Thursday, June 1

FCC Is Part Of Spy Network

Telephone companies have been required since 1994 to make any new equipment installed on their network wiretap-friendly. The law,the U.S. Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act or CALEA, is what officials are trying to require ISP's to adhere to.

(Wired) The Department of Justice, ever eager for opportunities to plug law enforcement into the internet at the most basic levels, claims that ISPs, like telephone companies, are communications services, on grounds that instant messaging, VOIP and e-mail constitute a significant replacement for traditional telecommunications.

The FCC is in complete agreement with the Justice Department, and has issued its demand for compliance by May 14, 2007. The case, currently on appeal, is pending in a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., where, comically, one judge characterized the FCC's legal arguments as "gobbledygook." Thus it's possible that only VOIP services that use the public switched telephone network will be covered by the CALEA, leaving peer-to-peer VOIP outfits and ISPs in the clear. A decision should arrive in a few months' time.
It should come as no surprise that there are conventions for companies that enable governments, universities and businesses to spy on people. So when Thomas Greene from Wired sat down with some of these vendors, he got some pretty interesting responses.
"This is the equipment of totalitarianism, and the only things that can keep a population safe are decent law and proper oversight. I want to know what they think when they learn that China, or Syria, or Zimbabwe is getting their hands on it."

"You really need to educate yourself," he insisted. "Do you think this stuff doesn't happen in the West? Let me tell you something. I sell this equipment all over the world, especially in the Middle East. I deal with buyers from Qatar, and I get more concern about proper legal procedure from them than I get in the USA."

"Well, perhaps the Qataris are conscientious," I said, "and I'm prepared to take your word on that, but there are seriously oppressive governments out there itching to get hold of this stuff."

He sneered again. "Do you think for a minute that Bush would let legal issues stop him from doing surveillance? He's got to prevent a terrorist attack that everyone knows is coming. He'll do absolutely anything he thinks is going to work. And so would you. So why are you bothering these guys?"

"It's a valid question," I insisted. "This is powerful stuff. In the wrong hands, it could ruin political opponents; it could make the state's power impossible to challenge. The state would know basically everything. People would be getting rounded up for thought crimes."

"You're not listening," he said. "The NSA is using this stuff. The DEA, the Secret Service, the CIA. Are you kidding me? They don't answer to you. They do whatever the hell they want with it. Are you really that naive? Now leave these guys alone; they make a product, that's all. It's nothing to them what happens afterward. You really need to educate yourself."
Capitalism at it's finest, no morals just dollars!