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FBI's Unknown Eavesdropping Network 362

Posted by Zonk
from the hiya-big-bro dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Building off the design mandates of CALEA, the FBI has constructed a 'point-and-click surveillance system' that creates instant wiretaps on almost any communications device. A thousand pages of restricted documents released under the Freedom of Information Act were required to determine the veracity of this clandestine project, Wired News reports. Called the Digital Collection System Network, it connects FBI wiretapping rooms to switches controlled by traditional land-line operators, internet-telephony providers and cellular companies. It is intricately woven into the nation's telecom infrastructure. From the article: 'FBI wiretapping rooms in field offices and undercover locations around the country are connected through a private, encrypted backbone that is separated from the internet. Sprint runs it on the government's behalf. The network allows an FBI agent in New York, for example, to remotely set up a wiretap on a cell phone based in Sacramento, California, and immediately learn the phone's location, then begin receiving conversations, text messages and voicemail pass codes in New York. With a few keystrokes, the agent can route the recordings to language specialists for translation.'"
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FBI's Unknown Eavesdropping Network

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  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:36AM (#20397461) Homepage Journal
    would be proud. To think they spent all those decades defending their spying on their citizens to promote stability and security and here we are following their example.

    What's really funny is I distinctively remember Reagan boasting to the world how open our society was, how our citizens could move about freely without presenting papers and didn't have to worry about their conversations being recorded by the state and used against them.

    Oh well, it's for our security so it must be good! After all, if you have nothing to fear, then this won't affect you. If you complain, the terrorists win. We can't have that, can we?
  • by trybywrench (584843) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:41AM (#20397523)
    This is the government - and the FBI. Somehow I can't believe it actually works as smoothly as that.

    exactly right. Frankly, i just don't think our gov. has it together enough to pull of something of this magnitude secretly. All the different people, organizations, and physical locations that would have to be in on the project just makes it unreasonable to expect the whole thing to stay under wraps. If this system exists at all then props to them for a pretty impressive piece of software/hardware (even if it lends itself to being used illegally).
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:41AM (#20397529) Homepage

    I think it's safe to say most everyone knows about it now. As long as a warrant is required to set up the bugging, I don't have a big problem with it.

    I just can't shake the nagging suspicion they've gotten a little slack on the warrant thing lately. Bugging someone's phone without a warrant is spying. Spying on Americans, regardless of the perceived justification, is not protecting the public, it's undermining everything this country stands for.

  • Exactly! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FatSean (18753) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:43AM (#20397539) Homepage Journal
    The same generation of people who shoved anti-USSR pro-USA propaganda down my throat in school are the ones trying to make the USA like the 1980s USSR they hated so much. "The USA is the best country because we have freedom of speech, and the government doesn't spy on you." they said. Now-a-days political speech at conventions is squealched and the government lackies can spy on the people with no need to get a warrant or create any other paper trail that could help a wrongfully-targeted citizen defend themself.

    We're not USSR yet, but we seem to be trending in that direction.

    If we give up all our freedoms, will the terrorists stop hating us?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:43AM (#20397545)
    It's kind of sad that "Nerds" would be scared of a simple technology upgrade. The government has been legally tapping the communications of certain citizens for decades. All this report shows is that the government has streamlined and updated the process to better interface with newer technology.

    Some of you fear the government a little too much... as in it makes you irrational.
  • Re:hmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sunburnt (890890) * on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:47AM (#20397605)

    Remember: we answer to the government and the government answers to Smith & Wesson.
    Unfortunately for the handgun enthusiasts, when the government answers, they get to use the real [wikipedia.org] weapons. [wikipedia.org]
  • Who cares (Score:3, Insightful)

