Times' journalist Charlie Savage reported that Mueller and the Bureau's chief counsel, Valerie Caproni, "were scheduled to meet with senior managers of several major companies, including Google and Facebook, according to several people familiar with the discussions."
Facebook's public policy manager Andrew Noyes confirmed that Mueller "is visiting Facebook during his trip to Silicon Valley;" Google, on the other hand, "declined to comment."
Last month, Antifascist Calling reported that the U.S. secret state, in a reprise of the crypto wars of the 1990s, is seeking new legislation from Congress that would "fix" the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) and further curtail our civil- and privacy rights.
When the administration floated the proposal in September, The New York Times revealed that among the "fixes" sought by the FBI and other intrusive spy satrapies, were demands that communications' providers build backdoors into their applications and networks that will give spooks trolling "encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct 'peer to peer' messaging like Skype" the means "to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages."
And with a new "security-minded" Congress set to convene in January, chock-a-block with Tea Partying "conservatives" and ultra-nationalist know-nothings, the chances that the administration will get everything they want, and then some, is a sure bet.
"All Your Data Belongs to Us"
Caproni and her cohorts, always up to the challenge when it comes to grabbing our personal data, much like pigs snuffling about a dank forest in search of truffles or those rarer, more elusive delicacies christened "actionable intelligence" by our minders, avowed that said legislative tweaks are "reasonable" and "necessary" requirements that will "prevent the erosion" of the Bureau's "investigative powers."
Never mind that the FBI, as Wired Magazine revealed three years ago, "has quietly built a sophisticated, point-and-click surveillance system that performs instant wiretaps on almost any communications device."
Security journalist Ryan Singel reported that the Bureau's Digital Collection System Network or DCS-3000, a newer iteration of the Carnivore system of the 1990s, "connects FBI wiretapping rooms to switches controlled by traditional land-line operators, internet-telephony providers and cellular companies."
Documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit revealed that the system was created to "intercept personal communications services delivered via emerging digital technologies used by wireless carriers." A second system, Red Hook, collects "voice and data calls and then process and display the intercepted information."
And never mind, as Wired also informed us, that the Bureau's "computer and internet protocol address verifier," or CIPAV, once called Magic Lantern, is a malicious piece of software, a virtual keystroke reader, that "gathers a wide range of information, including the computer's IP address; MAC address; open ports; the operating system type, version and serial number; preferred internet browser and version; the computer's registered owner and registered company name; the current logged-in user name and the last-visited URL."
Insidiously, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled at the time, since the Bureau's malware doesn't capture the content of communications, it can be conducted without a wiretap warrant, because, as our judicial guardians opined, users have "no reasonable expectation of privacy" when using the internet.
And with the secret state clamoring for the broadest possible access to our data, its become a lucrative business for greedy, I mean patriotic, ISPs who charge premium prices for services rendered in the endless "War on Terror."
Security Is Patriotic, and Profitable Too!
Last week, The Register informed us that privacy and security researcher Christopher Soghoian revealed that although "Microsoft does not charge for government surveillance of its users," Google, on the other hand "charges $25 per user."
This information was revealed in a document obtained by the intrepid activist under the Freedom of Information Act.
Soghoian, whose Slight Paranoia web site has broken any number of stories on the collusive, and patently illegal, collaboration amongst grifting telecoms, niche spy firms and the secret state, revealed in March that the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) system has already been compromised by U.S. and other intelligence agencies. (SSL is the tiny lock that appears in your browser when you log-on to an allegedly "secure" web site for banking or other online transactions.)
In a paper co-authored with researcher Sid Stamm, Certified Lies: Detecting and Defeating Government Interception Attacks Against SSL, Soghoian revealed that a "new attack" against online privacy, "the compelled certificate creation attack, in which government agencies compel a certificate authority to issue false SSL certificates that are then used by intelligence agencies to covertly intercept and hijack individuals' secure Web-based communications ... is in active use."
