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Carnivore Goes Wireless 169

GMontag writes: "The Washington Post Tech Section is running this story FBI's 'Carnivore' Might Target Wireless Text. Apparently, since the industry can't provide big brothering to the satisfaction of the FBI the FBI will will do it *for* them. This is a collector's item too, with no mention in article of DCS1000 being used to "save" children!"
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Carnivore Goes Wireless

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  • by ethereal ( 13958 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @12:24PM (#2213765) Journal

    This seems a little suspicious to me - from what I've heard, most of the wireless providers are well on their way to providing the federally-mandated wiretapping access. They can't be very far off from completing the technical setup that is involved. It seems like the Feds are useing the missed deadline (which really was an artificial deadline anyway) as a convenient excuse to expand their wiretapping powers. It's not like there were crimes that just had to be wiretapped on September 30; as long as the wireless carriers get things rolled out reasonably soon I don't see how the government could legitimately complain.

    And yes, anyone can tap wireless, but the issue is what can be used in court. If the government is sucking in more information, then there's more of a chance that a bad judge somewhere can be found who will let unrelated intercepted information into evidence.

    Of course, since you have no privacy right on a land-line phone either [politechbot.com], maybe Carnivore isn't such a big deal either :)

  • Carnivore FUD (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sourcehunter ( 233036 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @12:35PM (#2213821) Homepage
    Look folks, I have some friends who work at the FBI - not agents, but the guys who actually setup and maintain the carnivore system, go on raids WITH the agents to make sure the computers are handled successfully, and parse through 100's of GB of data after a raid to determine what is of and what isn't. (this goes against common misconception #1 that the agents actually sort through the data - they do not - they have a computer guy do it).

    One day, I asked my friends about carnivore.

    Carnivore is a very simple system - TCPDump, a filter, and a sort utility. It is a black box administered from remote, setup at their office.

    The filter is setup to only record a handfull of things - a) email communications to or from a suspect as specified in a warrant or b) packets to or from a certain IP address designated by the warrant.

    It does not capture and save every packet going across the wire - that would be illegal.

    Let me say that again, as it bears repeating - It does not capture and save every packet going across the wire.

    Yes, in a TCPDump, all packets are going to be pulled that hit the network interface, but the filter will only save the packets that meet a certain criteria.

    They developed this with the WHOLE IDEA of making DAMN sure they stay within the confines of their warrants - because otherwise, they are breaking the law. Also, they would have to go through 100's of GB of data if they captured EVERY packet at a standard ISP. At an ISP like mindspring, the amount of data captured would be unfathomable.

    The computer guys actually know how to set the thing up properly, so you don't have to rely on the standard Liberal Arts/Criminal Justice major FBI agent to understand what he or she is doing. All the agent might do is drop the big black box off at an ISP, plug in the power cable and network cable, and walk out.

    Don't get me wrong - I personally don't like the FBI or its agents. I've had run-ins with them in the past, and the ones I met I didn't like. The guys who deal with this AREN'T agents... they are computer geeks, like you and me. They read /., the game, they program in Perl and other ub3r-1337 h4x0r languages. They know what they are doing, AND they do EVERYTHING in their power to make sure ONLY those communications that they NEED and are supposed to HAVE get captured.

  • Re:*sigh* (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stuccoguy ( 441799 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @12:43PM (#2213858)
    It is true that the FBI must get a court order in order to use Carnivore to intercept the contents of a suspect's communications. Under most circumstances this would be a satisfactory due process safeguard against abuse. In fact, it has been the status quo for preventing abuse by law enforcement for decades.

    This is not the case with Carnivore. The system captures all trafic on the network based on protocol. A court order to intercept the contents of John Doe's email could also result in the capture of your email if it happens to be crossing the same network.

    After the packets have been captured they are filtered to present a set of emails to and from the subject of the court order, but your email and the email of hundreds of other innocent individuals is already sitting on the FBI's computer waiting to be misused or abused.

    And the threat of abuse of that information is hardly miniscule. This is the organization that withheld thousand of documents in the timothy mcveigh trial, attempted to railroad Wen Ho Lee as a spy for taking his work home with him, kept dossiers on thousands of politicians, businessmen and regular citizens for political motives, murdered Randy Weaver's wife and son, and massacred 33 women and children at Waco.

  • by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @12:47PM (#2213880)

    This attitude never ceases to amaze me.

