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US Funding Stealth Internets to Circumvent Repressive Regimes 289

Posted by samzenpus
from the under-the-radar dept.
snydeq writes "The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy 'shadow' Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks. According to a report from CBS News: '...by the end of the year the State Department will have spent $70 million on efforts to provide alternate pathways for dissidents to access the Internet and telecommunications services. One group received $2 million to develop an "Internet in a suitcase" that could be easily carried and set up in a foreign country.'"
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US Funding Stealth Internets to Circumvent Repressive Regimes

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  • Is it just me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Sunday June 12, 2011 @12:58PM (#36418320) Homepage

    ...or doesn't this seem a little hypocritical in light of how the whole Wikileaks thing has been handled?

    • by Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @01:01PM (#36418348)
      What would happen if there were, just for arguments sake, dissident Americans........
      Pause..
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        They're not supplying freedom, they're supplying a means of communication that makes monitoring/shaping/manipulating events abroad easier and safer.

      • by obarthelemy (160321) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @01:38PM (#36418594)

        we'd call those terrorists, and patriot-act them.

      • by couchslug (175151)

        "What would happen if there were, just for arguments sake, dissident Americans........"

        They can ride their flying unicorns to safety.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by cold fjord (826450)

        What would happen if there were, just for arguments sake, dissident Americans........ Pause..

        For the sake of argument? You don't think there are people engaged in dissent [pajamasmedia.com]? Really [pajamasmedia.com]? Well, there are dissenters of many flavors, from the fringe to more main stream [pajamasmedia.com].

        And guess what? They have the same option as everybody else - they go into the voting booth and vote for the party of their choice [wikipedia.org], just like the rest of America. If they don't like the local laws, they can try to change [pajamasmedia.com] them or move [freestateproject.org]. (Massachusetts has state run health care, California is engaging in an interesting physics experiment -

    • by gilbert644 (1515625) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @01:02PM (#36418354)
      Every government limits freedom, its inherent to its role.
      • by amiga3D (567632) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @01:36PM (#36418576)

        Indeed. Government is a necessary evil. That government is best which governs least. The kind of thing you don't hear much anymore as it's gone out of style.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rsilvergun (571051)
          It hasn't gone out of style, it's just plain wrong. The world is a different place then when Thoreau wrote that (and it wasn't too close to the mark then). Do you honestly think there is anything else besides a strong central government that can stand up to mega-corps? Do you honestly want those few mega-corps (and their oligarch CEOs, kings of the new millennium) running things. Power is going to concentrate whether you like it or not. I'll take my chances with Obama over the Koch brothers any day.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by hitmark (640295)

            I think the inherent issue here is approaching government as a "us vs them" issue, rather then considering that government, at least in a representative democracy (take the "it is a republic" somewhere else), is by the people for the people. As such, it is there to uphold the rules that the majority of the nation agrees upon (you anarchists and libertarians can keep quiet for now). The last couple of decades however it appears that corporations and other special interest groups have managed to co-opt this s

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Actually, we weren't set up to be a majority rule country. Read the Federalist Papers, I think #10 is where Madison argues against the evils of what he calls "tyranny of the majority".

            • Did we not learn a thing from the failed attempt at prohibition?

              Yes, we learned how to do it without requiring a constitutional amendment.

              Sorry, drug war's a pet peeve and you provided a perfect riffing-point.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by exentropy (1822632)

              it [the government] is there to uphold the rules that the majority of the nation agrees upon.

              I'm probably gonna get a -1 flamebait for this, but I'll counter this point anyways. There is no need to have a government, if its sole function is to uphold the rules of the majority. If the Fed didn't exist, people would still agree that, say, stealing is bad; we don't need a government to affirm this conviction. But I do agree with you: we do have a federal government that imposes (better word) the will of the majority on everyone. E.G. if most people don't like drugs, hey, "we should ban them!" "Don't

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              I'm of the mind that what we're seeing is a regrowth of the powerful families system that has dominated government throughout most of human history, but in this iteration it's "corporate aristocratic" families instead. To me, it's roughly analogous to ancient Rome - the masses have at least the illusion of say and can get some things changed if they complain loudly enough, but for the most part things are run by, or on the behalf of, the powerful, wealthy, and privileged organizations of the day. The diss

          • by n1ywb (555767)

            Do you honestly think there is anything else besides a strong central government that can stand up to mega-corps?

