Saturday, December 14, 2013

Privacy Invaded... (Update 2/17/13 Below Original Post)

by: Les Carpenter
Rational Nation USA
Liberty -vs- Tyranny

Francisco Seco/AP - In this October 2013 file photo, a man looks at his cellphone as he walks on the street in downtown Madrid. The NSA’s ability to crack cellphone encryption used by the majority of cellphones in the world offers it wide-ranging powers to listen in on private conversations.

Big Brother is Watching You. Now Big Brother is soon to be able to be Listening to You as well, via your cell phone.

As America approaches the Land of the UN-Free.

Thanking the insidious fascist element in politics and government.

The Washington Post - The cellphone encryption technology used most widely across the world can be easily defeated by the National Security Agency, an internal document shows, giving the agency the means to decode most of the billions of calls and texts that travel over public airwaves every day.

While the military and law enforcement agencies long have been able to hack into individual cellphones, the NSA’s capability appears to be far more sweeping because of the agency’s global signals collection operation. The agency’s ability to crack encryption used by the majority of cellphones in the world offers it wide-ranging powers to listen in on private conversations.

U.S. law prohibits the NSA from collecting the content of conversations between Americans without a court order. But experts say that if the NSA has developed the capacity to easily decode encrypted cellphone conversations, then other nations likely can do the same through their own intelligence services, potentially to Americans’ calls, as well.

Encryption experts have complained for years that the most commonly used technology, known as A5/1, is vulnerable and have urged providers to upgrade to newer systems that are much harder to crack. Most companies worldwide have not done so, even as controversy has intensified in recent months over NSA collection of cellphone traffic, including of such world leaders as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The extent of the NSA’s collection of cellphone signals and its use of tools to decode encryption are not clear from a top-secret document provided by former contractor Edward Snowden. But it states that the agency “can process encrypted A5/1” even when the agency has not acquired an encryption key, which unscrambles communications so that they are readable.


The NSA has repeatedly stressed that its data collection efforts are aimed at overseas targets, whose legal protections are much lower than U.S. citizens’. When questioned for this story, the agency issued a statement, saying: “Throughout history nations have used encryption to protect their secrets, and today terrorists, cyber criminals, human traffickers and others also use technology to hide their activities. The Intelligence Community tries to counter that in order to understand the intent of foreign adversaries and prevent them from bringing harm to Americans and allies.”

German news magazine Der Spiegel reported in October that a listening station atop the U.S. Embassy in Berlin allowed the NSA to spy on Merkel’s cellphone calls. It also reported that the NSA’s Special Collection Service runs similar operations from 80 U.S. embassies and other government facilities worldwide. These revelations — and especially reports about eavesdropping on the calls of friendly foreign leaders — have caused serious diplomatic fallouts for the Obama administration.


Collecting cellphone signals has become such a common tactic for intelligence, military and law enforcement work worldwide that several companies market devices specifically for that purpose.

Some are capable of mimicking cell towers to trick individual phones into directing all communications to the interception devices in a way that automatically defeats encryption. USA Today reported Monday that at least 25 police departments in the United States own such devices, the most popular of which go by the brand name Harris StingRay. Experts say they are in widespread use by governments overseas, as well.

Even more common, however, are what experts call “passive” collection devices, in which cell signals are secretly gathered by antennas that do not mimic cellphone towers or connect directly with individual phones. These systems collect signals that are then decoded in order for the content of the calls or texts to be understood by analysts.


Even with strong encryption, the protection exists only from a phone to the cell tower, after which point the communications are decrypted for transmission on a company’s internal data network. Interception is possible on those internal links, as The Washington Post reported last week. Leading technology companies, including Google and Microsoft, have announced plans in recent months to encrypt the links between their data centers to better protect their users from government surveillance and criminal hackers.

While the larger focus of this article is actually to do with increased surveillance opportunities to spy on companies and nations the question for me is... Can we really trust OUR government to respect OUR privacy and NOT LISTEN IN ON our personal conversations. I am a skeptic and the affliction seems to only be growing stronger. I for one decidedly DO NOT trust our government.