    Once upon a time, when I was sixteen years old and driving home from my girlfriend's house one evening, I was pulled over by a police officer in what could be called the bad side of the town. Although North Amarillo is still a fairly nice neighborhood, it does have a slightly higher crime rate and lower property values than the south side.

    Thinking to my self... 'I wonder why I've been pulled over?' I remained calm because I had done nothing. What could I possibly have to fear from a uniformed law enforcement officer when I hadn't done anything wrong.

    Said officer pulled me from the car at gunpoint and shoved my face into the asphalt... the gun pressed into the base of my skull... while he cuffed me and frisked me. He threw me into the back of his patrol car and then illegally searched my car.

    I learned later that he did all this because there had been reports of a 'drive by shooting' in my girlfriend's neighborhood. My car matched the description, so in the cop's mind I was a dangerous unknown... dangerous enough to hold a gun to my head. He felt he had 'probable cause' to search my car for firearms based on an anonymous 911 call.

    An attourney later told me candidly that I had very little chance to win a court case because the policeman released me after searching my car and the judges were all highly sympathetic to the police.

    Now, what lessons should we all learn from this?

    1. American criminal and police law is not designed to protect innocence. It's designed to punish the criminal.

    2. Police will do their best to uphold that law out of honor, duty, hate, fear, or any other of a hundred positive or negative reasons.

    3. Police don't care about innocents who get hurt or get their civil rights violated, so long as *they* aren't hurt and *their* jobs don't become any harder. There's a reason we have the term 'Police State'

    4. Power breeds corruption. Any given law enforcement agency may have a policy against abuse, but almost all law enforcement officers will abuse their power in one way or the other.

    I'm not the only one who things these things. There's a reason we have the fourth amendment, after all.
  • Re:*sigh* (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @12:50PM (#2213895)
    I think most people in the Western world understand court orders and the need for law enforcement. There are two minor problems, however:

    * Law enforcement and the judiciary form a pretty much closed loop system. They come from similar backgrounds, they consider themselves the "good guys", and they prohibit investiations into their own motives/failures/biases. So when there is a problem with a request for a warrent the odds are that the judiciary will approve the request anyway.

    * If you have spent much time with law enforcement people, you know that the "observe crime/gather evidence/make arrest" model isn't the only one they use. The "suspect crime/fish around for something/use something to get warrent/intimidate person into confessing or giving up someone else" model is pretty common, too. And the methods used to find "something" are not always pretty, legal, or constitutional.

    In the past, while this behaviour may have been bad, it wasn't totally corrosive, because the ability to fish around for "something" was limited by the overall difficulty of gathering information.

    The technologies being develped today, in contrast, make it quite easy to fish for whatever one wants to find. And since there are laws affecting just about every action (I am willing to bet you have violated 5 federal laws already today), the widespread availability of this technology gets more than a bit scary.


  • Re:*sigh* (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Stickster ( 72198 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @01:11PM (#2214032) Homepage

    You are indeed underinformed, but that's typical of /.ers these days. The packets are filtered but then pursuant to the actual court order and normal Title III wiretap regulations the non-pertinent traffic is not retained "sitting on the FBI's computer" [sic] for later use. The irrelevant traffic must be discarded at the time of filtering.

    Your obviously polemic (and clearly incorrect) comments at the end of your post don't even bear up to the slightest modicum of common sense. Do yourself a favor and don't believe everything you read or hear. Remember that the news media is a BUSINESS, not a public service. They have no motivation to report truth, especially when it doesn't generate good ratings.

  • Re:*sigh* (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stuccoguy ( 441799 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @01:21PM (#2214102)
    What I'm saying is that if there aren't any better examples with which to illustrate the potential for the abuses of power, then this is as far as I think the message deserves to go.

