home

Global Electronic Surveillance for Dummies

The New York Times gives a glowing review to "Chatter," a new book by Patrick Radden Keefe. The name derives from the so-called "chatter" allegedly bantered by terrorists on the Internet that makes it way into elevated threat levels.

The Times says the book is "filled with anecdotes, colorful quotes and arresting statistics" and is "breezily aired," breaking down the complex subject matter into easily understandable terms. It sounds interesting, if these quotes are representative:

The United States has fewer than 5,000 spies operating around the world, for example, but 30,000 eavesdroppers. The National Security Agency employs more mathematicians than any other organization in the world, and every three hours its spy satellites gather enough information to fill the Library of Congress. Menwith Hill, the American listening station in North Yorkshire, England, has a staff as large as MI5, Britain's domestic intelligence service.

As for topic scope,

In a series of semiautonomous chapters, he describes Echelon, the vast electronic intelligence-gathering system operated by the United States and its English-speaking allies; surveys the current technology of global eavesdropping; and tries to sort out the vexed issue of privacy rights versus security demands in a world at war with terrorism.

The book even covers the late, not-great Total Information Awareness project:

Chatter" is often quite amusing. Mr. Keefe has great fun with Total Information Awareness, the ill-fated antiterrorist program announced by the Pentagon in the late summer of 2003. By linking private and government databases, Total Awareness would pick up on every electronic click, ping or chirp created by private citizens in the course of their daily lives.

< Report: Surveillance Cameras Do Not Stop Crime | Ankle Bracelets for Law- Abiding Immigrants >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft


  • Display: Sort:
    Re: Global Electronic Surveillance for Dummies (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Mar 02, 2005 at 04:37:16 AM EST
    These capabilities would trouble me a heckuva lot less without the current goon squad in charge. And I guess they know I just posted this... oh well.

    Re: Global Electronic Surveillance for Dummies (none / 0) (#2)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 02, 2005 at 06:48:29 AM EST
    I must disagree Hugo, these capabilities scare me regardless of who happens to head the bueracracy at the moment.

    Re: Global Electronic Surveillance for Dummies (none / 0) (#3)
    by Che's Lounge on Wed Mar 02, 2005 at 07:05:20 AM EST
    Technologically the world in general is becoming a bit more of a level playing field. We have to stay ahead in the info game in order to maintain our continued global domination.

    Re: Global Electronic Surveillance for Dummies (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Mar 02, 2005 at 07:33:39 AM EST
    Hey! I heard that.

    Re: Global Electronic Surveillance for Dummies (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Mar 02, 2005 at 08:01:57 AM EST
    As hinted at above, Britain is even more obsessed with and secretive about electronic surveillance than the US. Until very recently, members of GCHQ (our main eavesdropping service) weren't allowed to unionise. The British public aren't allowed to know what the heads of MI5 or MI6 look like. Despite building a ridiculously unsubtle headquarters (photo at http://www.emporis.com/en/il/im/?id=215741), MI6 refuses to confirm its existence. Our official secrets act doesn't even allow a public interest defence, for Christ's sake. And the government is currently overturning rights held since the Magna Carta because it refuses to allow intercept evidence to be heard in court. An enormous part of British governments' acquiescence to US foreign and trade policy is driven by a desire to keep access to US sigint. And that's not tinfoil hat stuff, either. Blair himself has made the point on numerous occasions. So count your blessings, I say.

    Re: Global Electronic Surveillance for Dummies (none / 0) (#6)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Mar 02, 2005 at 08:48:59 AM EST
    Remember the "Clipper chip" controversey, where the right-wingers stopped the Clinton administration from certifying a standard encryption chip that would be built into our phones and computers? They claimed that encryption would ENABLE the government to listen in! So now none of our phone calls or e-mails are encrypted and pretty much anyone can listen in.

    Re: Global Electronic Surveillance for Dummies (none / 0) (#7)
    by Dadler on Wed Mar 02, 2005 at 09:09:03 AM EST
    all that eavesdropping and what do we have to show for it? oh, that's right, 9/11.

    Re: Global Electronic Surveillance for Dummies (none / 0) (#8)
    by chris on Wed Mar 02, 2005 at 09:34:13 AM EST
    "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -Benjamin Franklin All this surveillance comes if we are not resolute in our principles of freedom, and compromise is not an option. We either receive all freedoms guaranteed, or none of them.

    Re: Global Electronic Surveillance for Dummies (none / 0) (#9)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 02, 2005 at 10:00:14 AM EST
    Who watches the watchers? And listens to the listeners?

    Re: Global Electronic Surveillance for Dummies (none / 0) (#10)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Mar 02, 2005 at 10:22:28 AM EST
    This government eavesdropping is on top of the massive amount of information that the private sector gathers on everyone. They even consider the information which they have gathered on private individuals with out their permission to be their trade secret. There simply is no such thing as privacy in the manner most people still think of that concept. Unless information has been translated by law into a property right such as a trade secret or other intellectual property there is simply no protection for it.

    Re: Global Electronic Surveillance for Dummies (none / 0) (#11)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Mar 02, 2005 at 07:07:15 PM EST
    dadler wrote: all that eavesdropping and what do we have to show for it? oh, that's right, 9/11. Hey - you forgot that they enabled us to know before we invaded Iraq exactly how much atomic, biological and chemical weapons Saddam had and even to pinpoint where they were stored!

    Re: Global Electronic Surveillance for Dummies (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Mar 03, 2005 at 05:37:08 AM EST
    Ginger Yellow is wrong on most counts. SIS (MI6) does not 'refuse to confirm its existence'. It has its own website, as does the security service (MI5). www.mi5.gov.uk also includes a picture of the current director-general, Eliza Manningham-Buller: the name and appearance of the DG has been public knowledge for the last ten years at least. John Scarlett is the current C: his picture is not on the SIS website but has appeared in the media since his appearance at the Hutton inquiry. GCHQ has a budget of about 400 million and around 5,000 employees. In both respects it is far smaller than the comparable US services. (It also has its own website.)

    Re: Global Electronic Surveillance for Dummies (none / 0) (#13)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Mar 03, 2005 at 06:26:24 AM EST
    The building's existence, not its own. I stand corrected on Manningham-Buller, but we only know what Scarlett looks like because he was famous before being appointed head of MI6, as a result of Hutton. His predecessor, Richard Dearlove, had to testify to the Hutton inquiry by audio link. And it should be noted that before Stella Rimington and David Spedding in the 90s we didn't even know the names of our intelligence chiefs. GCHQ's new headquarters alone cost 600m. At the time it was signed, it was the largest PFI deal ever. I agree however that the budget is much smaller than the US, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the absurd secrecy. Would we in Britain have been able to get the equivalent of the FBI memos on Guantanamo under the FOIA? Fat chance - MI5, MI6 and GCHQ all come under the blanket exemptions.

    Re: Global Electronic Surveillance for Dummies (none / 0) (#14)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Mar 03, 2005 at 11:24:26 AM EST
    electronic monitoring ankle bracelets are america's answer to germany's yellow stars and pink triangles.