The latest disclosure by Soghoian uncovered evidence that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), shelled out some $6.7 million for pen registers and $6.5 million for wiretaps. While a wiretap provides law enforcers with "actual telephone or internet conversations," a pen register "merely grabs numbers and addresses that show who's doing the communicating," The Register averred.
While Microsoft doesn't charge the government for spying on their users, conveniently doing away with a messy paper trail in the process, Google receives $25 and Yahoo $29 from taxpayers for the privilege of being surveilled. Soghoian points out that "Google and Yahoo! may make more money from surveillance than they get directly from their email users. Basic Google and Yahoo! email accounts are free. Department of Justice documents show that telcos may charge as much as $2,000 for a pen register."
That 2006 report from the DoJ's Office of the Inspector General reported that to facilitate CALEA compliance, "Congress appropriated $500 million to reimburse carriers for the direct costs of modifying systems installed or deployed on or before January 1, 1995."
Ten years on, and $450 million later, the Bureau estimates that "only 10 to 20 percent of the wireline switches, and approximately 50 percent of the pre-1995 and 90 percent of the post-1995 wireless switches, respectively, have CALEA software activated and thus are considered CALEA-compliant."
Sounds like a serious crisis, right? Well, not exactly. OIG auditors averred that "we could not provide assurance on the accuracy of these estimates;" a subtle way of saying that the FBI could be ginning-up the numbers--and alleged "threats" to the heimat posed by an open internet and wireless networks.
As it turns out, this too is a proverbial red herring.
Whether or not the switches themselves are "CALEA-compliant" is a moot point since the vast majority of ISPs retain search data "in the cloud" indefinitely, just as wireless carriers cache cell phone geolocation and dialed-number data in huge data warehouses seemingly until the end of time, all readily accessible to law enforcement agencies--for a price.
Bringing the Hammer Down
The weakest link in the battle to preserve privacy rights, as Washington Technology revealed, are the corporate grifters feeding at the federal trough. What with the "cybersecurity" market the newest growth center for enterprising capitalist pirates, why bite the hand that feeds.
Couple this with the brisk private market in grabbing online users' data and selling it to the highest bidder, as The Wall Street Journal uncovered in their excellent "What They Know" series on web- and cell phone tracking, it becomes clear that profit always trumps democratic control and privacy rights.
In light of these disturbing trends, CNET News reported that "Democratic politicians are proposing a novel approach to cybersecurity: fine technology companies $100,000 a day unless they comply with directives imposed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security."
Investigative journalist Declan McCullagh informs us that legislation introduced last week by the lame duck Congress "would allow DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to levy those and other civil penalties on noncompliant companies that the government deems 'critical,' a broad term that could sweep in Web firms, broadband providers, and even software companies and search engines."
Congressional grifter Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the outgoing chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, claimed that the bill "will make our nation more secure and better positions DHS--the 'focal point for the security of cyberspace'--to fulfill its critical homeland security mission," right alongside the National Security Agency as Antifascist Calling reported last month.
Jim Harper, a policy analyst with the right-wing Cato Institute told CNET that "Congress is stepping forward to regulate something it has no idea how to regulate. It's a level of bureaucracy that actually adds nothing at all."
While Harper's assertion is accurate up to a point, he's missing the boat insofar as demands for expanded--and unregulated--authority by our political minders to access anything and everything even remotely connected to "national security," from email to web searches and from financial transactions to travel plans, is precisely the point of an electronic police state.
The bill, the Homeland Security Cyber and Physical Infrastructure Protection Act (HSCPIPA), has "other high-profile backers," including Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) and Yvette Clarke (D-NY), the outgoing chair of the Cybersecurity Subcommittee.
Last week, Antifascist Calling reported that Clarke proclaimed that "the likelihood of a cyberattack that could bring down our [electrical] grid is ... 100%. Our networks are already being penetrated as we stand here. We are already under attack."