    by packetmon (977047) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:47AM (#20397615) Homepage
    Really who cares. Americans have been too busy watching America's Next Top SomethingOrOther to give a rats ass about their civil liberties. Started off small and now its escalating. While I doubt the FBI is using this for the nightmare scenarios depicted by those who can't see a need for it (not I said CAN'T see a need for it) I dislike the thought, but I do see where there would be a need for it. The potential for abuse from a system like this is what's scary to me, not the fact that its in use. So while everyone cries foul AFTER the fact, remember there have been many rambling on about this for years. I did it in 2000 when Carnivore was released [64.233.169.104], I rambled on about CIPAV [infiltrated.net] and always take the time to support the efforts of groups like EFF and EPIC. One person like a little privacy maniac some would say. For me means little, I'm aware of what can be done to my privacy, but I'm also aware of how to truly retain a portion of my privacy. Its when this becomes outlawed as it has been done in Germany [darkreading.com] will I truly get fed up and move out the US. While the rest of normal America focuses on the important things in life like Bratney Spears, Americas Next Stupid Reality Show, Whats Oprah Doing Now crap.
  • by Henry V .009 (518000) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:47AM (#20397617) Journal

    FBI wiretapping rooms in field offices and undercover locations around the country are connected through a private, encrypted backbone that is separated from the internet. Sprint runs it on the government's behalf.
    My god, the expense. Hang the surveillance. Why the hell is a private backbone necessary for something like this?
  • Re:Exactly! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:51AM (#20397667) Homepage Journal
    The FBI has been tapping phones since day one. In the US they must have a court order to do it. The fact that they use modern technology to do it just seems logical. This network shouldn't be a shock or frankly all that scary as long as they still require a court order to do it.
    As far as any restrictions on political speech? Not that I have seen. I am not fond of the patriot act but your rant is a little over the top.
  • Audit findings (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kalpol (714519) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:54AM (#20397721) Homepage
    I posted, then actually RTFA....Page three lists some findings from an audit of the program - password problems, no individual logon IDs, a few other issues. This is what I do for a living, and it's been my experience (especially with government IT programs) that if you find problems such as these with logical access, it's likely there will be more general control problems such as developers with access to production environments, active IDs of terminated or transferred employees, and so on. The financial fraud element is probably not as much a concern with the FBI but there are other risks.
  • by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:58AM (#20397773)
    Actually its pretty easy to keep something this large secret.. you make it modular, have 5 or 10 different contracting companies creating each module, which are seemingly harmless in the grand scheme of things, which each contractor kept in the dark about the others. Only a small select group of people would need to know the details for the big picture.

    Those that use the service don't even need to see the big picture, only told they can point here and click there for their wiretapping goodness...
  • by Sunburnt (890890) * on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:58AM (#20397779)

    Hey mods: how, exactly, is this comment "insightful?" All it does is parrot standard /. groupthink ("Everything the government ever does sucks and doesn't work") without taking into consideration the fact that one of the highest-paying users of contract labor just might be able to afford top-notch engineers when they really care about results.

    I mean, it's not surprising that they keep fucking up some things, [disasterhelp.gov] but surveillance of American citizens? Sadly, that's something I trust my government to do quite well.

  • by Bartab (233395) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:01AM (#20397835)
    Actually its pretty easy to keep something this large secret

    All evidence to the contrary. Either the story is fake or it's not secret.
  • Re:hmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Magada (741361) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:08AM (#20397927) Journal
    Yea, those F-16 sure work like magic against IED's and snipers in gutters. A citizen militia on its home turf is damn nigh unbeatable - even Mussolini's early successes against the the Camorra and the 'ndrangheta only served to push them further underground. Such organisations can only be defeated by being wiped out entirely, all at once, along with the population that supports them. The other alternative is to deprive them of a reason to exist as paramilitary orgs by involving them (for real) in the above-board political game, like the Brits did with the IRA, i.e. to grant them at least a partial victory.
  • Where's OSAMA? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:09AM (#20397945) Homepage Journal
    All this spying on Americans, justified by "the hunt for Osama bin Laden". But instead of catching him, Bush invaded Iraq. Said he doesn't spend much time thinking about Osama, doesn't think catching him is important. 6 years since 9/11/2001, and where's Osama?

    It's more important to Bush to spy on Americans than to catch Osama, because catching Osama might mean the "temporary suspension" of American rights (including Habeas Corpus [wikipedia.org], when Bush says so) could end, leaving Bush with less power.

    Now let's watch the trollMods try to suppress me for telling the simple truth.