            I think people with guns can stand up to most megacorps quite nicely.

            • by ppanon (16583)
              True, but most people think that civil wars like you had in Central America in the 70's and 80's are a pretty extreme option and that others are preferable. But if you like living in the bush and being hunted for 20 years, good luck with that. Especially if you live in the central USA plains.
            • What about Blackwater/XE? I'm pretty sure that they will fire back.
            • by lennier (44736)

              I think people with guns can stand up to huge industrial combines who manufacture and sell the guns and ammo in the first place quite nicely.

              Fixed that for you, and by "fixed" I mean "broke".

          • Do you honestly think there is anything else besides a strong central government that can stand up to mega-corps?

            Rather, mega-corps are essentially strong central governments whose borders extend with product sales. The only main difference is that they outsource their judicial system and enforcement to national governments, and taxation to retailers.

            Or at the very least, that's the world they seem to be trying to create...

          • by amiga3D (567632)

            The fact is that the MegaCorps have taken over and are running the government. I remember when President Obama got elected and I thought that, despite the fact that I didn't like a lot of his politics that at least some things would change (such as wiretapping laws) but in fact every single thing I disliked about the previous administration continued virtually unchanged. He's not even a good liberal. He's owned just like the last one was owned. The puppet changed but not the puppet master.

          • Do you honestly think there is anything else besides a strong central government that can stand up to mega-corps?

            Since the megocorps are a product of government, I'd suspect that they'd be less of a problem if the government were able to give them less power.

          • Here is a quote from Rousseau that is germane to this discussion:

            Nothing is more dangerous in public affairs than the influence of private interests, and the abuse of the law by the government is a lesser evil than that corruption of the legislator which inevitably results from the pursuit of private interests. When this happens, the state is corrupted in its very substance and no reform is possible

            Jean-Jacques Rousseau, "The Social Contract" (1762), book 3, chapter 4

            • I think that the millions of victims of state-sponsored murder would disagree.
              • I think that the millions of victims of state-sponsored murder would disagree.

                He was speaking about a democratic state that acts for the Public Interest. He was not talking about, nor endorsing the tyrannies you seem to be referring to. Quite the opposite in fact. Here is some more from The Social Contract:

                However, when the social tie begins to slacken and the state to weaken, when particular interests begin to make themselves felt and sectional societies begin to exert an influence over the greater society, the common interest becomes corrupted and meets opposition; voting is no longer unanimous; the general will is no longer the will of all; contradictions and disputes arise; and even the best opinion is not allowed to prevail unchallenged.

                In the end, when the state, on the brink of ruin, can maintain itself only in an empty and illusory form, when the social bond is broken in every heart, when the meanest interest impudently flaunts the sacred name of the public good, then the general will is silenced: everyone, animated by secret motives, ceases to speak as a citizen any more than as if the state had never existed; and the people enacts in the guise of laws iniquitous decrees which have private interests as their only end.

                I think it is quite easy to see much of the above in contemporary American society.

        • Id mod ya up if I hadnt already posted in here..
      • by bug1 (96678)

        Every government limits freedom, its inherent to its role.

        Every government limits the freedom of others. While trying to maximize its own.

    • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @01:17PM (#36418452)
      At first blush yes. But what they don't tell you is they have a back door into this system so it won't work in the US.
    • it's free money for somebody's buddy. Seriously, 'internet in a suitcase'? It's probably one of these [oldcomputers.net]
    • by _Sprocket_ (42527)
      Having the freedom to communicate does not mean you are without responsibility for what you communicate. Wikileaks is a great example. US Gov't officials are not happy about the various leaks of confidential information being discussed openly in the press. But not a single Congressman has stepped forward to dismantle the US press. Manning, however, is likely to suffer for his actions if, in fact, he is the leak.
      • Manning, however, is likely to suffer for his actions if, in fact, he is the leak.