Clarke, who raised some $267,938 in campaign contributions during the current election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org, including tens of thousands of dollars from defense and security grifters such as Honeywell International, Dell, AT&T, Raytheon, Verizon, Boeing and General Dynamics, not to mention that sterling citizen and beacon of financial transparency, Goldman Sachs.
With a straight face, she asserted: "We must stop asking ourselves 'could this happen to us' and move to a default posture that acknowledges this fact and instead asks 'what can we do to protect ourselves'?"
With the introduction of HSCPIPA, we now have our answer!
Hardly slouches themselves when it comes to feeding at the corporate security trough, Harman raked in $654,787 from firms such as Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Raytheon and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), while Thompson grabbed $584,938 from firms like SAIC, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, all of whom do yeoman's work, as readers are well aware, to "keep us safe."
While no Republicans have signed onto the bill, the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, ultra-rightist crazy, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), pulled down some $664,657 from his loyal constituents: General Dynamics, Goldman Sachs, AT&T, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, OpenSecrets told us.
King, an apologist for Bush-Obama "War on Terror" policies, told Politico earlier this month that the practice of torturing terrorism suspects "saved many, many lives." And, like his Democratic Party colleague Clarke, King avers that "cyber-spies from foreign countries have already penetrated our electrical system, mapped it and left behind software that caused disruptions and disabled our electrical system."
While neither representative has provided a shred of evidence to back their wild claims, both scrupulously avoid addressing the question of who the most egregious planetary perpetrators of "cyber espionage" actually are.
A Seamless Global Surveillance Web
In a sign that the collapsing American Empire will make new wiretap rules a cost of doing business with the greatest country that ever was, foreign governments and firms that do business in the U.S. were warned that overseas internet service providers "would have to route communications through a server on United States soil where they could be wiretapped," the Times reported.
That would certainly give our corporate grifters a leg up on the competition!
Considering that the National Security Agency's ECHELON surveillance platform, accused by the European Parliament in their 2001 report of filching communications from EU businesses and passing them on to corporate "friends," I'm sure they'll just smile and suck it up.
According to the report, the NSA routinely used the program for corporate and industrial espionage and that information was turned over to American firms for their financial advantage.
For example, EU investigators discovered that ECHELON spies had "lifted...all the faxes and phone calls" between the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus and Saudi Arabian Airlines. The information gleaned was then used by two American companies, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, to outflank their Airbus rivals and win a $6 billion contract. Investigators also found that the French company Thomson-CSF lost a $1.3 billion satellite deal to Raytheon the same way.
Similarly, the new communications spying regime proposed by the FBI also has a long and sordid history. In January, investigative journalist Nicky Hager reported that under terms of New Zealand's 2004 Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Act, "a basic interception warrant ... allows them access to all your emails, internet browsing, online shopping or dating, calls, texts and location for mobile phones, and much more--all delivered almost instantaneously to the surveillance agencies."
Sound familiar? It should, since the template for global driftnet spying originated deep in the bowels of the UKUSA Security Agreement and the National Security Agency, the dark Pentagon entity that created ECHELON.
Hager, the author of Secret Power, first blew the lid off ECHELON in a 1996 piece for Covert Action Quarterly. He revealed that the origins of New Zealand's new system "can be traced back 10 years to when British researchers uncovered European Union police documents planning exactly the same sort of surveillance system in Europe."
That secret plan Hager reports, "known as Enfopol 98 ... aimed to create 'a seamless web of telecommunications surveillance' across Europe, and involved EU nations adopting 'International User Requirements for Interception', to standardise surveillance capabilities."
Who, pray tell, was in the thick of this nasty business? According to Hager, European researchers discovered "that the moves followed 'a five-year lobbying exercise by American agencies such as the FBI'."
Hager tells us, that similar to moves inside the United States, the island nation's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) forced through legislation that empowered spooks "to catch ... communications, including people using overseas-based email or other services, all the local communications networks are wired up as well, to monitor messages en route overseas."
The origin of these intrusive measures, Hager reports, are the series of conferences, first hosted by the FBI-run International Law Enforcement Telecommunications Seminar (ILETS) beginning in the mid-1990s.
