back to article US chief spook pushes electronic dragnet policy

US cyber-security policies may give US intelligence agencies access to any email, file transfer or web search. The proposals from National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell, which have entered into a draft of US Cyber-Security Policy, would legitimise data trawling on a scale that would make the current controversy about …


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  1. Eduard Coli
    Black Helicopters

    Too late

    The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA,passed in 2000) already gives the would be fascists in the UK the right to demand encryption keys during the investigation of a crime. In the US the Patriot Act takes care of this one with it's sloppy revisionism that implies that encryption keys along with everything else need to be produced on demand and you can't even say that the alphabet mafia asked for them.

    I'm sure BB would be proud!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You want data?

    Hypothetically speaking only...

    Instead of wearing a hair net and clean-room bunny suit while committing your next crime, just bring along a full vacuum cleaner bag retrieved from the dumpster (skiff) behind your local shopping mall. Once you're done whatever it is that you're up to, then empty the vacuum cleaner bag all over the scene.

    In the same spirit, the obvious counter-measure to endless data trawling is for someone to create a Firefox plug-in that will randomly click on a near-infinite list of semi-supicious links when the browser is not otherwise being used (or perhaps even constantly in the background with results piped to device_null).

  3. amanfromMars Silver badge

    AI Front Door Key Virtually Guarantees Core Access?

    "reckons that a targeted attack on a US bank could have a greater financial impact than the 9/11 terrorist attacks, ."

    An attack on US banking would be much simpler and much more devastating and just the Yin of Total Information Awareness Yang. All it needs is Undeniable TeXXXXt Shared for Free.

    And that is a little something shared already already with Advanced Simulation and Computing for AI NEUKlearer Clarity and a Paradigm Change into Transparency.

    NeuReal Virtual Territory in Deed, indeed.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I bet the Director Mike McConnell's emails are safe

    Let me guess, there will be an 'elites' and the 'others', and the 'elite' crowd will get free access to anything they want and the 'other' crowd will be kept away from any access to information at all.

    Because the 'elites' need to be protected from the 'others' but the 'others' don't need to be protected from the elites. So Chertoff would never lie about levees breaching, and Bush and Blair would never lie to Parliament about WMDs and Gonzales would never lie about secret orders bypassing FISA. The elites would never fib! No!

    While 'others' can bring down the US, as seen in the documentary 'Die Hard 4' with nothing but a laptop and 30 seconds?

    Nah, I don't think so. I think the 'others' need open government, because 'elites' in power tend to DESIRE power and the easiest way to get power is by lying. Why fix anything if you can lie about it? Whereas Die Hard 4 isn't real, that data is redundantly stored many times over and most of those systems are never attached to the Internet and have no physical connection to the hacker. Romanian & Chinese hackers are already hitting those bank sites every second with no effect. If thousands (10's of thousands?) of hackers can't succeed how can an imagined single 'super' terrorist? Get real!

    We have privacy written into human rights legislation,I think that puts a duty to protect us 'others' in Europe from them 'elite' in fantasy land Washington.

  5. Hate2Register

    Can anyone prove that I know the combination to my safe?

    A defence (here in the UK) against a charge of illegally withholding an encryption key. "I forgot the key". They would have to prove that rather than forgetting it, you were in fact withholding it. Difficult to prove without water-boarding, perhaps..

  6. Andy Bright


    And I know how to make sure they never get to see anything you don't want them to. Don't delete any more of your spam..

    I believe the US intelligent service employees are about to become unparalleled experts in a varying fields of knowledge vital to law enforcement worldwide. Without doubt they will be the people to call if you need to know anything about penis enlargement, pornography, pain killers, fake Rolex watches and dodgy stock deals.

    The only way you should be worried by this, is if you think they're already interested in you. Because if you think they are going to find anyone new to look at by sifting through an entire nation's spam, perhaps you believe in Father Christmas too? I would have doubts on their ability to find anything remotely useful even if they employed every single person in the entire world.

