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[infowar.de] Bamford über NSA: Spooked, and trading on fear
Natürlich ist Bamford nicht der einzige, der über die NSA geschrieben hat.
Nicky Hager hat als erster in "Secret Powerr" über Echelon publiziert, das
Buch ist allerdings vergriffen.
PS: Ich bin ab morgen auf dem CCC-Congress in Berlin, vielleicht sieht man
sich ja dort.
Spooked, and trading on fear
By Nathan Cochrane
September 10 2002
The West is pitching into the maw of a perfect storm of total surveillance
unless the security-industrial complex is curbed, according to the
foremost chronicler of the world's most powerful spy agency.
James Bamford, New York Times best-selling author of the only two books on
America's ultra-secret National Security Agency (NSA), says entrepreneurs
jumping on the government gravy train of crypto contracts post-September
11 imperil civil liberties.
He warns communications interception by government, known as signals
intelligence, or SIGINT, is becoming big business with people's freedom as
Bamford says the NSA and our equivalent Defence Signals Directorate (DSD)
"essentially operate as one".
"Before September 11 there wasn't much incentive for companies to develop
high-tech spying and surveillance equipment for the government and sell it
to the public. Now there's enormous incentive," he says. "The Office of
Homeland Defense is getting $US40 billion ($A73 billion). What was once a
fairly restricted area for law enforcement, now all these companies are
getting into it because they see the gold at the end of the rainbow."
In June, to speed its passage through the Senate, the Australian
Government removed provisions in its Telecommunications Interception Bill
that would have widened its scope to access data stored in transit on
servers or on computers. If passed, it would have allowed government
agencies such as the Defence Signals Directorate a greatly expanded
ability to snoop on e-mails, mobile phone SMS and voice mail systems. The
government plans to reintroduce the deleted parts of the bill by the end
of the year.
Bamford says such a move could lead to an international cyber secret
police - without courts, juries, or the right to a defence - as hysteria,
fuelled by billions of dollars of Western government contracts, takes hold.
"The problem is it's a perfect storm coming," Bamford says. "The Bush
administration (is) focusing enormously on secrecy, so you don't know what
they're doing. There's a semi-hysteria over terrorism that allows them to
get pretty much anything they want from Congress and there's enormous
technical capabilities for misuse.
"It's not unprecedented - it happened during the Nixon administration
where Nixon become paranoid over domestic anti-war protesters and focused
illegally on American citizens."
In 1945, US Government SIGINT operatives met with representatives of the
three main telegraph companies - ITT World Communications, Western Union
International and RCA Global (both now part of MCI Worldcom) - starting
Operation Shamrock, a 30-year illegal coordinated program to spy on the
electronic communications of American citizens. The telegraph companies
each night packaged up the day's transmissions and handed them to
operatives who sent them to NSA headquarters in Virginia for analysis.
During the Vietnam War the NSA used the information gathered to compile a
watch-list (Codeword: MINARET) of more than 600 "dangerous" Americans,
including folksinger Joan Baez, paediatrican Benjamin Spock, actress Jane
Fonda and civil rights campaigner Dr Martin Luther King. The NSA claims in
1974 it destroyed files on more than 75,000 other Americans it illegally
collected during Shamrock.
Shamrock and MINARET came to an end only in 1975 when they were uncovered
by the Church Committee, the US Senate Select Committee into spy agencies.
But civil liberties safeguards added after the exposure are being stripped
away in the hysteria over terrorism. And a return to the bad old days of
IT and telecommunications companies deputised by government to spy on
their customers is here, Bamford fears.
For instance, in Britain a bill that would require ISPs to retain detailed
records of their customers' activities is under consideration.
"The key issue should be if a subpoena is issued by an independent judge
(business) should comply with it," Bamford says.
"But there should be a lot of resistance for unilateral cooperation
without judicial involvement."
The worst-case scenario is that the war on terrorism leads to a global
police state in which our every move is surveilled, he says.
"Today, most communications go through the ether and are easily
interceptible - anything," he says.
"People send love letters through e-mail, confidential contracts, and all
that information is available through interception.
"Also cell phones - all that information that might have gone through a
landline goes through the air."
But SIGINT is interested in more than communications in motion. "Now
there's a new idea of going after information at rest - databases, hard
drives, disks, things that are stored with lots of memory on them,"
In one scenario, popular software such as filesharing tools, operating
systems, or office software, and viruses, could carry payloads to bug PCs.
Software such as Magic Lantern, which captures keystrokes before they can
be encrypted and flashes these back to a spy agency, are already deployed.
A danger Bamford sees is that once this sort of technology is sold to the
government, it will also be offered for private sale to the public,
leading to a security arms race.
However, so much information can also be a disadvantage to the spooks -
finding a signal in the noise is more difficult. Surveillance agencies
have become so reliant on powerful supercomputers - most big advances in
computing and networking can be traced back to SIGINT and the need to
decode messages - that any service interruption is potentially fatal.
In February, 2000, computers at the NSA's Louis Tordella Supercomputer
Centre crashed for four days, with all intercepts handballed for analysis
to its British partner, the Government Communications Headquarters.
"It shows you the frailness to some degree of their IT - that the snap of
one piece of software can basically destroy the entire system," Bamford says.
Also, more information is passing over optical fibre networks, which are
more difficult to tap than satellite transmissions. The National Security
Agency has short-circuited this trend by poaching skills from the
companies who built the Internet.
"The NSA hired people from companies such as Cisco Systems, and these are
people who built the Internet infrastructure in the first place, and then
they go to work for the NSA and lay out the blueprint for how to tap into
the Internet. They reverse-engineer, find out how the system works and
work out how to use the information."
James Bamford is the author of Body Of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra
Secret National Security Agency, published by Random House.
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