War is Peace - Freedom is Slavery - Ignorance is Strength

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Crunkmas

Since I hadn't posted in a while I thought I would take some time out this holiday season to crank everybody’s paranoia levels up into the red. Please, don't thank me.

This surveillance issue is serious business and while it is definitely bad for our civil liberties it is also becoming increasingly likely that it will be just as bad for the Bush administration. Perhaps they would do well to read Nixon's resignation speech:
"In all the decisions I have made in my public life, I have always tried to do what was best for the Nation. [...] As I recall the high hopes for America with which we began this second term, I feel a great sadness that I will not be here in this office working on your behalf to achieve those hopes in the next 21/2 years." --Some Asshole
Bush resigning... That would be like Christmas every day for a year. My only concern is that I might have to start believing in God again.

Bush on the shame plane isn't likely, but I know the Times is eager join the big game club so exclusive that it counts the Post as its only member, so my hope remains alive, and I'm sure the stories will keep coming.

Smile - You're on Carlyle Camera

The New York Times is reporting today that the NSA is "tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries" in order to collect and analyze a "vast trove" of information about the communications of individuals both inside the United States and around the world. What hasn't been disclosed is the possible involvement of everyone's favorite boogey-man multi-national: The Carlyle Group.

--Spy Agency Mined Vast Data Trove, Officials Report (N.Y. Times)

Along with its numerous defense holdings The Carlyle Group holds a diverse portfolio of other investments that includes a large Real Estate holding arm. Of Carlyle's 400 odd properties, there are three very special ones that are managed by a subsidiary, CRG West.

--CRG West

The three properties managed by CRG West are what as known as "carrier hotels." These are data centers where internet and telecom providers meet up and their networks interconnect. One Wilshire, in Los Angeles, is a major transit point for international communications and a hub for data traffic all over the west coast. One Wilshire's website boasts that the building is "home to virtually all of the market leaders in the telecommunications industry." Along with One Wilshire, the Carlyle Group owns and CRG West manages similar facilities in San Jose and Washington D.C.

Given that these locations would be ideal for doing exactly the type of data interception that the Times article describes, and that their owner has extensive defense interests and intelligence community connections, it is pertinent to ask if the Carlyle Group is one of the unnamed corporations that is cooperating with the NSA on this project.

Smile - You're on Cingular Camera

Recently there has been a dribble of information coming out via the New York Times about secret and illegal NSA surveillance programs. What hasn't been mentioned, but is technologically quite feasible, is the exploitation of cell phone usage data to track individuals. This could be used either to locate specific individuals or similar to the analysis the NSA is doing of calling patterns, they could do a broad analysis of usage data to determine who is traveling where and with whom. For instance: a cell-phone used to call Saudi Arabia that has also been carried on site-seeing tours of national monuments could be flagged for investigation of possible terrorist activity.

You don't think this is possible? Think again. Even now, without E911 (the requirement that all cell-phone companies provide location data for emergency services), it is possible to track an individual’s movements via their cell-phone, even if you can't pinpoint their exact location.

Tracking is possible because even when your handset is not in use it is communicating with the network in order to maintain signal and enable the routing of calls. When you travel a few miles or more, your handset will communicate with different cell sites as you go, continuously looking for the best signal. With a record of those communications all one must do is analyze the timing of the connection to each cell site and they will have a map of where you have traveled. If the records available for analysis included signal strength information and your model took into account terrain related signal impairments, the tracking could be extremely accurate. This accuracy would be at its peak in urban areas where there are many cell sites and your handset is handing-off between them quite frequently.

We don't know exactly what information cell-phone companies collect and store, and if that information is being used for surveillance that fact would certainly be classified, but it is a possibility that this is taking place, and that deserves recognition and further investigation.

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