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It would seem FISA is kind of back on our radar screen again. Much of the debate here stuns me, and not much of it positive. The biggest thing is I sense we are debating something technical, and something that most don't understand. So I want to repost what I wrote several months ago. This is why you should be pissed, cause what our government is doing is pretty darn staggering.

I wanted to take a couple minutes and attempt to add something to the FISA debate. People like Glenn Greenwald and front-pager mcjoan have done a stellar job of pulling back the multiple layers of the onion as it relates to the FISA debate and telecom immunity. They get at the core of the issues better then anybody around. A great service that the MSM can't seem to do themselves.

But I still find something lacking in their coverage, which is an actual analysis of what we know the government is doing from a technology point-of-view.

It is my belief that many people here and in the progressive blogsphere get the core of the issue and are more than a little concerned. But I also sense if they really, really understood what was going on and/or what was being done they'd be freaked out by a factor of 10.

Part of the reason I think this is happening is most folks just don't understand how the Internet works or where we are from a technology point-of-view. I think a little background info is needed. So lets start there.

Companies like AT&T purchase very powerful data networking switches that sort traffic. Any email you send, web site you want to visit, IM received comes through one of these switches. What do I mean by powerful:

Cisco, which is based in San Jose, California, and is the world's largest producer of network equipment, offered a range of examples to try to capture the significance of the increase in speed. It said the switch could transfer all 90,000 Netflix movies in 38.4 seconds or send a two megapixel digital image to every human being on Earth in 28 minutes.

Ponder not one of these switches but dozens of them sitting in the NOC (Network Operations Center) of AT&T or Verizon. It is like the router in your house or office building is a light blub. What AT&T/Verizon are using is the sun.

Now what we know, beyond any doubt (we have the freaking blueprints and technical specs), is that the government at an AT&T building in San Fran split all the traffic from the NOC onto its own switches.

They didn't gather one email or the IM of this person or that person. They didn't even ask AT&T for the information from this whole day or this one million Internet Protocol (IP) addresses (something unique to your specific computer/router/network hub -- your online DNA). Instead they just built their own secure room within AT&T's NOC, installed their own switches, and tapped into the traffic and grabbed everything! We also know this is being done in other data centers throughout the United States.

To use a pre-Internet example it is like a USPS employee opening every letter sent and photocopying them.

Here is exactly what they did (links directly to a PDF):

Optical fiber carrying the inter-ISP peering traffic associated with AT&T’s Common Backbone was "split," dividing the signal so that 50 percent went to each output fiber. One of the output fibers was diverted to the secure room; the other carried communications on to AT&T’s switching equipment. The secure room contained Narus traffic analyzers and logic servers; Narus states that such devices are capable of real-time data collection (recording data for consideration) and capture at 10G bits per second (bps). Certain traffic was selected and sent over a dedicated line to a "central location." The San Francisco office set-up was one of many throughout the country, including in Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego. According to Marcus’s affidavit, the diverted traffic "represented all, or substantially all, of AT&T’s peering traffic in the San Francisco Bay area,"14 and thus, "the designers of the ... configuration made no attempt, in terms of location or position of the fiber
split, to exclude data sources comprised primarily of domestic data."

Bush, the DOJ,and NSA would like all of us to think this is just too much information to do anything with so we shouldn't worry our pretty little heads about it. Well that is utter crap and maybe the biggest lie they have told us (and they have told some whoppers). If you have a data networking switch that can handle sending 90,000 DVDs in well under a minute, don't think for a second you can't stack enough computers next to them to process this information in whatever manner they desire.

For example, here are the specs on the world's fast computer, developed by IBM and you got it, a federal government agency:

The No. 1 position was again claimed by the BlueGene/L System, a joint development of IBM and the Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and installed at DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. Although BlueGene/L has occupied the No. 1 position since November 2004, the current system has been significantly expanded and now achieves a Linpack benchmark performance of 478.2 TFlop/s ("teraflops" or trillions of calculations per second), compared to 280.6 TFlop/s six months ago before its upgrade.

That would be more than 450 trillion with a capital T a second.

They didn't gather all this data for just a second, minute, hour, week, month or a year in time. They have been collecting it for years. The data builds upon itself. The more data they have the more useful it becomes, not the other way around.

And finally, there is another huge lie Bush and the DoJ like to tell. That is FISA was written years ago and it is outdated, therefore they don't have time to go in-front of a judge and present evidence.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Just like your computer keeps your browsing history, sent emails, and a number of pages in your disk cache so does AT&T. I don't know the exact time (it would vary), but it is days or weeks, not seconds. And since every digital packet that comes through a switch is coming from one IP address to another, it would be so stupid simple to monitor one address. Ten. One thousand. Ten million backwards in time, in real-time, and moving forward.

Problem for the White House and DoJ, that would require they present evidence in the FISA court.

It is clear they don't want to do this, instead they want EVERYTHING. And of course we may never know why!

Originally posted to webranding on Sat Jun 21, 2008 at 09:32 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Just Keep In Mind We Know About This (10+ / 0-)

    what else don't we know about .....

    Let us not forget New Orleans. Visit Project Katrina.

    by webranding on Sat Jun 21, 2008 at 09:34:34 AM PDT

  •  FISA is joke... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    phrogge prince

    ... and so is anyone that thinks it is important legislation.  With technology programs like Echelon in place the FISA debate has become nothing but hand wringing for those who believe we still have civil liberties.  FISA was drafted long before the massive adoption of the world wide web, cellular telephones, text messaging and other elecronic forms of communication so prevalent in our society, and also long before every bit of that communication was sucked up by electronic eavesdropping systems.  FISA is a toothless piece of legislation that is grossly outdated and need of revision.  Giving way on FISA means nothing, not when the government has been listening in and reading your electronic communications for years and using that information to their advantage.  When you take Echelon into consideration, and the multi-nation alliance built to support the system, a piece of legislation like FISA is like a flea on a dog's back.