        Is likely to??? Are you saying he is not already suffering whether guilty or not? The conditions he was held in from July to April were cruel and spiteful to say the least - this is before being convicted (a formality I suspect, regardless of whether he is guilty or not).

        I have heard the doom and gloom stories regarding the release of this information but from what I can see, the aftermath seems to be a spring cleaning of oppressive regimes [guardian.co.uk], it appears to be a bit cheaper than it has cost / is still costi

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      doesn't this seem a little hypocritical in light of how the whole Wikileaks thing has been handled?

      Maybe not. Remember, it was the DoD that originally gave us the Internet instead of handing it directly to the corporations. It could be that there is a faction of government that actually wants to see people be free. These "shadow nets" might well turn out to become the new Internet when the current one turns to a big corporate consumption channel.

      After all, I think there's a lot more long-term danger from

  • Or something similar to it.

    Use say cheap phone -> phone messaging as an excuse.
     

  • is someone making a package for us to circumvent our ever-repressive government in the Demokratik Polize State of Amerika ?
    • by _Sprocket_ (42527)
      Here in the US, we have plenty of access to the tools to do this exact same thing (or at least achieve similar general concepts). And, in fact, these sorts of projects have been ongoing for decades now. There are those who raise eyebrows at these sorts of things and mumble and grumble about how dark and scary they may be. But they can and have done little to prevent it.
    • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @01:45PM (#36418660) Homepage Journal

      The sad thing is recent behaviour of both democrats and republicans show that it doesn't make a difference which party rules. They just screw their population in slightly different ways, unless you have the cash to pay to screw.

      The recent problem has been the heavy handed shutting down of sites without due process. Given the number of problem sites I can understand why they want to do this, but at the same time shouldn't there be some sort of transparency. Also, it would be nice if the US crack down of sites only affected sites in the USA and didn't impact what other countries see.

  • by SuperCharlie (1068072) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @01:03PM (#36418370)
    This kinda thing is an act of war?
    • by Xacid (560407)

      I think it's time to seek citizenship elsewhere... *sigh*. This is just getting ridiculous.

      Well, rather, this has been sustained and increasing ridiculousness for a while but semantics aside...

    • Umm.. didn't they just say..
      This kinda thing is an act of war?

      No. This is no more of an attack than facebook, twitter or even TOR are "attacks."

    • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

      Please show where NATO described establishing an isolated network as an act of war.

      The hyperbole around this "act of war" meme is amazingly dense. NATO simply pointed out that espoionage in the digital age was just as much a potential act of war as espionage in the analog age. Granted - my concern is the difficulty of accurately identifying the actors of any given attack and therefore an accurate portrayal of an "act of war". But that is a far cry from screaming "act of war" whenever Government and co

    • They said that if a state launches a massive cyberattack targeting key infrastructure, that can be considered an act of war. Then you stupid anarchist kiddies started screaming "All hacking is an act of WAR! The US is EVIL!".

      Scale matters. Intent matters. Targets matter. Shooting someone is not an act of war. Sending an army to a foreign country to shoot millions of people is.

      • Don't be an ass. An act of war is whatever is used as an excuse to begin actual hostilities. Especially in this day and age, where formal declarations of war, properly debated and ratified by governing representatives, are no longer done.

        The old ideas Clausewitz wrote about are no longer being adhered to, so it's counterproductive to insist they always apply.

  • by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash AT omnifarious DOT org> on Sunday June 12, 2011 @01:07PM (#36418396) Homepage Journal

    I've read that parts of Anonymous also work on projects in this same vein. And that same facet of Anonymous is who carries out the DDoS attacks and other various distressing things. I wonder if the irony of sharing goals with Anonymous is completely lost on the US government. I expect probably so. Freedom abroad, a slow slide towards facism at home, that'll be the way of it.