    Oh that's right, they think they have a program that'll do it for them.. excuse me while I rofl. Hmm, probably going to be something along the lines of seti at home but with more data. I wonder if there are enough xenophobes and security nuts in the world to actually make a distributed computing project like that find a genuine terrorist within our lifetimes.

    None of that makes it okay of course, it's just for me the entire thing is so implausible and the only reason they would want to do it is if they already have their suspects and want to grab their online activity.

    Of course what they're really asking for is the legalisation of VOIP wiretaps at will.. now that SHOULD have you worried, because unfortunately by tying it to the internet (and we all know that only pervs, weirdos and terrorists use the internet) they can foist an unconstitutional law onto a technologically ignorant nation, who will wake up in ten years and realise they allowed the NSA to wiretap every single one of them without even the farcical process of getting a warrant.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remember Spook Bait

    Some may remember back to the USENET days and spook bait that was attached to a lot of the postings. The purpose was to have trivial conversations that served no purpose other that to be flagged as terrorist communications because of the signatures that contained words that terrorists would use. I also remember Bush senior fighting encryption technology to the masses because a raid on high level drug dealers revealed they were communicating using encryption that the NSA couldn't crack at that time. I can imagine that it will be just a matter of time before you can download a communication encryption application to your cell phone that will allow end to end secure communications. If you're using the internet for communicating this is already possible. An application like this could really boost iPhone sales.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you think your conversation is being monitored...

    ...Then you and your buddy agree to switch to "crypto mode" (LOL). You both start babbling back and forth in a manner that sound vaguely synthetic. It takes a only a few minutes practice with the tongue and the roof of mouth to get the popping chopped-speech sound-effect quite realistically sounding like a cheap 1970s-era crypto unit.

    "I think that there's someone listening. Go to crypto mode Alpha 7"

    "Okay... Beep!"

    "Bwuddle bwuddle bwuddle babble babble bwuddle bwuddle bwuddle Beep!"

    "Bwuddle bwuddle babble bwuddle babble babble bwuddle bwuddle Beep!"

    "Bwuddle babblebwuddle bwuddle babble babble bwuddle-duddle Beep!"

    "Bwuddle bwuddle babble babble bwuddle babble bwuddle bwuddle Beep!"

    "Okay, see you tomorrow"

    It would keep the underground lairs humming for decades...

  9. Kurt Guntheroth

    spook baiting is for morons.

    So, how many people want to attract unwanted attention from the spooks by spook baiting?

    You will want to be someone afraid of flying, because in the event that you ever want to fly, you won't be able to get on a plane, and you won't discover this fact until you arrive at the gate.

    You will want to be someone whose tax filings are always squeaky clean, because you're going to get gone over every single year.

    You will want to hate the government so much that you'd rather go hungry than work for any of its tentacles, because you may have trouble getting that job, and never know why.

    There's other stuff you won't want to do. For instance, you won't want to adopt children, because you won't pass the security screening, and won't know why. Or work at a bank or brokerage or insurance company. Or play music or cater at a function attended by big-time politicians. There's no end to it really.

    Spook baiting is for dull-witted 20-somethings and belligerant teeners. You will pay later for that pointless act of defiance. More than you will ever guess.

  10. Morely Dotes

    @ Kurt Guntheroth

    Kurt, I'm retired from the US Army. I held a Top Secret - Special Compartmented Information clearance, because I handled both intel and nuclear warheads.

    I have no problem spook-baiting. There's absolutely nothing in the world more important to me than preserving what's left of the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America.

    "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." That was said by a man who risked his life to ensure the liberty of his fellow man. You are one of the people of whom he was speaking, you coward. You deserve neither liberty, nor safety, if you are willing to knuckle under to the latest incarnation of Stalinists and Nazis in order to have a comfortable life as a slave.

  11. b shubin

    Probable cause

    that would be required for detaining and holding a suspect - you know, some basis for charges to be brought.

    what Mike "Dr. Strangelove" McConnell here is looking for, would be undesirables, and evidence to be used against them.

    we live in a country where King George can declare someone an enemy combatant, and that person will then "softly and silently vanish away", never to be seen, heard from, or charged (but perhaps waterboarded anyway).

    every time the King says, "They hate us for our friddums!", i laugh. it may not be as bad here as Saudi Arabia (our close ally, mind you), but sure looks like we're headed that way.

    at least the guy supposedly in charge of SA can speak English.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    @Kurt Guntheroth

    Well, you seem to have described me to a "T". I'm not really a teenager but I still like to act like one. And yes, I do periodically google "C4 supplier, detonators, heavy water, isotope, thermal trigger."