    Very well...here are a few more:

    * DICK GREGORY: In 1968, the activist/comedian publicly denounced the Mafia for importing heroin into the inner city. Did the FBI welcome the anti-drug, anti-mob message? No. Head G-man J. Edgar Hoover responded by proposing that the Bureau try to provoke the mob to retaliate against Gregory as part of an FBI "counter intelligence operation" to "neutralize" the comedian. Hoover wrote: "Alert La Cosa Nostra (LCN) to Gregory's attack on LCN."
    * FREEDOM RIDERS: In 1961, black and white civil rights workers boarded interstate buses in the North and headed south in an effort to desegregate buses nationwide. The FBI learned that when the freedom riders reached bus depots in Alabama, the state police were going to give the Ku Klux Klan "15 uninterrupted minutes" to beat activists with baseball bats, clubs and chains. The Bureau allowed the violence to occur; activist Walter Bergman spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair, partially paralyzed.
    * VIOLA LIUZZO: The white civil rights volunteer from Detroit-a mother of five-joined Martin Luther King's 1965 Selma (Ala.) campaign aimed at securing the right to vote for blacks. She was shot and killed after being chased 20 miles at high speed by a carload of four Klansmen. In the car was Gary David Rowe, a well-paid FBI informant inside the Klan; the violence-prone Rowe had played a big role in the beatings of freedom riders years earlier. "He couldn't be an angel and be a good informant," commented one of his FBI handlers.
    * FRANK WILKINSON: A lifelong civil libertarian who led the campaign to abolish the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities, his FBI surveillance file spans 30 years and 132,000 pages. Estimated cost to us taxpayers: $17 million. Wilkinson never advocated or committed violence, but the file shows that the Bureau burglarized his offices and encouraged beatings of him. The FBI once heard of a right-wing scheme to assassinate Wilkinson-but took no action to inform him or protect him.
    * MARTIN LUTHER KING: For years, the FBI used spying and infiltration in a relentless campaign to destroy King- to wreck his marriage, undermine his mental stability and encourage him to commit suicide. The Bureau created dissension among King's associates, disrupted fundraising efforts and recruited his bookkeeper as a paid agent after learning the employee was embezzling.
    The FBI utilized "media assets" to plant smear stories in the press - some insinuating that King was a Soviet agent. One FBI media asset against King in the early 1960s was Patrick Buchanan, then an editorial writer in St. Louis.
    The FBI once hatched a scheme to "completely discredit" King and have him replaced by a civil rights leader the Bureau could control. The one individual named by the Bureau as "the right kind of Negro leader" was lawyer Samuel Pierce-who years later became the only black in President Reagan's cabinet.
    King was hated and regularly threatened by white supremacists and extremists-but the FBI developed a written policy of not informing King about threats to his life. Why? Because of his "unsavory character," "arrogance and "uncooperative attitude."
    * PETER BOHMER: For months in the early 1970s, this economics professor and other antiwar activists in San Diego were terrorized-with menacing phone calls, death threats and fire-bombings-by the Secret Army Organization, a right-wing paramilitary group. On Jan. 6, 1972, gunshots were fired into Bohmer's house, wounding a friend.
    After a bombing months later, a trial revealed that Howard Barry Godfrey, co-founder of SAO in San Diego and one of its most active and violent members, had all along been a paid FBI informant. Godfrey testified that he had driven the car from which the shots were fired; afterward, he took the weapon to his FBI supervisor, who hid it.
    * BLACK PANTHER PARTY: Some critics are denouncing the new movie Panther as an anti-FBI fantasy. But the hard facts about the FBI's war on the Panthers were published in 1976 by the Senate Intelligence Committee chaired by Frank Church. Using paid infiltrators and faked documents, the Bureau routinely tried to goad militant groups or street gangs to commit violence against the Panthers.
    In southern California, FBI agents helped provoke Ron Karenga's militant US group into attacks on Panthers and boasted about it in memos to headquarters. When the FBI learned that the Panthers and US were trying to talk out their differences, agents did their best to reopen the conflict. Four Panthers were ultimately killed by US members, two on the UCLA campus.
    In Chicago, the FBI office forged and sent a letter to the Blackstone Rangers gang leader saying the Panthers had a "hit out" on him. The FBI's stated hope was that he "take reprisals against" the Panther leadership.
    Although that plan failed, Chicago Panther chief Fred Hampton (age 21) was killed months later in a predawn police assault on his apartment. Hampton's bodyguard turned out to be an FBI agent-provocateur who, days before the raid, had delivered an apartment floor-plan to the Bureau-with an "X" marking Hampton's bed. Most bullets were aimed at his bedroom. The infiltrator received a $300 bonus: "Our source was the man who made the raid possible," stated an FBI memo.
    Among the hundreds of schemes detailed in FBI memos were plans to contaminate the Panther newspaper's printing room with a noxious chemical; to inject a powerful laxative into fruit served to kids as part of the Panthers' free breakfast program; and to target smear campaigns at various Hollywood celebrities who had come to the Panthers' defense.
    * CENTRAL AMERICA ACTIVISTS: Many recent news accounts say that FBI abuse pretty much ended with J. Edgar Hoover's death in 1972, and that the Bureau has been in check since the Justice Department issued new guidelines in 1976. Not true. FBI disruption of lawful dissent has continued-though the terminology has changed, from counterintelligence (COINTELPRO) to "counterterrorism."
    During the 1980s, groups critical of U.S. intervention in Central America were surveilled, infiltrated and disrupted by the FBI. Political break-ins occurred at churches, offices and homes-and material from the burglaries ended up in FBI files. In the guise of monitoring supporters of foreign terrorists, the FBI compiled files on clergy, religious groups and thousands of nonviolent anti-intervention activists. The investigation produced not a single criminal charge. The whole sordid story is detailed in Break-ins, Death Threats and the FBI, a book by former Boston Globe reporter Ross Gelbspan.