Via: Memeorandum

Update December 17,2013

From the The New York Times opinion pages. Spot on and a word of warning for ALL Americans concerned with privacy rights.

For the first time since the revelation of the National Security Agency’s vast dragnet of all Americans’ telephone records, a federal court has ruled that such surveillance is “significantly likely” to be unconstitutional.

In a scathing 68-page opinion peppered with exclamations of incredulity, United States District Judge Richard Leon, of the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia, found that the seven-year-old phone-data collection program — which was established under the Patriot Act and has been repeatedly reauthorized by a secret intelligence court — “almost certainly” violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches.

Reaching into the 18th century from the 21st, the judge wrote that James Madison “would be aghast” at the degree of privacy invasion the data sweep represents.

The ruling by Judge Leon, who was nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, was remarkable for many reasons, but mainly because there were real people sitting in open court challenging the government’s lawyers over the program’s constitutionality.

The plaintiffs, led by Larry Klayman, a conservative legal activist, sued the government after the program came to light. A similar suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union is in a federal court in New York.

Judge Leon’s opinion took issue with the government’s reliance on a 1979 Supreme Court case, Smith v. Maryland, which upheld the police’s warrantless capture of phone numbers dialed from the home of a robbery suspect on grounds that the suspect had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the numbers he dialed.

But the N.S.A.’s phone-surveillance program is “a far cry” from what the court considered in 1979, Judge Leon wrote.[Continue Reading]

Great news for all concerned with privacy rights. Government indeed has a reasonable and proper role in our lives. Such role includes, but is not limited to, insuring the enforcement of laws that insure a citizens right to safety as well as the right to the civil right to privacy.

I am heartened by the news that it is conservatives that are taking this action in court. What concerns me, given recent prior realities is this; Is this going to be a long term all inclusive effort or is it simply targeted to short term goals that are intended to have a positive impaction the republican party in the near term. Only time wil tell, and time i something us humans have a limited supply of.

Via: Memeorandum


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Corrected: "It doesn't look like a good situation, especially when you combine situations of the NSA privacy scandals, and the recent scandal of the IRS harassing people for speaking out on issues (more so when they speak out against the administration).

    "Can we really trust OUR government..."

    Unlike some, I believe that their should be limits to the privileges of those in government, and the fact that some of them face election from time to time is no reason to be fooled into thinking that they are "us", and that they always act in our interest and do what is best for us. The Bill of Rights and other similar documents and principles provide a guide to limiting what the government can be trusted to do when the government's interest conflicts with that of the governed.

  3. Ya' know, something just occured to me. Isn't all of this TMI all the way around? For instance, much like computer viruses, couldn't ne'erdowells just come up with code speak for things that the government would always be on the following defensive to interpret? I mean, good luck spotting the assassin in the crowd, let alone in a trillion tweets. Sure, you could have a billions eyes on those trillion tweeks, but is it worth it?

    All that aside, I'm a little confused about how people view all this. Libertarians, of the civil variety and some others, are always against stuff like this. But then I see a comment like dmarks' above, and I'm not so sure how some other people see this. Isn't this just a natural extension of the Police State conservatives so strongly support without question? Didn't they always used to say, "But hey, if you're not doing anything wrong, then what do you care?" I guess it would clear things up if the conservatives react to the next Republican President the same way, when he or she invariably utilizes these sweeping surveillances, or worse.

    Obama would like this reined in, while he uses it, and history would regard him greatly if he did, but he does face that ol' political reality: If it doesn't directly and bodily affect them, Americans really don't care. We are so caught up in our delusional individuality, broader civil issues just have no use for us. I hope Obama takes advantage of some of this new-found conservative angst over the police state and does something about this before his term ends. If he doesn't the precedent may be finally and officially set.

    Another thing, if the government is going to collect all this data, and hardly anyone cares at all (this good company excepted), let's let mathematicians in there and get some studies out of all this. We could learn a lot. Maybe if we're simply all more open, and the government is watching, maybe the government will be more open too.

    Just a thought.