    WHERE'S OSAMA?
  • I hope... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spikedvodka (188722) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:20AM (#20398103)
    ... That they have accurate records as to who has been tapped, by whom, on who's authority, Who accessed the information
    and the warrant under which such actions were taken
  • Oversight (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tony (765) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:20AM (#20398109) Journal
    It isn't so much about perfect systems, it about governmental oversight. Technology like this is scary when put in modern context, in which oversight of the government is methodically being stripped, leaving nothing but unchecked power.

    The checks and balances are being removed, one by one, and *that* is the scary part.

    As for the P2P, there's a huge difference between the citizens of a nation, and the government of a nation. Also, I wouldn't mind of the government violated copyright, so why should I care if a citizen does?

    What's up with all the anonymous cowards defending intrusive governmental programs?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:24AM (#20398181)
    That government is ineffective is the biggest lie ever sold to the American people. Government can do a great job of just about anything if competently managed, same as any other organization.
  • by dpilot (134227) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:31AM (#20398267) Homepage Journal
    >Everything the Government does does suck and fail to work.

    I'm not quite sure I'd be as strong as to say "everything", but I'll take advance issue when someone comes along and says the private sector can do it better. I've spent enough time working in big business to know that the government has no monopoly on ineptness and stupidity.

    Quite simply:

    In government, the punishment for ineptness and stupidity is supposed to be replacement by the ballot.
    In the private sector, the punishment for ineptness and stupidity is supposed to be replacement by a competitor.

    IMHO, we have a situation now where *both* remedy methods are impaired. In essence, the root cause of both failures really come down to monopolies or duopolies. In the former case, the duopoly is a 2-party system restricts our ability to select a real replacement. In the latter case rampant consolidation has restricted our choices, so there's little selection available. In both cases, parties are acting to restrict the information necessary to make an informed decision.
  • by Sunburnt (890890) * on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:31AM (#20398275)

    Everything the Government does does suck and fail to work.

    Really? [wikipedia.org]

    Really? [wikipedia.org]

    Really? [wikipedia.org]

    parrot standard /. groupthink ("Everything the government ever does sucks and doesn't work")

    Everything the Government does does suck and fail to work.

    Squawk!

  • by kalpol (714519) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:36AM (#20398347) Homepage
    In my personal experience, government IT projects (especially social welfare systems) tend to have a higher problem rate than commercial projects due to conflicting political goals, pork-barrel spending, and faulty oversight. *shrug*
  • by Sunburnt (890890) * on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:41AM (#20398407)

    In my personal experience, government IT projects (especially social welfare systems) tend to have a higher problem rate than commercial projects due to conflicting political goals, pork-barrel spending, and faulty oversight. *shrug*

    Hey, I know what you mean, having been on the receiving end of some government IT projects [dfas.mil] before. Still, I bet a lot of these problems are minimized when the government is paying for something it really wants (as opposed to something mandated by Congress or military-industrial lobbyists.)

  • by yoyoq (1056216) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:48AM (#20398507)
    all those links to successes are projects that
    are more than 40 years old.
  • Re:Time to move (Score:3, Insightful)

    by couchslug (175151) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:56AM (#20398615)
    "Time to move"

    You first.
    Post when you do.
    These /. "time to move" posts are tedious.

    Wake me when some of you actually DO bug out and become expats because your feelings were sufficiently hurt by goverment actions that don't affect you. Be brave and lead by example. Given the many overseas employment opportunities it's not that difficult, and my expat buddies make good bank.

    As society becomes more Balkanized and the US population grows, effective surveillance options will be required to protect against internal and external criminal and ideological enemies.

    As information technology improves, surveillance tech must catch up to be effective. Sensible enough. If I were a criminal or terrorist I'd be looking for safe ways to move and communicate. Who wouldn't?

    In the world according to (much) of Slashdot, everything is wonderful and our only enemies are the government and law enforcement orgs. Quite like the fear of ZOG by the white supremacists...
  • Re:Exactly! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:00AM (#20398689) Journal

    If we give up all our freedoms, will the terrorists stop hating us?
    Which terrorists?

    If you're talking about foreign Islamic fundamentalists, then no.
    Their main problem is decades of USA foreign policy.