    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      Yes, I was wondering if either the government or someone (like Anonymous) has or is thinking about deploying a 'shadow internet' within US (maybe Mexico & Canada, too?) borders. The gov already has separate hardlines, so who's to say that those 'Verizon' workers putting in new fiber are actually working for Verizon instead of putting in new hardlines for the gov? Or using reserved frequencies for wireless communications? As for non-gov groups, there are also other channels to use. Wonder if the gov

      • Wonder if the gov would bother tapping old-style modem to modem comms? VPNs, encryption, anonymizing nodes, extra-US nodes...

        I wonder how cheaply a microwave relay station could be built? I've sometimes thought a network of those across the nation in private hands using PSK-based encryption to talk to each other would be nice insurance against having the mainstream network infrastructure cut.

      • And here I was wondering if anyone in Anonymous could wipe their asses without assistance.

      • by caluml (551744)

        I was wondering if either the government or someone (like Anonymous) has or is thinking about deploying a 'shadow internet'

        That's one of the goals of Anonet [wikipedia.org] - but their public site [archive.org] seems to be down.

    • There is Freenet - it's not a separate internet, but a network of caching nodes running on the internet that makes communications untraceable. Such a thing could be shut down easily enough by just shutting down the internet entirely - but really, that's still a win, as it would incite further unrest in itsself. I don't know how many Anons use it, but I know it was used to publish Scientology documents, so probably at least one.
    • by russotto (537200)

      I wonder if the irony of sharing goals with Anonymous is completely lost on the US government.

      Strange bedfellows are nothing new in politics or statecraft (or espionage for that matter).

      I expect probably so. Freedom abroad, a slow slide towards facism at home, that'll be the way of it.

      Slow?

  • Great News! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @01:13PM (#36418422)
    Now we'll have a way to circumvent ICE copyright censorship, attempts by government officials to target critical bloggers, and of course everyone's favorite restrictions on videos/recordings of police actions. Let's boot this baby up and see what it can do....

    localhost$shadowtubez start
    ==Welcome to ShadowTubez==
    Fight the Power, with the help of the USA!
    (Connecting to shadowtubez.us.gov to establish freedom fighter credentials...)

    Doh!

  • PROTECT IP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 12, 2011 @01:13PM (#36418424)

    So, will we Americans be able to use this shadow internet and mobile phone networks to access what PROTECT IP tries to block?

  • by Haedrian (1676506) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @01:17PM (#36418456)

    America the Land of Liberty*. Freeing the people from oppression**

    *Note: Liberty is only available other countries.

    **Does not count for people living in America

    • by hitmark (640295)

      You are free to speak your mind, just not using anything copyrighted, patented or trademarked by our corporate elite.

    • by atriusofbricia (686672) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @02:50PM (#36419172) Journal

      America the Land of Liberty*. Freeing the people from oppression**

      *Note: Liberty is only available other countries.

      **Does not count for people living in America

      I'll bite.. Will I get thrown in jail for saying Obama is a dick? No? Oh, so I suppose I'll get sent to GITMO for saying that the government is crap? Won't happen?

      I know, I'll get thrown in jail for traveling to another state without permission.. oh.. not happening either?

      Prevented by the government from visiting or moving to another country? Damn, nope.. not that either..

      Disallowed from owning guns, property, practicing my religion or protesting peacefully?

      I'll find random politically objectionable websites filtered on a national scale? Well damn, not that either.

      So what exactly is this oppression you're speaking of? I'm not saying it's perfect, but where is better and more free?

      • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @05:24PM (#36419826) Journal

        I agree that the GP post was unreasonable, and that many countries are of course much worse, but the US does still have legitimate problems which need to be faced. The government is making consistent efforts to increase their powers both to act in secret and without warrant or oversight - we've seen where this leads both on a small scale (violent and corrupt police officers intimidating citizens with cameras) and on a large one (warrantless wiretapping [wikimedia.org]); that's a road I'd really rather not see the US follow any further than it has. Police raids on private residences are also becoming increasingly militarised, a trend which has been shown to drastically increase the "us and them" mentality on both sides, and again is a catalyst for violent abuses of power. Often the justice system shows a marked difference in treatment of the rich and powerful compared to that of the poor. While political speech may not be enough to have your website seized, an accusation of copyright infringement may do it, again without conviction, oversight, or recourse. Wikileaks has revealed that some people in Guantanamo were there for little to no reason - while the white American citizen might not have anything to fear on that side of things, the Pakistani guy in the wrong place at the wrong time might not be so lucky; again, the real problem is the lack of transparency making abuses almost impossible to catch, let alone rectify.

        As for the 'where is better and more free?' question, I'd say most of Scandanavia, The Netherlands, and probably Canada and New Zealand too. No, the US isn't too bad, for the majority of citizens who are lucky enough not to have a run-in with the authorities, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't strive to be better.

      • by gambino21 (809810)

        I'll bite.. Will I get thrown in jail for saying Obama is a dick? No? Oh, so I suppose I'll get sent to GITMO for saying that the government is crap?

        If you are white and/or well connected, probably not. If you are Muslim on the other hand, and travel to certain countries, then yes, there is a fair chance that you will either be thrown in Gitmo, or maybe just assassinated. Ever heard of Anwar al-Awlaki?

  • I have five internets in my briefcase right here. Why, just the other day my secretary sent me an internet. Typical government waste. Next thing you know they'll want to build a bridge to nowhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    As the article says "The revolution will be broadcast...", but it leaves out "straight to the US govt who will then decide if they want to a)let you carry on in your attempt to self govern (provided the US can profit from it) or b)arrange for a leak of information that will crush you"

  • propaganda (Score:4, Interesting)

    by julian67 (1022593) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @01:38PM (#36418598)

    This is pure propaganda. The very last thing the US wants is for genuine freedom of information. What it does want is failsafe communication with its own sympathisers, clients and agents. People make comments along the lines of "what about if they start censoring us?" Did you not notice? Will you consider your news media uncensored simply because nobody puts a 2 minute ad on national TV or a full page ad in the NYT explaining that it's already happened? Wake up. Did you not notice that you are never allowed to hear or read your enemies' words directly or in full? You are only allowed to digest small pieces, decontextualised and presented by public relations people masquerading as journalists. You can identify the real journalists if you have a good memory: they are the people who used to ask hard questions, who were also unafraid to cross frontlines and ask hard questions of the enemy, who are no longer welcome, whose access is rescinded and whose names and reputations are slandered and traduced and who are finally ignored. In their place you have the shame and disgrace of "embedded" journalists, people who are a do not deserve to be called journalists and who have made a compact to deceive you. The English language media is now a rather glossy and expensive upgrade of Pravda. Why on earth would the government legislate censorship when it can be outsourced, bought and paid for? This is how free speech and an uncensored media works in a country with free speech enshrined in the constitution and tested and protected in law. How well do you think it will work in projects funded and controlled by the CIA? Does anyone truly believe these projects exists to counter repression? They exist to promote one kind of repression over another.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thrich81 (1357561)
      To some extent I can see where you are coming from. I was on some international travel in 2003-2004 and it was striking how different the Iraq coverage was by CNN International vs. the domestic CNN feed. However, don't blame the government for that -- the vast majority of people want to hear news which reinforces their already held opinions of things (and it has always been that way). The big news organizations are there to make money (not so true 50 years ago, but there really was no 'golden age' of unb
    • by Rinnon (1474161)

      What it does want is failsafe communication with its own sympathisers, clients and agents. People make comments along the lines of "what about if they start censoring us?" Did you not notice? Will you consider your news media uncensored simply because nobody puts a 2 minute ad on national TV or a full page ad in the NYT explaining that it's already happened? Wake up. Did you not notice that you are never [b]allowed[/b] to hear or read your enemies' words directly or in full? You are only [b]allowed[/b] to digest small pieces, decontextualised and presented by public relations people masquerading as journalists.