    1. "Isn't this just a natural extension of the Police State conservatives so strongly support without question? Didn't they always used to say, "But hey, if you're not doing anything wrong, then what do you care?"

      Yes jmj this is a natural extension of the statist big brother police state mentality. A mentality that is at this point shared by both sides of the political aisle.

      As to what do you have to worry about if you're not doing anything wrong? Well, that is valid, until the ever advancing police state and big brother statist government encroaches onto liberties until it effects YOU, your lifestyle, and you family. At that point you WILL CARE. Unfortunately it may then be TOO late as your liberties will have been SLOWLY forfeited to the STATE. You know, the STATE that is supposed to work for you and protect your individual liberties.

      Now, after many years of observation and study I must disagree with dmarks. The conservative/republican agenda has morphed from being the party of liberty into being the greatest threat to our liberties. I know you hate Ayn Rand, and presumably Professor Leonard Peikoff by extension but both were saying this 30 and 40 years ago. I highly recommend "The Ominous Parallels" by Leonard Peikoff.

      The right wing that holds Rand and Peikoff up as heroes today apparently doesn't know their history of opposing right wing fascism. And sometime the left's position simply astounds me with respect to these advocates of liberty and opposition to he statist polie state mentality.

      Go figure. Oh yeah, they hates socialism and Communism as well. I guess that is the answer.

    2. Not sure who that part was aimed at, but my views on Rand have changed a lot over the past year or two. Piekoff I am totally ignorant about.

    3. The police state has long since gone completely out of control, and Americans still don't care because it's the poor who've born the brunt of it. You guys are rightfully upset with the electronic surveillance state, but a long-standing mass police state oppressively intrudes on the lives of tens of millions of Americans every day for years now. We have a prison system that is a national tragedy, millions of permanently disenfranchised outside it, and a security state that has long gone past the point of return to sanity.

      I'm glad people are railing against this, but the bigger monster, the monster that created all this, is still with us - fear.


  4. Conservatives no more support this Police State without question than liberals, Jersey. The left has always advanced it as well. There is no evidence that Obama wants it "reigned in". He has chosen to make it worse in several his predecessors did.

    1. dmarks, it's hard to think of you and Chomsky agreeing on anything but on this one you actually do - - along with Chris Hedges and the ACLU.

    2. Will, Chomsky's "war criminal" claims are always overblown (very much so), considering his support then denial of Pol Pot's actions. But it does drive home my point that on these matters, Obama is worse than Bush (who was worse than Clinton, who was worse than the Bush before, etc etc). Jersey's attempt to make partisan hay out of this isn't fooling anyone, anyway: to further the hay analogy, the Jersey cow is in an empty pasture this time.

    3. It is the conservative voter, dmarks, to whom the Fear State is aimed. Without them, there'd be little support for the ridiculous Security State we have today.


    4. ...other than from those in the Left, who also vote for and expand it.

  5. Looks like the NSA took a hit from the court today.

    Will this slow them down until the next whistle blower.
    Also news implying Snowden has some really explosive stuff.

    But the "if you have done nothing wrong ... " crowd will continue their apathy
    as the culture becomes eve more hostile to protest and by extension, change.
    It's a Democrat problem too, Jersey. If you can call scum like Diane Feinstein
    (D - Room 101) a Democrat. Unfortunately these days that isn't far fetched.

    Representative Democracy is so far up the junction and few seem to care.

  6. She's as Democratic Party as they come, Ducky. But I do agree with your post. BTW good job telling those guys at AOW in the pointed white hoods what dunces they were.

  7. Agreed Ducky.

    Guess I better get over to AOW's, love it when I read somebody setting dunces and bigots straight.

  8. RN: Just a couple of neo confederates over there who argued that slavery in the old South was better than freedom... including how well treated they were. The claim was also made that the slaves should have been kept in bondage because where would they go otherwise? The lack of Walmarts in the antebellum South was part of their argument.

  9. I heard the NSA was considering some kind of amnesty deal to get Snowden back - and quiet. Hmmm...


    1. Gee, if true I would not be one bit surprised.


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