    •  Look Echelon Is A Whole Other Issue (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      xaxado, Cugel, Neon Vincent

      Not really happy about the concept and power behind it either. But the companies we pay have given their networks and our information directly to the government. Period. Let me say that again, they gave them access directly to their networks.

      Let us not forget New Orleans. Visit Project Katrina.

      by webranding on Sat Jun 21, 2008 at 09:54:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Guess what... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        webranding

        ... they had access to all of that information before anyways.  FISA is also toothless when you have the Patriot Act and Patriot Act II riding shot gun.  Everything we do online, every word we say on a telephone, our spending habits, or library and research habits, and on and on, have all been sucked up into databases that are continually mined and profiles developed on each of us.  All of that information, while compartmentalized, is available at the drop of a hat, so don't think for a second that some bullshit, antiquated, piece of legislation is going to provide any protection.  The only thing FISA did was outline that the government had to get a warrant before invading your "personal space" domestically.  Fortunately Echelon already invaded that personal space and the Patriot Act dashed the need for a warrant to go snooping.  If the government wants data, they already have the systems and laws to get it.  FISA has been a dog and pony show.

      •  One last thing... (0+ / 0-)

        ... the only thing the telcomms turned over that the government didn't already have were the detailed log files from those routers and switches.  Ironically, it is this data that is required to take a case to court.

  •  What They're Up To (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    webranding, Neon Vincent

    This is as clear an analysis of what they're up to as I've seen. The real problem isn't even amnesty, it's HOW IS THIS SYSTEM GOING TO BE USED GOING FORWARD?

    Because once the technology exists it's almost impossible to "uninvent" the wheel. The temptation to use it to control people who are inconvenient will be more and more overwhelming.

    We humans have always faced a serious problem. The desire of people with power to control others and make their position secure was only limited by the popular power to resist. But, technology gives more and more tools of oppression to those who would use them.

    Unless popular resistance bans those tools and keeps forbidding the government from using them, all barriers of privacy and constitutional liberty will be destroyed.

    We already have zero privacy rights in America. If the "threat of terrorism" can be used to continue this development, we will wind up with ZERO liberty as well.

  •  We haven't seen the true purpose or the crimes (0+ / 0-)

    that are behind this huge data secretly gathered without warrants or permission yet. 5 points:

    We know (because of the Quest refusal) that telcom compliance with secret and illegal Bushco requests took place from February 2001, maybe earlier amd we don't know WHAT the Bush criminal gang promised in exchange for being given the taps and rich spying on Americans right here at home.

    Knowing Rove and Cheney and the "permanent campaign" it is highly likely the taps were on Democrats to aid and abet skullduggery, real actions of some Democratic office holders, opportunities to create phoney crimes with the help of corrupt intelligence agencies and partisan corrupt and scum District attorneys and others to set up political opponents.
    The payoff was various deals or allowances to telcoms to gather more monopoly power or other market power or undue influence in parts of the electronic marketplace. Stuff they were NOT entitled to and represented undue influence or unjustly granted favors or advantages.

     Since Sept 11, 2001, a whole raft of excuses and tossing away the 4th amendment rights have been advanced, all designed mainly to retroactively guarantee and make legal all this wrongdoing.

    All the players got something.

    The Bushies got a secret police power no elected official should have, a corrupt dirty tricks toolkit for their gangster bunch to provide directions for their loyalist officials and  hitmen like Blackwater in Iraq or America.

    Since Sept 11, 2001 a handful of Democrats have been drawn into the fantasy that torture and spying and other dirty stuff will make America "stronger and more secure". Some of them really believe this.

      None of them is prepared for the fact that these powers, secret and beyond oversight lead to every sort of blackmail, espionage, dirty deals in business as well as private life and then corrupts to an impossible degree life in America to where it is going to be indistinguishable betweeen today's USA and the Stasi days  of East Germany or  of Stalin's Russia of the 1950's.

    The technical means of collection was always there. Now there is the will and the desire to use it. Use against other Americans for the most narrow, venal and selfish ends.

    That is what Steny Hoyer, Jay Rockefeller and the other enablers have agreed to. If FISA, which was passed as a 1978 defense of civil rights of Americans in a dangerous situation world wide protection bill  needed updating, a technical fix, why wasn't that done as an amendment pure and simple to update the technical means of collection, leaving the court supervision and review position alone? But there is more. The corporate marketing people want even more information on Americans, the telcos and other businesses want huge data bases that the intelligence agencies and their subcontractors, even those in India and elsewhere are compiling expanded and freely and secretly shared to those willing to buy it...and American citizens have no say over it.

     The telcos wanted their participation to stay secret and the Bushies wanted their own corrupt use to stay hidden. And the Democrats who agreed with some sordid elements of this in 2001 thru 2003 and beyond wanted their own role in this to be covered up also, so there was sympathy for and tacit agreement with the Bush dilemma and the telco immunity/insurance policy.

    Not cowardice, not mistakes, not "updating technical fixes" but helping their corporate pals and even political pals from the other Party cover up so they could use this nifty tool when their time comes.

    Unlike most Republicans, he HAS dropped bombs on a people and country that did not attack America. $traight Talk.

    by Pete Rock on Sat Jun 21, 2008 at 10:31:21 AM PDT

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