August 29, 2007

FBI's Wiretapping Behemoth Revealed

Greetings. Considerable details regarding the FBI's vast domestic wiretapping infrastructure -- "DCSNet" -- have now been revealed in released documents. Please see this story for some details and related links.

Now partially exposed is a real-time telecommunications spying system that would have put Stalin's phone cops and the East German Stasi to shame (or at the very least set them drooling with envy). The DCSNet system appears to be as pervasive and potentially subject to abuse as many observers had feared as a worst-case scenario.

I don't throw around the term "police state" lightly. But given the recent information regarding FBI abuse of National Security Letters, other trust-eroding revelations relating to inappropriate use of "anti-terrorism" powers, and the range of technological security and other shortcomings that appear to exist in this embedded wiretapping system, we appear to be living in something very much approximating what could be a textbook definition of a "telecom police state" at this time. That is, when basic communications facilities become purpose-built to enable government monitoring, the very concept of telecommunications privacy for innocent citizens rapidly becomes moot.

Of particular irony is the FBI's assertion that the spying system has never been breached by outsiders -- as far as the FBI knows, that is. But of course, it's the real pro who penetrates such systems without revealing their presence, and the only sure protection from that class of attack is to not deeply compromise telecommunications systems with such incredibly intrusive surveillance capabilities in the first place.

In Theodore J. Flicker's brilliant, masterpiece 1967 film The President's Analyst, the following exchange takes place:

Russian Spy: "Are you trying to tell me that every phone in the country is tapped?"

American Spy: "That's what's in my head."

Russian Spy: "But Don, this is America, not Russia!"

I've noted this dialogue in my writings a number of times over the years. But even I never fully realized the extent to which Flicker had actually created more of a prescient documentary, rather than merely a dark satire.

"This is a recording."


Posted by Lauren at August 29, 2007 05:32 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein