Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The United States of Surveillance?

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  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to BenWilson,

    I'm not sure what they want to keep quiet, but it's one of the ostensible reasons for giving GCSB all that money and power. It's another reason for a future government to replace them with an accountable and under-control body.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I’m not sure what they want to keep quiet, but it’s one of the ostensible reasons for giving GCSB all that money and power.

    Not having anything to keep quiet is an ostensible reason to remove that money and power. And that's the least of the reasons not to have anything to keep quiet. The main reason is because transparency in our political and economic agreements is actually a good thing, in a democracy. It doesn't matter how competently or incompetently they keep secrets, the point is that they shouldn't be keeping secrets. I could possibly understand secrecy if the discussions were of a military nature.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    Surely nations turn up with their list of wants and find some compromise.

    I helps if you know their negotiating postions as you go.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    Oh the irony. JK says that he has "high levels of encryption on my phone" and his Ipad.

    So who on earth could be is spying on him......obviously not the British.... cos we're mates.

    "But he was less worried about his host governments than others who might seek to intercept his communications.

    "If David [Cameron] wanted to know what I was going to raise [at a meeting] he'd just send me a text and ask me." "

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Ross Mason,

    So who on earth could be is spying on him……obviously not the British…. cos we’re mates.

    Nicky Hager, maybe? Oh wait, he doesn’t surveil, he just receives leaks, which is not the same thing.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Sacha,

    I helps if you know their negotiating postions as you go.

    I guess so. But really, when you're holding the cards, you're holding them. Eventually, they all get played. Most of the real sorting into who gets what happens at the deal, not during the playing. If you have a bottom line, then you stick to it. If something else is offered, you weigh up whether it's worth it. It's not really a magical secret process - if it is, as I said, then it's really dysfunctional to even play the game. Why the hell should sorting out international trade be like high stakes poker? What a ridiculous way to organize things.

    Also, on the security of communication angle, I can't fathom how any government in this day and age couldn't work out how to make their communication 100% secure from being compromised by encryption attacks. Against a physical compromise it's more tricky, but it's also far easier to get caught out and shamed doing that. Given I could write the code to make a system that would be secure against even infinite decryption power, and it's not even an area of specialization for me, I can only assume that if delegates have been hacked in that way, then the security spooks either can't be bothered, or they actively don't want the delegates to have communications that can't be spyed on.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    It’s not hard to make a cryptographically secure system. It’s harder to make one that’s usable, especially in communicating with arbitrary people.

    I’d imagine that NZ has some sort of secure inter-embassy communication system, but it’s cumbersome – the user has to go to a secure place in the embassy, or write the message out longhand and give it to a courier to encipher and send. They might even have a secure mobile device, but it’s probably a brick, and can only call/message selected people with another similar one.

    So it’s easier for Key to use his bog standard mobile which can then be tapped.

    Ironically, the government could deploy secure comms on an ordinary smartphone, but don’t, because they don’t trust the platform. So then the principals use fully insecure comms anyway.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Ross Mason,

    So who on earth could be is spying on him

    corporate money traders :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Snowden’s new Q&A with Guardian readers was both interesting and frustrating. Someone did try for clarification:

    1) Define in as much detail as you can what “direct access” means.

    More detail on how direct NSA’s accesses are is coming, but in general, the reality is this: if an NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, etc analyst has access to query raw SIGINT databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want. Phone number, email, user id, cell phone handset id (IMEI), and so on – it’s all the same. The restrictions against this are policy based, not technically based, and can change at any time. Additionally, audits are cursory, incomplete, and easily fooled by fake justifications. For at least GCHQ, the number of audited queries is only 5% of those performed.,/q>

    So he’s saying the oversight it the real problem – it’s hard to disagree – but he’s still fudged the “direct access” question a bit. Are they, as the original news story said, reaching directly into the Facebook et al’s networks and grabbing what they want without a warrant, or are they picking up stuff that’s been requested through a FISA process and delivered to an official dropbox, which is what the companies and Bart Gellman’s sources say?