    from the book Wizards of Media Oz [amazon.com].

  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @04:37PM (#2215288) Homepage
    No, Rodney King was beaten because he was on PCP and kept trying to get up when the officers told him to stay down.

    And why did that have to result in being beaten? Were they afraid for their lives? Wouldn't at some point grabbing him and cuffing him be the more sensible option? Certainly less harmfull. But I guess I get the point -- do what the cop says, or get the shit beaten out of you. *hums America the Beautiful*

    I'm not saying that the force used wasn't excessive, but let's not paint Rodney King as some innocent bystander.

    Hardly at all. He was a bad man. That because he was a bad man the police thought it was okay to beat him 60+ times with clubs is exactly the thinking I am trying to expose to analysis.

    It's the disturbing police mentality -- "It's okay because I'm the good guy" for any value of "it" -- that I'm speaking of. It is this mentality that causes me to have less than 0 trust for law enforcement, and fear giving them any more power.

    If the facts are really as you lay them out, then sue the police department. And please don't say that they can't win, because people win police abuse cases every day.

    Thanks. And I'm sure that knowing the bad cop lost his badge and that she'll get some nice money will help compensate for the irreperable damage to her body and career by the attack. Not that seeing the attacker go to jail would either, but I'm not here to discuss him.

    Don't get me wrong. We'll sue. Without a doubt. I hope we'll win -- people win police abuse cases, every day, but they also lose some no-brainers *cough*RodneyKing*cough*. Of course it won't make up for what happened, it's just you -have- to sue because otherwise they get away with it scott-free.

    But being able to sue if the police abuse their power doesn't make me feel good about giving them more power to abuse.

    Again, no one says the police are perfect.

    Hey, I'm not perfect either. Then again, if I beat you with a baton until you had brain damage, I don't think anyone would be trying to defend me by saying "no one ever said he was perfect".
  • Re:*sigh* (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mixup ( 47965 ) <heather.thisisheather@com> on Friday August 24, 2001 @05:08PM (#2215415) Homepage
    Sure, there is FBI misconduct. But there is no way to prevent misconduct in any group of people. And it isn't unreasonable for any group of people to protect their own in cases of wrongdoing.

    When the group of people are operating under the guise of "public servants" using public funding, I believe it *is* unreasonable for them to protect their own from the public in cases of wrongdoing.

    Regardless, misappropriation of data against stated policies and laws has been de rigeur for various federal agencies. Misappropriation of census data was the number one tool for rounding up Japanese-Americans for the WWII internment camps, for example. But so many abuses have already been cited that I'll not belabor the thread with further examples.

    Sure, the FBI are not the only ones illegally misappropriating data. Businesses do it, catholic school girls do it, in many ways it's human nature ... but it is of course still wrong and extremely dangerous when done by a government agency.

    What if someone on the same cellular switch as me is being investigated, and my text messages to my gay lover get intercepted, tagged, and stored? That's not information the FBI has any right to know. It's not illegal (at least in my state), but could be easily used against me by a corrupt agent, or in a court case to discredit me to a homophobic jury, or a slew of other ways.

    It's the indiscriminate nature of Carnivore that makes it so scary in this instance. If you get a court order to listen in to my neighbor's communications, that should not entitle you to listen to my own.

Love may laugh at locksmiths, but he has a profound respect for money bags. -- Sidney Paternoster, "The Folly of the Wise"