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Commentary Last Updated: Apr 13th, 2007 - 01:21:18

Your communications colonoscopy
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Apr 13, 2007, 01:19

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Your government knows what�s good for you. They won�t want you to catch a terror cancer. So, just to have a clean bill of health, lay back, let the �general� anesthetic work. They�ll wake you up in an hour or so. One, they�ll be looking in the guts of your computer for polyps. Two, they�ll check out your emails for infections. Three they�ll also tap into your phones for anomalous phrases, catchwords and the like. If they see or hear any anything while looking, they�ll remove it on the spot for biopsy, so to speak. Just sign here, good luck.

One: looking in your computer�s guts

In his April 6 Anti-Empire Report, aptly subtitled, �Some things you need to know before the world ends,� author William Blum talks about Microsoft and the National Security Agency.

He says, �In January, the Washington Post reported that Microsoft had announced that its new operating system, Vista, was being brought to us with the assistance of the National Security Agency. The NSA said it helped to protect the operating systems from worms, Trojan horses and other insidious computer attackers. �Our intention is to help everyone with security,� said the NSA�s chief of vulnerability analysis and operations group. The spy agency, which provided its service free said it was Microsoft�s idea to acknowledge NSA�s role, although the software giant declined to be specific about NSA�s contribution to Vista.�

What wasn�t quite so boldly proclaimed in the corporate media, though it appeared all over the Internet in 1999-2000 was the following:

�In September 1999, the leading investigative reporter Duncan Campbell revealed that NSA had arranged with Microsoft to insert special �keys� into Windows� operating system, dating back to Windows 95. An American computer scientist, Andrew Fernandez of Cryptonym in North Carolina, had disassembled parts of the Windows instruction code and found the smoking gun -- Microsoft�s developers failed to remove the debugging symbols used to test this software before they released it.� Oops!

�Inside the code were the labels for two keys. One was called �KEY.� The other was called �NSAKEY.� Fernandez presented his findings at a conference at which some Windows developers were also in attendance. The developers did not deny that the NSA key was built into their software, but they refused to talk about what the key did, or why it had been put there without users� knowledge. Fernandez says that NSA�s �back door� in the world�s most commonly used operating system makes it �orders of magnitude easier for the US government to access your computer.�� So, rest assured, they know what they�re doing. What�s more . . .

�February 2000, it was disclosed that the Strategic Affairs Delegation (DAS), the intelligence arm of the French Defense Ministry, had prepared a report in 1999 which also asserted that NSA had helped to install secret programs in Microsoft software. According to the DAS report, �it would seem that the creation of Microsoft was largely supported, not least financially, by the NSA, and that IBM was made to accept the [Microsoft-DOS] operating system by the same administration.� The report stated that there had been a �strong suspicion of a lack of security fed by insistent rumours about the existence of spy programmes on Microsoft, and by the presence of NSA personnel in Bill Gates� development teams.� Microsoft categorically denied all the charges and the French Defense Ministry said that it did not necessarily stand by the report, which was written by �outside experts.��

�In case the above disturbs your image of Bill Gates and his buddies as a bunch of long-haired, liberal, peacenik computer geeks, and the company as one of the non-military-oriented halfway decent corporations, the DAS report states that the Pentagon at the time was Microsoft�s biggest client in the world. The Israeli military has also been an important client. In 2002, the company erected enormous billboards in Israel which bore the Microsoft logo under the text �From the depth of our heart -- thanks to The Israeli Defense Forces,� with the Israeli national flag in the background.� Well now, how does that feel? Little uncomfortable, eh? Well, that�s predictable.

Two: scouring your Internet; three: tapping your phone calls

From Western Voices World News, we have the article Court Order? Warrant? Who Needs them? Its opening paragraphs give us some more unsettling, eye-opening news . . .�Very quietly, all Internet Service Providers are being equipped for comprehensive undetectable surveillance of both Internet and voice traffic under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) with a deadline for compliance of May 15, 2007, and were required to file a confidential System Security and Integrity Plan with the FBI detailing the implementation by March 15, 2007, pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 1004 and 47 U.S.C. 229(b).

�While the contents of these documents are secret, and it is illegal to disclose them to the public, our researchers have perused the legal requirements for these documents, and have discovered information with profound implications for freedom.

�The most important information we discovered is that this electronic surveillance can be applied routinely without a court order signed by a judge.� Argh! What? Now, now, don�t start squirming, just when we�ve inserted the device. Actually there are certain situations under which your ISP (Internet Service Provider) will need to, how should we put it, �initiate undetectable surveillance.� They are just the four that follow . . .

�1) Court order signed by a judge or magistrate pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 2510-2520

�2) RICO, requiring only the certification of the Attorney General, and no court order or judicial review under 18 U.S.C. 1951-1968.

�3) FISA, again requiring only the certification of the Attorney General, and no court order or judicial review under 18 U.S.C. 1801-1811.

�4) A sort of �catch-all� for anytime the Federal government wants to snoop but can�t find any other way of doing it, again requiring only the certification of the Attorney General, and no court order or judicial review under 18 U.S.C. 2518(7).�

You should also understand that, well, �certification of the Attorney General� actually can be, err, �made by anyone authorized by the Attorney General to make such certification.� It also includes a wide assortment of �unelected bureaucrats.� Now, please, stop squirming. This is dangerous.

If you remember anything of this experience, it should be two things: �1) ISP-level surveillance will be in place by May 15, 2007, AND 2) A court order is no longer necessary.� Yes, you heard that correctly, thank you.

We understand a certain yearning, what, a nostalgia so to speak, for the days when your, ah, privacy shall we say could not be, how to put it, violated without at least some pro-forma judicial review. So it is suggested that you perhaps contact your representatives (most probably out fund-raising, which might be a good time) and let them know what you think.

By the way, your ISP happens to be prohibited from revealing the foregoing, but the laws themselves are publicly available for you to verify. Well, yes, that�s heartening. I mean, you can go to Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) and get a deeper explanation of all this. And, actually for further amplification look at the Electronic Freedom Foundation -- Defending Freedom In the Digital Age.

For instance, you might find �question 8� of some interest, along with its answer . . .

�8. Does the FCC propose to apply CALEA to all types of online communication, including instant messaging and visits to websites?

�Not yet. The NPRM proposes CALEA coverage of �only� broadband Internet access services and managed VoIP services, and excludes instant messaging and email. However, the FCC�s broad understanding of the substantial replacement clause will create a stifling regulatory environment in which law enforcement will undoubtedly contend that other emerging communications technologies fall under CALEA. And industry could add surveillance-ready equipment, services, and network capability as an attempt to appease law enforcement given the current national focus on homeland security (and indeed some already have -- see Cisco�s CALEA architecture, which is expected to become a more formal RFC at some point). Given product-development cycles that can take two years or more, industry may hedge its bets by building in surveillance-friendly features now rather than waiting for government mandates. Inevitably, law enforcement will seek over time to bring more and more communications services under the CALEA umbrella.�

Feeling a little cramped? Well, that�s to be expected, what with this long snake and its peering eye curled up your guts. But so far, good news. You�re clean as a whistle. So far. But don�t you listen to those people who tell you that the real cancer may the examination itself. Those are not patriots as we know them and they are speaking from their own troublesome, perhaps infected bias.

By the way, you will feel a little groggy on waking. It is suggested you take an hour or so to recover. The nurse has some juice and a snack waiting for you. Have a nice day.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in XXXXXXX. Reach him for now at

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