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Enemy of the State

Enemy Of The State
(See online!)

Will Smith, who has done nothing wrong, accidentally winds up in possession of proof of crimes by a powerful person in the government. To recover the evidence, the "big bad" deems Smith a national threat and the NSA hunts him with advanced surveillance such as public cameras, debit card access logs, and tracking devices.

This movie speaks to the power of vast data and monitoring systems and how a very small handful of people can target and destroy anyone using these systems. While these threats are mostly theoretical at this point, it's important to make sure that government capabilities are limited and accountability strict.

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Australian Government Getting Worse and Worse

(Image is used under the Pixabay license)

Australia has so much Big Brother nastiness going on, sometimes they make even the UK look tame!

The newest development comes where the government is demanding service providers to store all e-mail and possibly web browsing history for all its subjects citizens.

According to the directive, where internet access is concerned, this means the ISPs must retain the user ID of users, email addresses of senders and recipients of email, the date and time that users logged on and off from a service, and their IP address — whether dynamic or static applied to their user ID.

Like most ideas of this nature, it's sold with a plausible premise of catching criminals, but if innocent people are to accept such an invasion, it must first be shown that:

  1. The data actually DOES help catch bad guys.
  2. The data won't be abused and misused by the government.

In the US, we fail most consistently on the second. I don't know, but I'm going to guess that Australia's track record isn't a lot better.

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UK To Turn Anti-Terror Technology Against Citizens

We'll be watching you...

For whatever reason, the future proposed in the movie V for Vendetta seems to be approaching every day in the UK.

From the Guardian:

Police in the UK are planning to use unmanned spy drones, controversially deployed in Afghanistan, for the ­"routine" monitoring of antisocial motorists, ­protesters, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers, in a significant expansion of covert state surveillance.

The UK is constantly in the news for gathering data on its citizens into databases so this comes as no surprise, but it's like watching your beloved sibling descending into drug addiction and homelessness. We can offer the people of the UK a safer place to live (for now anyway), but as far as the government's over-reaching dictatorship tendencies, all we can do is advise and hope for the best.

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V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta
(See online!)

Summary

In the near future, the UK has come under oppressive rule by its own government that put the people of the country under their boot. Undesirables like dissidents, homosexuals, or anyone that would speak openly of dissatisfaction is taken away in the night and never seen again. Meanwhile, a strange masked hero takes on the entire regime by blowing up a public building and threatening to destroy the house of parliament in one year's time.

Lessons

  • A society that gives up its privacy and rights can become dark and broken and may never regain them.
  • With enough technology and complete media control, a very small number of people can subvert and control an entire nation.
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More Spying

(Image is in the Public Domain)

But will anything be done this time? That's the question.

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NSA Cryptokids Get a Taste of Privacy Invasion

Y.R. Tap - The reject Cryptokid

The NSA has been working on their public image and trying to market itself as a cool place to work partially with their "Cryptokids" campaign. Their goal is to teach kids about what the NSA does in a fun, kid-friendly way.

But that's not what I'm posting about.

I ran across this interesting comic about the unpopular little-know cryptokid, Y.R. Tap, the NSA domestic spying fly. The fly shows the Cryptokids what can happen when civil liberties are violated.

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Schneier Covers Newest Lost Laptop, For TSA CLEAR Program

Whoops.
(Image is in the Public Domain)

The TSA's CLEAR program where people can spend $100 to be "pre-screened" at airports and bypass security had a security hit recently when a laptop (doesn't this get old) with customer data was stolen.

Well gosh, how could they ever have seen that coming?

Anyway, Schneier covers the story and links to the TSA's response as well as taking a moment to denounce the program again along with most of what the TSA is doing for airport security. Since I've met the privacy officer for the TSA and know he knows what he's doing, the only reason I can come up with for this is that they're not listening to him when he's telling them not to put this kind of data on laptops unencrypted.

Update 8/7/08 – Looks like they found it.
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Schneier And U.S. Government Policy for Seizing Laptops at Borders

Give us your laptop. Or else.
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

Schneier covers the recently released US policy for laptop seizure:

The U.S. government has published its policy: they can take your laptop anywhere they want, for as long as they want, and share the information with anyone they want
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Telecom Immunity Passed. Liberty Dies a Little More

Justice lacking
(Image is in the Public Domain)
In Senate debate, Patrick Leahy (D-VT) argued strongly against telecom immunity, because it would make it almost impossible to ever find out what really happened and "the American people ought to know who in the White House said, 'Go break the law.'" Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) noted that, "We're considering granting immunity when roughly 70 members of the Senate still have not been briefed on the president's wiretapping program. The vast majority of this body still does not even know what we're being asked to grant immunity for."
These were the protests that smarter senators made before the vote. They were ignored. The "FISA update" including immunity was passed yesterday.
"I sit on the intelligence and Judiciary committees, and I am one of the few members of this body who has been fully briefed on the warrantless wiretapping program," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), another prominent opponent. "I can promise that if more information is declassified about the program in the future, as is likely to happen . . . members of this body will regret that we passed this legislation."
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Congressional Neanderthals Mess Up Big

(Image is in the Public Domain)

Yesterday the House passed a FISA amendment act which includes a provision shielding telecommunications companies from any liability. In the coverage of the situation by Ars Technica, they were able to quote Nacy Pelosi as being an idiot:

(Bold text in parenthesis is mine)
The most extended apologia came from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who urged that the compromise be judged by comparison with the Senate bill, which she characterized as the only realistic alternative (So we can't ask for a good law, only a less bad one? That's a great standard to live to). She outlined several ways in which the current legislation is preferable to the Senate's version. First, the compromise bill reasserts that FISA is the "exclusive means" for conducting electronic surveillance, which would require the president to ignore such language twice in order to launch an extralegal surveillance program, rather than only once, as under traditional FISA rules (So if the President breaks the law, now it would violate two laws instead of just one. The next time someone breaks a law, I wonder if it will result in jail time if it only breaks the law "once"). Second, it preserves prior judicial review of surveillance authorizations, except in "very, very rare" circumstances, such as when the attorney general asserts that waiting for a judge would entail delay (I think that recent history has shown how much we can trust to the "rarity" of the Attorney General approving anything a president might ask. Has she even been awake in the last decade?). Third, it contains specific provisions barring the use of authorizations targeting parties abroad as a pretext for targeting U.S. persons, presumably to be enforced by a board of psychics. Finally, it provides for an internal investigation of the extent of past surveillance, which Congress will act upon with the same legendary zeal for civil liberties it has displayed over the past seven years (Brilliantly summarized. Ars has some great writers.).

So in one day, the House voted to expand powers of the Judicial branch that they didn't need and shield their conspirators from liability against justice.

Don't get me wrong, if I got a letter from the Attorney General of the United states that required my company to do something and my lawyers said to do it, I would have and maybe that's what happened to the telcos. But if there is no accountability for the Attorney General, the President, and the involved Agencies, then the whole things tastes like Congress cooked us up some chili made of poo.

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