According to the document posted by the secrecy-shredding web site Cryptome, international snoops averred that "Law enforcement agencies require access to all interception subjects operating temporarily or permanently within a telecommunications system," and that "Law enforcement agencies require a real-time, full-time monitoring capability for the interception of telecommunications. Call associated data should also be provided in real-time."
Fast forward a decade and we learn, Hager writes, that alongside the United States "New Zealand is integrated into the 'seamless web of telecommunications surveillance' around the globe--a system which from the start had primarily been about US agencies wanting surveillance capabilities beyond their borders."
Thus the secret state's desire, as The New York Times reported, for legislative authority demanding that foreign citizens and firms route their overseas communications through U.S. servers "where they could be wiretapped."
And with the latest push for "total information awareness"--data retention--looming ever-larger on the horizon, ISPs and wireless carriers "are forced by government to store all their customers' emails, texts, internet use and phone data...making them available to police and spy agencies to trawl for people's past correspondence and activities."
"These developments" Hager writes, "have been introduced quietly. Neither the government nor the phone and internet companies are keen to advertise their Big Brotherish activities."
Now the repressive American domestic intelligence agency that brought us COINTELPRO, targets the antiwar movement for "special handling" and gives "aid and comfort" to international terrorists like al-Qaeda triple agent, the false-flag specialist Ali Mohamed, is lobbying internet firms Facebook and Google in a bid to expand their onerous surveillance powers.
As the American Civil Liberties Union pointed out last week in their denunciation of the FBI's sought-after legislation, "this proposal isn't simply applying the same sort of wiretap system we have for phones to the Internet; it would require reconfiguring and changing the nature of the Internet."
Laura W. Murphy, the Director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office said they "remain very concerned that this proposal is a clear recipe for abuse and will make it that much easier for the government to gain access to our most personal information."
"Americans," Murphy averred, "should not simply surrender their privacy and other fundamental values in the name of national security."
And with a growing revolt over egregious sexual assaults and virtual strip searches by Transportation Security Agency goons threatening to break out amongst air travelers, including calls to resist being bombarded with ionizing radiation and humiliating TSA "pat-downs," are we on the cusp of a more generalized rebellion against the capitalist surveillance state?
Last week, The Washington Post reported that CYBERCOM "is seeking authority to carry out computer network attacks around the globe to protect U.S. interests." Leaving aside the thorny question of whose interests are being "protected" here, the Post tells us that unnamed administration lawyers are "uncertain about the legality of offensive operations."
Coming from a government that's incorporated the worst features of the previous regime into their repertoire, that's rather rich.
"The CIA has argued," the Post informs, "that such action is covert, which is traditionally its turf." Pentagon thrill-kill specialists beg to differ, asserting that "offensive operations are the province of the military and are part of its mission to counter terrorism, especially when, as one official put it, 'al-Qaeda is everywhere'."
That certainly covers a lot of ground! As a practical matter it also serves as a convenient justification--or pretext, take your pick--for our minders in Ft. Meade, Langley or Cheltenham to consummate much in the mischief department.
And with alarmist media reports bombarding us every day with dire scenarios, reminiscent of the "weapons of mass destruction" spook show that preceded the Iraq invasion, where China, Iran, Russia and North Korea are now stand-ins for "Saddam" in the cyberwar Kabuki dance, it is hardly surprising that "liberal" Democrats and "conservative" Republicans are marching in lockstep.
InfoSecurity reported last week that during a recent Manhattan conference, Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) proclaimed that "the likelihood of a cyberattack that could bring down our [electrical] grid is ... 100%. Our networks are already being penetrated as we stand here. We are already under attack. We must stop asking ourselves 'could this happen to us' and move to a default posture that acknowledges this fact and instead asks 'what can we do to protect ourselves'?"
Why cede even more control to the secret state and their corporate partners who stand to make a bundle in the latest iteration of the endless "War on Terror" (Cyber Edition), of course!
