Tuesday, August 07, 2007


"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
~ Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution.

There's some important news for those of you who use the Internet--and that would be everyone reading this post.

Before the rats in Congress fled the sinking ship for their summer break, they signed into law a bill that will turn US Internet and phone systems into a massive surveillance system. This is scheduled to go into effect in six months.

You can read the details at Wired but here are the highlights of the new law:

The law:

* Defines the act of reading and listening into American's phone calls and internet communications when they are "reasonably believed" to be outside the country as not surveillance.

* Gives the government 6 months of extended powers to issue orders to "communication service providers," to help with spying that "concerns persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States." The language doesn't require the surveillance to only target people outside the United States, only that some of it does.

* Forces Communication Service providers to comply secretly, though they can challenge the orders to the secret Foreign Intelligence Court. Individuals or companies given such orders will be paid for their cooperation and can not be sued for complying.

* Makes any program or orders launched in the next six months [ . . . ] last for a year after being authorized

* Grandfathers in the the current secret surveillance program -- sometimes referred to as the Terrorist Surveillance Program -- and any others that have been blessed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

* Requires the Attorney General to submit to the secret surveillance court its reasons why these programs aren't considered domestic spying programs, but the court can only throw out those reasons if it finds that they are "clearly erroneous."

* Requires the Attorney General to tell Congress twice a year about any incidents of surveillance abuse and give statistics about how many surveillance programs were started and how many directives were issued.

* Makes no mention of the Inspector General, who uncovered abuses of the Patriot Act by the FBI after being ordered by Congress to audit the use of powerful self-issued subpoenas, is not mentioned in the bill.

In short, the law gives the Administration the power to order the nation's communication service providers -- which range from Gmail, AOL IM, Twitter, Skype, traditional phone companies, ISPs, internet backbone providers, Federal Express, and social networks -- to create possibly permanent spying outposts for the federal government.

These outposts need only to have a "significant" purpose of spying on foreigners, would be nearly immune to challenge by lawsuit, and have no court supervision over their extent or implementation.

The only one to keep watch over this surveillance system will be the Department of Justice which, if anyone can keep up with the scandals involving the DOJ and the US Attorney General, is something akin to having a hungry fox guard the hen house.

The best part of the article was the comparison of the US leadership to the leadership of Zimbabwe:

In related international news, Zimbabwe's repressive dictator Robert Mugabe also won passage of a law allowing the government to turn that nation's communication infrastructure into a gigantic, secret microphone.

How very appropriate. The Fourth Amendment is dead; expect the First to follow shortly.

While you're at it, check out how this guy hacked a coded chip in the new biometric passports thus effectively sabotaging passport readers. In fact, with the right hack, you can really screw things up for the fascists.

We need more hackers.

Check out the parakeet at DozaMe. This avian apocu is just the right colors and needs only a small red star tattooed on her breast.

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