    2) Can analysts listen to content of domestic calls without a warrant?__

    NSA likes to use “domestic” as a weasel word here for a number of reasons. The reality is that due to the FISA Amendments Act and its section 702 authorities, Americans’ communications are collected and viewed on a daily basis on the certification of an analyst rather than a warrant. They excuse this as “incidental” collection, but at the end of the day, someone at NSA still has the content of your communications. Even in the event of “warranted” intercept, it’s important to understand the intelligence community doesn’t always deal with what you would consider a “real” warrant like a Police department would have to, the “warrant” is more of a templated form they fill out and send to a reliable judge with a rubber stamp.

    Glenn Greenwald follow up: When you say “someone at NSA still has the content of your communications” – what do you mean? Do you mean they have a record of it, or the actual content?

    Both. If I target for example an email address, for example under FAA 702, and that email address sent something to you, Joe America, the analyst gets it. All of it. IPs, raw data, content, headers, attachments, everything. And it gets saved for a very long time – and can be extended further with waivers rather than warrants.

    And no one has asked how he, as a sysadmin in the Hawaii branch office, apparently had the apparent power to order up a wiretap of almost limitless scope. Either he didn’t have that much power, or he did. Either answer is disturbing.

    Meanwhile, Obama fudges a bit – but quite authoritatively – in a useful new interview on the subject.

    On the 702 scheme:

    There is a second program called the 702 program. And what that does is that does not apply to any U.S. person. Has to be a foreign entity. It can only be narrowly related to counter-terrorism, weapons proliferation, cyber hacking or attacks, and a select number of identifiers — phone numbers, emails, et cetera. Those — and the process has all been approved by the courts — you can send to providers — the Yahoos or the Googles, what have you. And in the same way that you present essentially a warrant. And what will happen then is that you there can obtain content. But again, that does not apply to U.S. persons.

    Again, it seems the robustness of the oversight is the big question.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    Some history on spying on negotiation partners, and advantages
    From the Atlantic

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to David Hood,

    The advantages are a little underwhelming. Their intelligence meant they kept the Pacific Fleet small. Not sure if that was a sound strategy in the end. But hell, the Peace to end all Peace wasn't played well by anyone.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to BenWilson,

    What a ridiculous way to organize things.

    Well, yes. But also ridiculous to expect humans to act dispassionately, logically and reasonably rather than treating absolutely everything as some sort of adrenaline-fuelled game of one-upping brinksmanship.

    Ironically, the government could deploy secure comms on an ordinary smartphone, but don’t, because they don’t trust the platform. So then the principals use fully insecure comms anyway.

    Anyone else recall stories from around 3-4 years ago about an NZ delegation to China for some big trade pow-wow (details in my memory are a bit hazy). There was a lot of chat around how their phones, laptops, etc. were attacked (spyware, etc.) more or less as soon as they stepped of the plane, something that was continuous for the duration of their stay. There was talk of banning electronic items from the delegation and providing throw-away phones and laptops. One of the underlying implicit thrusts of the stories was 'well, it's the Chinese: repressive, secretive, don't play a straight bat, hit below the belt you know. Can't expect anything better from them'. Yeah, those fiendish Chinese, eh.....

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich Lock,

    They should have their contest on an island, someway off the mainland, inviting only the elite fighters from all around the world. We could send Sonny Bill Williams, who wouldn't even notice when he's beat because he'll be too busy looking good. I'd like to see Winston Peters play the grumpy old coach.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to BenWilson,

    Or they could have their contest on a hill, overseen by Konnie Huq.
    ( Screenwipe S05E04, from around 25:00. NB: Some nudity, so the YouTube of the exact section is age-restricted.)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1942 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to linger,

    Heh, very good. The post event interviews were a bit short, though, and no one cried. At least one guy should have got stage fright. Then they could do a post production interview of him talking up how excited he was beforehand (which they'd show beforehand), and then one afterward saying how crushed he was, possibly getting some man-hugs and then walking off into the distance, and then perhaps a couple of people psychoanalyzing them behind their back, one supportive and disappointed, the other brutal

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • anth,

    The war game that a couple of posters referred to, which got reset and the opposing force ordered not to do anything unexpected, was Millennium Challenge 2002.

    Since Nov 2006 • 77 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to anth,

    Cheers Anth. A real-life Kobayashi Maru.

    I've dug up a couple of references for Chinese hacking of delegates laptops and phones here (from 2008) and here (from 2012, with references to earlier visits and leaving compromisable items behind).

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    This has turned up on Facebook.

    Good Will Hunting's rant at the NSA

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

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