Denson for the parole violation and charged him with illegally possessing two firearms they found inside. The agents had a warrant for Denson’s arrest but did not have a search warrant. Denson’s lawyer sought to have the guns charge thrown out, in part because the search began with the warrantless use of the radar device.

Three judges on the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the search, and Denson’s conviction, on other grounds. Still, the judges wrote, they had “little doubt that the radar device deployed here will soon generate many questions for this court.”

But privacy advocates said they see more immediate questions, including how judges could be surprised by technology that has been in agents’ hands for at least two years. “The problem isn’t that the police have this. The issue isn’t the technology; the issue is always about how you use it and what the safeguards are,” said Hanni Fakhoury, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Marshals Service has faced criticism for concealing other surveillance tools. Last year, the ACLU obtained an e-mail from a Sarasota, Fla., police sergeant asking officers from another department not to reveal that they had received information from a cellphone-monitoring tool known as a stingray. “In the past, and at the request of the U.S. Marshals, the investigative means utilized to locate the suspect have not been revealed,” he wrote, suggesting that officers instead say they had received help from “a confidential source.”

William Sorukas, a former supervisor of the Marshals Service’s domestic investigations arm, said deputies are not instructed to conceal the agency’s high-tech tools, but they also know not to advertise them. “If you disclose a technology or a method or a source, you’re telling the bad guys along with everyone else,” he said.

Follow investigative reporter Brad Heath on Twitter at @bradheath

USA Today

Authoritarians Use Paris Terror Attack As Excuse for Power Grab

Washington’s Blog

http://media.muckrack.com.s3.amazonaws.com/mrdaily/images/2013/10/11/surveillance-cameras-400.jpg

In the Wake of French Terror, Governments Demand More Mass Surveillance

In the wake of the terror attack on the publication Charlie Hebdo in Paris, governments from around the world are calling for increased surveillance.

But top security experts agree that mass surveillance is ineffective … and actually makes us MORE vulnerable to terrorism.

For example, the former head of the NSA’s global intelligence gathering operations – Bill Binney – says that the mass surveillance INTERFERES with the government’s ability to catch bad guys, and that the government failed to stop the Boston Bombing because it was overwhelmed with data from mass surveillance on Americans.

Today, Washington’s Blog asked Binney whether this applied to the Paris attack as well.  He responded that it did:

A good deal of the failure is, in my opinion, due to bulk data.  So,  I am calling all these attacks a result of “Data bulk failure.”  Too much data and too many people for the 10-20 thousand analysts to follow.  Simple as that.  Especially when they make word match pulls (like Google) and get dumps of data selected from close to 4 billion people.

This is the same problem NSA had before 9/11. They had data that could have prevented 9/11 but did not know they had it in their data bases.  This back then when the bulk collection was not going on.  Now the problem is orders of magnitude greater.  Result, it’s harder to succeed.

Expect more of the same from our deluded government that thinks more data improves possibilities of success.  All this bulk data collection and storage does give law enforcement a great capability to retroactively analyze anyone they want.  But, of course,that data cannot be used in court since it was not acquired with a warrant.

The pro-spying NSA chief and NSA technicians confirmed Binney’s statement 3 months before 9/11:

In an interview, Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, the NSA’s director … suggested that access isn’t the problem. Rather, he said, the sheer volume and variety of today’s communications means “there’s simply too much out there, and it’s too hard to understand.”

***

“What we got was a blast of digital bits, like a fire hydrant spraying you in the face,” says one former NSA technician with knowledge of the project. “It was the classic needle-in-the-haystack pursuit, except here the haystack starts out huge and grows by the second,” the former technician says. NSA’s computers simply weren’t equipped to sort through so much data flying at them so fast.

And see this.

High-level NSA whistleblowers J. Kirk Wiebe, Thomas Drake and Russell Tice all say that mass surveillance of one’s one people is never necessary to protect national security.

Indeed, the NSA itself no longer claims that its mass spying program has stopped terror attacks or saved lives. Instead, intelligence spokesmen themselves now claim that mass spying is just an “insurance policy” to give “peace of mind”.