An Offensive Brief
Despite all the hot air about protecting critical infrastructure and the mil.com domain, the offensive nature of Pentagon planning is written into Cyber Command's DNA.
As Antifascist Calling reported in April, the organization's aggressive posture is writ large in several Air Force planning documents. In a 2006 presentation to the Air Force Cyber Task Force for example, A Warfighting Domain: Cyberspace, Dr. Lani Kass asserted that "Cyber is a war-fighting domain. The electromagnetic spectrum is the maneuver space. Cyber is the United States' Center of Gravity--the hub of all power and movement, upon which everything else depends. It is the Nation's neural network."
Kass averred that "Cyber superiority is the prerequisite to effective operations across all strategic and operational domains--securing freedom from attack and freedom to attack."
Accordingly, she informed her audience that "Cyber favors the offensive," and that the transformation of the electromagnetic spectrum into a "warfighting domain" will be accomplished by: "Strategic Attack directly at enemy centers of gravity; Suppression of Enemy Cyber Defenses; Offensive Counter Cyber; Defensive Counter Cyber; Interdiction."
Two years later, the Strategic Vision unveiled by the Air Force disclosed that the purpose for standing up a dedicated cyber command is to "deceive, deny, disrupt, degrade, and destroy" an adversary's information infrastructure.
Air Force theorists averred that since "the confluence of globalization, economic disparities, and competition for scarce resources" pose significant challenges for the U.S. Empire, all the more pressing in light of capitalism's on-going economic crisis, an offensive cyber posture must move rapidly beyond the theoretical plane.
Echoing Kass, and in order to get a leg-up on the competition, we were told that "controlling cyberspace is the prerequisite to effective operations across all strategic and operational domains--securing freedom from attack and freedom to attack."
Shortly thereafter, Air Force Col. Charles W. Williamson III wrote in the prestigious Armed Forces Journal that "America needs the ability to carpet bomb in cyberspace to create the deterrent we lack." Williamson averred that "America must have a powerful, flexible deterrent that can reach far outside our fortresses and strike the enemy while he is still on the move."
His solution? Create a military-grade botnet that marshals the computing power of tens of thousands of Defense Department machines. "To generate the right amount of power for offense," Williamson wrote, "all the available computers must be under the control of a single commander, even if he provides the capability for multiple theaters."
And if innocent parties, not to mention a potential adversary's civilian infrastructure is destroyed in the process, Williamson declares that "if the botnet is used in a strictly offensive manner, civilian computers may be attacked, but only if the enemy compels us."
Indeed, "if the U.S. is defending itself against an attack that originates from a computer which was co-opted by an attacker, then there are real questions about whether the owner of that computer is truly innocent."
But as we know from observing the conduct of the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, outside the imperial blast walls no one is "truly innocent."
While the Air Force may have lost the intramural skirmish to run the organization, a task now shared amongst the other armed services and NSA, their preemptive war doctrines are firmly in place. And with an operating budget of $120 million this year, to increase to $150 million in fiscal year 2011, excluding of course highly-secretive Special Access Programs hidden deep inside the Pentagon's "black" budget, it's off to the races.
As I reported last year, when Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates penned a Memorandum that marked its official launch, the former CIA chief and Iran-Contra criminal specified that CYBERCOM would be a "subordinate unified command" under U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM).
As readers are well aware, STRATCOM is the Pentagon satrapy charged with running space operations, information warfare, missile defense, global command, control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR), global strike and strategic deterrence; in other words, they're the trigger finger on America's first-strike nuclear arsenal.
A Strategic Command Fact Sheet published in June told us that Cyber Command "plans, coordinates, integrates, synchronizes, and conducts activities to: direct the operations and defense of specified Department of Defense information networks and; prepare to, and when directed, conduct full-spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains, ensure US/Allied freedom of action in cyberspace and deny the same to our adversaries."
Gates ordered that the organization "must be capable of synchronizing warfighting effects across the global security environment as well as providing support to civil authorities and international partners."