    If you're talking about domestic Christian fundamentalists, then yes.
  • Yes because (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xonstantine (947614) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:13AM (#20398945)

    That's because we needed to go back before the conservative movement decided to make government fail by underfunding it.
    the Federal government is certainly underfunded, spending only 2.8 trillion USD for 2008 under the proposed Bush budget.

    Including:
    12.4% increase for Medicare and a 7.0% increase for Medicare.

    The problem isn't Republicans and their evil budget cutting ways, the problem is rampant and out of control entitlement spending, which both Democrats and Republicans contribute to and neither is willing to control.
  • by liquidpele (663430) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:19AM (#20399035) Journal
    That was one of the major themes of the movie Cube [imdb.com] if I remember correctly.
  • by Catbeller (118204) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:41AM (#20399373) Homepage
    Yes, let the million "tinfoil hat" and "conspiracy theory" snarkers hold forth. Lemme explain:

    YOU'RE WRONG. They are using cellphones as tracking devices and bugs, they ARE capable of listening to your phones and watching your surfing and building databases of everything you are and do. They will build profiles and scoop up people they don't like. They can and are using their new powers to punish the opponents of their new powers. And we're just getting warmed up.

    As for the "so what?" crowd: if a tool for oppression is built, it will be used. It HAS been used. Innocent people are going to never-never land. Torture (solitary is torture, first, and the rest is just gravy) is now accepted and lauded. Thousands of verified innocents have been kidnapped, tens of thousands of people can't fly, and now they are sealing the borders. "Conspiracy" my ass, they are doing it out in the sunshine. Cheney just had federal arrest warrants issued for some college students that mooned him last April. I don't believe that that is a crime warranting federal involvement, but apparently we have a king now, and he makes up whatever law he likes. How did they find those kids? Supersekrit police state tech.

    Children, if it can be done, it will be done, IF you don't grow some backbones and insist that they don't do it. They take your massive silence as assent. Put down the game controllers and pay attention before they castrate you all.

  • by ArcherB (796902) * on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:48AM (#20399461) Journal
    That's because we needed to go back before the conservative movement decided to make government fail by underfunding it.

    Funny! Even with the Bush tax cuts (actually, because of...) the US Gov't has received record tax receipts not just for any time in US history, but WORLD history, and we're still running a deficit! It appears to me that the conservative movement is over funding government.

  • Re:Exactly! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by soren100 (63191) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:59PM (#20400605)
    No your post shows that freedom of speech hasn't been limited. If it was then none of that info would be available.

    So in your mind there is some catch-22 that if you can speak about government repression that proves that there is none?

    And Do you really think that the FBI would just decide one day to tell everyone the illegal things that they were doing?

    from the Wikipedia article on COINTELPRO [wikipedia.org]:

    The program was secret until 1971, when an FBI field office in Media, PA was burglarized by a group of left-wing radicals calling themselves the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI. Several dossiers of files were taken and the information passed to news agencies, many of which initially refused to publish the information. Within the year, Director Hoover declared that the centralized COINTELPRO was over, and that all future counterintelligence operations would be handled on a case-by-case basis.[3]

    Further documents were revealed in the course of separate lawsuits filed against the FBI by NBC correspondent Carl Stern, the SWP, and a number of other groups. A major investigation was launched in 1976 by the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities of the United States Senate, commonly referred to as the "Church Committee" for its chairman, Senator Frank Church of Idaho. However, millions of pages of documents remain unreleased, and many released documents are entirely censored. ...
    The Church Committee documented a history of the FBI being used for purposes of political repression as far back as World War I, through the 1920s, when they were charged with rounding up "anarchists and revolutionaries" for deportation, and then building from 1936 through 1976.



    No one would have known about all of this if it wasn't for the burglary, which got enough documents out there that enraged the pubilc, and so that lawsuits could get more information. We still don't know the whole picture, except that it was really bad.

    You can say what you want in the US, China, Russia, or anywhere else in the world. No one is holding their hands over your mouth so that you cannot speak -- that's impossible, and if that's your standard, it is ridiculous. Repression of free speech happens when the government takes action against you for speaking freely, and tries to stop you from doing so. That was abundantly proven by the church committee when they investigated the illegal acts of the FBI.