      Really? You're unable to Google information on Al Quaeda? You're unable to view Afghan or Pakistani news sources direct by going to their websites? I get that it's cool to act like America is censoring you, and that you're so hard done by living in this "repressive" "freedom hating" state. But if you wanted more than just the sound bite they give you on CNN, you have the Internet, and you can look it up. The only thing stopping you is your inability to read another language. Comparing your primary news sour

      • by julian67 (1022593)

        Unless you speak Urdu or Pashto those Pakistani and Afghan news sources will offer nothing intelligible. I wasn't just referring to the US media, I was referring to the *English language* media. When the US takes down a website or domain it becomes inaccessible not just to US citizens but to the rest of the world as well. doh.

        Again: if you can refute what I stated in my original post then please offer the direct links. It isn't complicated. If you can show that I am wrong then prove it. Put it beyond d

  • by F34nor (321515) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @01:59PM (#36418784)

    In Rainbows End the Army rains down networking nodes on a site that they want to control. I have been talking about doing this as a 501c. Make off the shelf Meraki style nodes with a mix and match of bands. E.g. 900mHz backbone and 802.11b/g with every 10th or so with a satellite uplink. Make them cheap enough to carpet bomb out of a b52. Give them a solar panel or a easy connect to a car battery or a 110/220. When ever someone tries to "turn off the internet" just drop a new one. The peer to peer cell phone also has a hand in this a Motorola f4 style phone or even a Belkin Skype phone could be dropped at the same time. TerraNet was already covered on /. http://snapvoip.blogspot.com/2007/09/peer-to-peer-mobile-phones-by-terranet.html [blogspot.com]

  • I often wonder what would happen if a group of nerds..like ourselves.. decided to start our own root DNS.. I would suspect that it would be shut down by the FCC in short order under some new or trumped up mangled misinterpretation of some law.
    • Unlikely. What would actually happen is simpler: No-one would use it.
    • by rubycodez (864176)
      you still have to operate over government controlled, regulated, and monitored pipes, to end nodes that are subject to search and seizure. don't waste your time.
    • by msaavedra (29918)

      I often wonder what would happen if a group of nerds..like ourselves.. decided to start our own root DNS.. I would suspect that it would be shut down by the FCC in short order under some new or trumped up mangled misinterpretation of some law.

      Alternative root servers have existed for years. The largest is probaby OpenNIC [opennicproject.org].

  • ... Net Neutrality is some sort of munitions. If we (State Dept/Pentagon) decide to attack an undesirable regime, we'll drop it on them. But try to have it at home and you might as well be asking for a machine gun.

  • by chill (34294)

    Creating an alternate up-link and backbone infrastructure isn't that difficult. You can use point-to-point microwave or laser communications to keep the backbone hidden, and a satellite up-link to connect to the wider world.

    How do you deal with clients? You can't go around handing out access points in places like Syria or North Korea.

    Even if you did, or more likely just relied on people using their existing cell phones and setting up "ghost" APs, you still are just going to get people killed.

    In seriously op

  • There's no way this can come back to bite America in the ass. No way at all. Just like arming and training the Mujahideen in Afghanistan all those years ago led to those weapons and techniques being used against Americans in recent years, these "stealth internets" can possibly be used against American interests in the future. You can't assume that the people you give these to will be idiots. They'll find a way to use these to set up secure communications channels to use for their own purposes, not just

  • It's not hard to make spread spectrum/UWB networks that are very difficult to detect if you don't have the keys; much less track down. Sending out 2.4GHz routers is just the American version of a suicide vest -- if you try to use it, you are literally broadcasting your location and your intentions. But a true stealth network (maybe not that high a bandwidth, but we're not talking about downloading Transformers 3 in stereo) could be relatively risk-free; especially if the network cards were tamper-resistan

  • So when do we get these stealth internets for here in the US of A?

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