What form that "support" will take is clear from previous agreements between the U.S. secret state and their "international partners." Beneath the dark banner of the UK-USA Security Agreement that powers the ECHELON signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection and analysis network, agencies such as NSA and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) keep a watchful eye on global communications.
On the domestic front, as I reported last month, a Memorandum of Agreement forged between the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency means that "protecting" critical civilian infrastructure and communications assets, including the internet, is for all practical purposes now part of the Pentagon's cyberwar brief.
With authority to troll our communications handed to NSA by the Bush and Obama administrations under top secret provisions of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI), the American people have no way of knowing what cybersecurity programs exist, who decides what is "actionable intelligence," or where private communications land after becoming part of the "critical infrastructure and key resources" landscape.
And with civilian control over "black" Pentagon programs off the table since the darkest days of the Cold War, the Defense Department's announcement last week that Cyber Command has achieved "full operational capability" should give pause.
War criminal, arch geopolitical manipulator and corporate bag man Henry Kissinger once famously said, "covert action should not be confused with missionary work."
While true as far as it goes, bureaucratic blood-sport between the CIA and the Defense Department over control of world-wide cyber operations reflects a long-running battle within the secret state over which covert branch of government will command resources and run clandestine programs across the global "War on Terror" landscape.
Currently in the driver's seat when it comes to the deadly drone war in Pakistan and protecting America's opium-growing and heroin-dealing regional allies, the Agency vigorously objects to Pentagon maneuvers to carry out offensive cyber operations away from acknowledged war zones, because, so goes the argument, they have exclusive rights to the covert action brief.
Such claims have been challenged by the Pentagon, and considering the formidable assets possessed by Cyber Command and NSA, the Agency is likely to lose out when the Obama regime issues a ruling later this year.
This raises an inevitable question, not that its being asked by congressional grifters or corporate media stenographers: should NSA, the Pentagon or indeed any other secret state agency, including the CIA, be tasked with cybersecurity generally, let alone given carte blanche to conduct clandestine and legally dubious missions inside our computer networks?
As security expert Bruce Schneier wrote last year, "Cybersecurity isn't a military problem." In fact when the Bush and Obama governments gave the Pentagon a free hand to driftnet spy on the American people, Schneier averred that programs like the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program "created additional vulnerabilities in our domestic telephone networks."
Vulnerabilities not likely to be addressed by administration proposals that would further weaken encryption standards and order telecommunications and computer manufacturers to build surveillance-ready backdoors into their devices and networks, as The New York Times disclosed in September.
Despite a warning last year by former DHS National Cyber Security division head Amit Yoran that "the intelligence community has always and will always prioritize its own collection efforts over the defensive and protection mission of our government's and nation's digital systems," the securitization of America's electronic networks is proceeding at break-neck speed.
Describing the military's power-grab in benign terms, NSA/CYBERCOM director Alexander characterized Pentagon operational plans as an "active defense," one that "hunts" inside a computer network "for malicious software, which some experts say is difficult to do in open networks and would raise privacy concerns if the government were to do it in the private sector," The Washington Post reports.
An unnamed "senior defense official" described the process as an "ability to push 'out as far as we can' beyond the network perimeter to 'where the threat is coming from' in order to eliminate it."
Never mind that pushing out "as far as we can" will mean that the American people will be subject to additional constitutional breaches or that current Pentagon initiatives, such as NSA's warrantless wiretapping programs are not subject to meaningful public oversight and are hidden beneath top secret layers of classification and the continual invocation of the "state secrets" privilege by the Bush and Obama administrations.
Regardless of which secret state agency comes out on top in the current dispute, where choosing between the CIA and the Pentagon offers a Hobson's choice of whether one prefers to be poisoned or shot, as Doug Henwood points wrote in Left Business Observer following the mid-term elections: "A country that's rotting from the head, poisoned by alienation, plutocracy, and an aversion to thinking, careens from one idiocy to another."
And so it goes, on and on...