    When the FBI tried to blackmail Martin Luther King into stopping his civil rights work, how was that not limiting his free speech rights? When the government uses your tax dollars to stop your free speech from getting on TV [washingtonpost.com], how is that not limiting your free speech rights? There are a ton more examples, it's not limited to those cases in case you are inclined to quibble. FBI repression was proven in court to extend to vandalims and violence, including murder.
     
  • by smitth1276 (832902) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @01:01PM (#20400643)
    There isn't even a hint of anything illegal with this. What are you talking about? It actually sounds like a cool and useful program. And quit calling it "NSA illegal wiretapping" if you want to be taken as anything other than a demagogue. It isn't wiretapping, and the legality is very much up for debate, as it falls in a definite gray area.
  • by necro2607 (771790) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @02:30PM (#20402011)
    "The network allows an FBI agent in New York, for example, to remotely set up a wiretap on a cell phone based in Sacramento, California, and immediately learn the phone's location, then begin receiving conversations, text messages and voicemail pass codes in New York. With a few keystrokes, the agent can route the recordings to language specialists for translation."

    Why can't we have this kind of inter-protocol communication in the public sector? I'm not talking about tapping peoples' conversations. I'm talking about interconnectivity of our own communication devices. You know, my cell phone can synchronize calendar dates and contacts with my computer at home. My iPod will also load that same data. The thing is, I have to manually type these items into my Calendar program or my Address Book software for the data to be there. Well, I also use Facebook a lot and am regularly viewing Events on there. Why are we still stuck in the stone age, where I can't take this "Event" and just load it into my Calendar and thus have that all synced up? And, maybe some details on that facebook Event changes, and it just automatically syncs that up to my Calendar software and thus my cell phone and iPod? ....

    Whatever, don't know why I'm wasting my time typing about it, but I'm just tired of the slowness of functionality advancements in the tech industry. We have all this new tech, and we're not even scratching the surface of advanced communications that we're fully capable of implementing.
  • by jamie (78724) * Works for Slashdot <jamie@slashdot.org> on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @02:35PM (#20402109) Journal

    This is the government - and the FBI. Somehow I can't believe it actually works as smoothly as that.

    If libertarianism leads to slavery, the road runs through the state of denial.

    As the last two free Americans are being herded onto the train for the concentration camp, the Republican will turn to the Democrat and say "don't worry, we'll be fine. Public transportation never works."

  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:18PM (#20407109)

    Wake me when some of you actually DO bug out and become expats because your feelings were sufficiently hurt by goverment actions that don't affect you. Be brave and lead by example. Given the many overseas employment opportunities it's not that difficult, and my expat buddies make good bank.


    Kinda throws a light on what the Jews went through in Germany. One of the difficult questions old surviving Jewish grannies and grandads are asked is, "Why didn't you do something? You should have known!" --Well they did; They all knew the water was getting hot, but it wasn't until very late in the game that any of them actually packed up. And the vast majority stayed to get slaughtered. Same thing here. Most of us see it, but it's a pain in the ass to actually pull up stakes.

    I looked at Europe, and decided that I wanted to make my stand here, so I did the next best thing. I hauled ass and got out of the city and moved to a small town with a strong agricultural base and tight community support network. Now, at least, I don't live under the threat of starving in a locked-down city when the shit hits.


    -FL

  • Onymously. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:32PM (#20407191)
    What's up with all the anonymous cowards defending intrusive governmental programs?

    They know that they don't have to post onymously for the watchers to know who they are, (and thus can remain eligible for a free arm band), while still avoiding negative mod points.


    -FL

  • The secresy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jandersen (462034) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @06:02AM (#20409275)
    What I don't like about this is the secrecy. Yes, it's not the privacy issue that concerns me - our privacy has long been an illusion, but the fact that they slink around in the background, outside democratic control. It smacks too much of secret laws; like being forced to play game where you are not allowed to know the rules.

    It should not be necessary in a democratic society to have that much secrecy - it should be an exception rather than the main principle for what the government does. In this case - what is the point of secrecy? It wouldn't hamper the FBI's work one bit that people were told from the start that this is going on, it is simply because it has become a habit to keep the people in the dark. This is a very serious trend that endangers our democracy - democracy can't work if people don't know what is going on.

Life would be so much easier if we could just look at the source code. -- Dave Olson

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