U.S. officials in the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government all say that the mass surveillance of our own people is ineffective:

  • 3 Senators with top secret clearance “have reviewed this surveillance extensively and have seen no evidence that the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records has provided any intelligence of value that could not have been gathered through less intrusive means”

A member of the White House review panel on NSA surveillance said he was “absolutely” surprised when he discovered the agency’s lack of evidence that the bulk collection of telephone call records had thwarted any terrorist attacks.“It was, ‘Huh, hello? What are we doing here?’” said Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor….

“That was stunning. That was the ballgame,” said one congressional intelligence official, who asked not to be publicly identified. “It flies in the face of everything that they have tossed at us.”

The conclusions of the panel’s reports were at direct odds with public statements by President Barack Obama and U.S. intelligence officials.

And many private sector security experts agree …

Ray Corrigan – senior lecturer in mathematics, computing and technology at the Open University, UK – noted yesterday in New Scientist that mass surveillance isn’t the answer:

Brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, who murdered 17 people, were known to the French security services and considered a serious threat. France has blanket electronic surveillance. It didn’t avert what happened.

***

The French authorities lost track of these extremists long enough for them to carry out their murderous acts.

***

Surveillance of the entire population, the vast majority of whom are innocent, leads to the diversion of limited intelligence resources in pursuit of huge numbers of false leads. Terrorists are comparatively rare, so finding one is a needle in a haystack problem. You don’t make it easier by throwing more needleless hay on the stack.

It is statistically impossible for total population surveillance to be an effective tool for catching terrorists.

***

Mass surveillance makes the job of the security services more difficult and the rest of us less secure.

Israeli-American terrorism expert Barry Rubins points out:

What is most important to understand about the revelations of massive message interception by the U.S. government is this:

In counterterrorist terms, it is a farce. Basically the NSA, as one of my readers suggested, is the digital equivalent of the TSA strip-searching an 80 year-old Minnesota grandmothers rather than profiling and focusing on the likely terrorists.

***

And isn’t it absurd that the United States can’t … stop a would-be terrorist in the U.S. army who gives a power point presentation on why he is about to shoot people (Major Nadal Hassan), can’t follow up on Russian intelligence warnings about Chechen terrorist contacts (the Boston bombing), or a dozen similar incidents must now collect every telephone call in the country? A system in which a photo shop clerk has to stop an attack on Fort Dix by overcoming his fear of appearing “racist” to report a cell of terrorists or brave passengers must jump a would-be “underpants bomber” from Nigeria because his own father’s warning that he was a terrorist was insufficient?

And how about a country where terrorists and terrorist supporters visit the White House, hang out with the FBI, advise the U.S. government on counter-terrorist policy (even while, like CAIR) advising Muslims not to cooperate with law enforcement….

***

Or how about the time when the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem had a (previously jailed) Hamas agent working in their motor pool with direct access to the vehicles and itineraries of all visiting US dignitaries and senior officials.

***

Suppose the U.S. ambassador to Libya warns that the American compound there may be attacked. No response. Then he tells the deputy chief of mission that he is under attack. No response. Then the U.S. military is not allowed to respond. Then the president goes to sleep without making a decision about doing anything because communications break down between the secretaries of defense and state and the president, who goes to sleep because he has a very important fund-raiser the next day. But don’t worry because three billion telephone calls by Americans are daily being intercepted and supposedly analyzed.

In other words, you have a massive counterterrorist project costing $1 trillion but when it comes down to it the thing repeatedly fails. In that case, to quote the former secretary of state, “”What difference does it make?”

If one looks at the great intelligence failures of the past, these two points quickly become obvious. Take for example the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. U.S. naval intelligence had broken Japanese codes. They had the information needed to conclude the attack would take place. [Background.] Yet a focus on the key to the problem was not achieved. The important messages were not read and interpreted; the strategic mindset of the leadership was not in place.

***

And remember that the number of terrorists caught by the TSA hovers around the zero level. The shoe, underpants, and Times Square bombers weren’t even caught by security at all and many other such cases can be listed. In addition to this, the U.S.-Mexico border is practically open.

**

The war on al-Qaida has not really been won, since its continued campaigning is undeniable and it has even grown in Syria, partly thanks to U.S. policy.

***

So the problem of growing government spying is three-fold.

–First, it is against the American system and reduces liberty.

–Second, it is a misapplication of resources, in other words money is being spent and liberty sacrificed for no real gain.

–Third, since government decisionmaking and policy about international terrorism is very bad the threat is increasing.

Internationally-recognized security expert Bruce Schneier agrees that mass surveillance distracts resources from effective counter-terror activities.

PC World reports:

“In knowing a lot about a lot of different people [the data collection] is great for that,” said Mike German, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent whose policy counsel for national security at the American Civil Liberties Union. “In actually finding the very few bad actors that are out there, not so good.”

The mass collection of data from innocent people “won’t tell you how guilty people act,” German added. The problem with catching terrorism suspects has never been the inability to collect information, but to analyze the “oceans” of information collected, he said.

Mass data collection is “like trying to look for needles by building bigger haystacks,” added Wendy Grossman, a freelance technology writer who helped organize the conference.

New Republic notes:

This kind of dragnet-style data capture simply doesn’t keep us safe.

First, intelligence and law enforcement agencies are increasingly drowning in data; the more that comes in, the harder it is to stay afloat. Most recently, the failure of the intelligence community to intercept the 2009 “underwear bomber” was blamed in large part on a surfeit of information: according to an official White House review, a significant amount of critical information was “embedded in a large volume of other data.” Similarly, the independent investigation of the alleged shootings by U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood concluded that the “crushing volume” of information was one of the factors that hampered the FBI’s analysis before the attack.

Multiple security officials have echoed this assessment. As one veteran CIA agent told The Washington Post in 2010, “The problem is that the system is clogged with information. Most of it isn’t of interest, but people are afraid not to put it in.” A former Department of Homeland Security official told a Senate subcommittee that there was “a lot of data clogging the system with no value.” Even former Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged that “we’ve built tremendous capability, but do we have more than we need?” And the NSA itself was brought to a grinding halt before 9/11 by the “torrent of data” pouring into the system, leaving the agency “brain-dead” for half a week and “[unable] to process information,” as its then-director Gen. Michael Hayden publicly acknowledged.

National security hawks say there’s a simple answer to this glut: data mining. The NSA has apparently described its computer systems as having the ability to “manipulate and analyze huge volumes of data at mind-boggling speeds.” Could those systems pore through this information trove to come up with unassailable patterns of terrorist activity? The Department of Defense and security experts have concluded that the answer is no: There is simply no known way to effectively anticipate terrorist threats.

***

The FBI’s and NSA’s scheme is an affront to democratic values. Let’s also not pretend it’s an effective and efficient way of keeping us safe.

NBC News reports:

Casting such wide nets is also ineffective, [security researcher Ashkan Soltani] argues. Collecting mountains and mountains of data simply means that when the time comes to find that proverbial needle in a haystack, you’ve simply created a bigger haystack.”Law enforcement is being sold bill of goods that the more data you get, the better your security is. We find that is not true,” Soltani said.

Collecting data is a hard habit to break, as many U.S. corporations have discovered after years of expensive data breaches. The NSA’s data hoard may be useful in future investigations, helping agents in the future in unpredictable ways, some argue. Schneier doesn’t buy it.

“The NSA has this fetish for data, and will get it any way they can, and get as much as they can,” he said. “But old ladies who hoard newspapers say the same thing, that someday, this might be useful.”

Even worse, an overreliance on Big Data surveillance will shift focus from other security techniques that are both less invasive and potentially more effective, like old-fashioned “spycraft,” Soltani says.

An article on Bloomberg notes that real terrorists don’t even use the normal phone service or publicly-visible portions of the web that we innocent Americans use:

The debate over the U.S. government’s monitoring of digital communications suggests that Americans are willing to allow it as long as it is genuinely targeted at terrorists. What they fail to realize is that the surveillance systems are best suited for gathering information on law-abiding citizens.

***

The infrastructure set up by the National Security Agency, however, may only be good for gathering information on the stupidest, lowest-ranking of terrorists. The Prism surveillance program focuses on access to the servers of America’s largest Internet companies, which support such popular services as Skype, Gmail and iCloud. These are not the services that truly dangerous elements typically use.

In a January 2012 report titled “Jihadism on the Web: A Breeding Ground for Jihad in the Modern Age,” the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service drew a convincing picture of an Islamist Web underground centered around “core forums.” These websites are part of the Deep Web, or Undernet, the multitude of online resources not indexed by commonly used search engines.

The Netherlands’ security service, which couldn’t find recent data on the size of the Undernet, cited a 2003 study from the University of California at Berkeley as the “latest available scientific assessment.” The study found that just 0.2 percent of the Internet could be searched. The rest remained inscrutable and has probably grown since. In 2010, Google Inc. said it had indexed just 0.004 percent of the information on the Internet.

Websites aimed at attracting traffic do their best to get noticed, paying to tailor their content to the real or perceived requirements of search engines such as Google. Terrorists have no such ambitions. They prefer to lurk in the dark recesses of the Undernet.

“People who radicalise under the influence of jihadist websites often go through a number of stages,” the Dutch report said. “Their virtual activities increasingly shift to the invisible Web, their security awareness increases and their activities become more conspiratorial.”

***

Communication on the core forums is often encrypted. In 2012, a French court found nuclear physicist Adlene Hicheur guilty of, among other things, conspiring to commit an act of terror for distributing and using software called Asrar al-Mujahideen, or Mujahideen Secrets. The program employed various cutting-edge encryption methods, including variable stealth ciphers and RSA 2,048-bit keys.

***

Even complete access to these servers brings U.S. authorities no closer to the core forums. These must be infiltrated by more traditional intelligence means, such as using agents posing as jihadists or by informants within terrorist organizations.

Similarly, monitoring phone calls is hardly the way to catch terrorists. They’re generally not dumb enough to use Verizon.

***

At best, the recent revelations concerning Prism and telephone surveillance might deter potential recruits to terrorist causes from using the most visible parts of the Internet. Beyond that, the government’s efforts are much more dangerous to civil liberties than they are to al-Qaeda and other organizations like it.

(And see this and this.)

CNN terrorism expert Peter Bergen says that mass surveillance is not needed to stop another 9/11.

Indeed, mass surveillance – which was already in place prior to 9/11hasn’t caught a single terrorist.

So why do governments want mass surveillance? Are they ignorant that it is counter-productive in stopping terrorism?

Or are they engaging in a 5,000-year old type of power grab?

Washington’s Blog

Advertisers, Feds Want Data Automakers Collect From High-Tech Cars

InfoWars
by KIT DANIELS

Data reveals when a car carrying a child is passing by McDonald’s and when a driver is speeding

tracking cars
Image Credit: NHTSA (Public domain)

Advertisers, tech companies and the government want the data automakers collect from their customer’s cars.

Every BMW rolling off the assembly line, for example, collects data on location, speed, acceleration and even the weight of the passengers in the car, and the data is so comprehensive, it could tell advertisers when a car carrying a child is passing by a McDonald’s and it could also tell the government when a driver is speeding.

“There’s plenty of people out there saying: ‘give us all the data you’ve got and we can tell you what we can do with it’,” he told the Financial Times. “And we’re saying: ‘No thank you’.”

But given time, the data will likely be taken through a hack attack, a business deal or government pressure.

For one thing, ever-expanding governments are always looking for more funding, especially as gas tax revenues continue to fall with the price of oil.

If they could ticket a driver for speeding every time it happens according to GPS, governments could increase ticket revenue tenfold while saving money on police.

“We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it,” Ford’s global vice president, Jim Farley, said at a recent trade show. “We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing.”

The government has already forced automakers to put black boxes in new cars.

“Way back in 2006, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandated that all new vehicles be equipped with EDR ‘black boxes’ by the 2013 model year,” Darlene Storm of Computer World reported. “Eighty-five percent of U.S. vehicles now have EDR devices that ‘must capture and preserve at least 15 types of crash data, including pre-crash speed, engine throttle, changes in forward velocity and airbag deployment times.’”

But governments yearn for real-time data. Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it wanted new vehicles to have trackable GPS “safety” devices known as vehicle-to-vehicle communications which could easily track drivers.

One government official involved in the proposal admitted hackers could abuse the system to create mass havoc on the road.

“Who has access and how do you secure the data?” David Wise of the Government Accountability Office asked.

Real time data can also be collected through toll tags, which several state governments are already doing.

For example, both the New York City Department of Transportation and Transcom, a traffic management agency, admitted that for nearly 20 years they have been using antennas to connect to E-ZPass toll tags in vehicles traveling not just in New York but neighboring states as well.

“We’re being watched in ways that I think none of us would have imagined,” the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Donna Lieberman, told WBGO.org. “It’s happening without any public scrutiny, without any decision that’s consistent with checks and balances.”

InfoWars

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