    And now you do too when you load this page. :P

  13. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Let's get Real ...

    "If thousands (10's of thousands?) of hackers can't succeed how can an imagined single 'super' terrorist?"

    AC, Some would have you believe that it is no more than just an Imperfect Beta Imagination and only Imperfect to Guard against Arrogance ensuring Humility.

    And in a SurReal Novel Approach would ITs Novelty be Real enough, AC, to Provide as much Stealth as IT Shared and deemed 42 be Absolutely Necessary.

    It would create somewhat of a Quandary though if untold Wealth was Offered not to write about IT though. And not least, how much to Offer and whether it would be enough. But then Danegeld always was a Sweet Dilemma/Moral Hazard for the Intellectually Challenged and Core Compromised.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Been running it for a few months and not noticed it, the seed queries are getting better but you could add bomb, anthrax etc if you wanted to.

    "TrackMeNot runs in Firefox as a low-priority background process that periodically issues randomized search-queries to popular search engines, e.g., AOL, Yahoo!, Google, and MSN. It hides users' actual search trails in a cloud of 'ghost' queries, significantly increasing the difficulty of aggregating such data into accurate or identifying user profiles. As of version 0.4, TMN's static word list has been replaced with a dynamic query mechanism which 'evolves' each client (uniquely) over time, parsing the results of its searches for 'logical' future query terms with which to replace those already used."

  15. Steve Roper

    @ Kurt Guntheroth

    To expand a little upon Morely Dotes' excellent response to your comment, consider that "spook-baiting" is an increasingly popular activity, being carried out by people who can see clearly the despotism being quietly put upon our necks in the name of "democracy". It's not just "belligerant [sic] teenagers", it's people from all walks of life who are doing this. With millions around the world spamming BB with fake searches and emails, what are the thought police going to do? Block these people from getting government jobs? Now you think about that. What that means is that only kowtowing sycophants like yourself will be employed in these "critical" jobs. And many an iron-fisted ruler has fallen because he surrounded himself with fearful people who told him only what he wanted to hear, rather than the facts.

    So enjoy your new lucrative government sinecure, sunshine. Just don't ever say the wrong thing, or be seen with the wrong people, or post comments on the wrong website, because "they" can take it all away... enjoy!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Kurt Guntheroth

    How quaint, want to buy a tin hat? Bona fide, government approved and made from genuine simulated aluminium foil.

    Personally I like finishing emails with God is great, there is no God but Allah. It may be coincidence but these mails take a tad longer to arrive. If my tax money is being spent on Echelon then I might as well keep the spooks on their toes.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    حزب اﷲ

    I just wanted to see if "Hezbollah" in Arabic script came thru the El'Reg title-bar OK

    steganography mode ON

  18. Brian Miller

    Typical government waste

    "Gee, I need to justify my job. What should I do?" "How about defending against threats from bad movie plots? Its scary, and it will take billions of dollars to do nothing!" "Great idea! I knew my wife's brother's friend's college roommate would come up with a winning solution!"

    I always wonder why they are so fascinated with archiving all communication when the terrorists are using old-fashioned dead-drops and such.

  19. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Media Blitzkrieg ..... Who you gonna call? ET? El Reg? :-)


    How about defending against threats with good movie plots? Something Real and Imaginative which will blow the Spooky Military Industrial Complex out of the water and into Orbit.

    Personally speaking, given their response to Input, and they have been provided with more than enough for more than long enough to act upon, they could do with some valuable lessons in CyberSpace Flight from Holywood's Finest Non State Actors.

    If they want to Fund IT, they can be given a starring Role rather than being the Bad Guy who ends up getting everything they deserves.

    You know IT makes Perfect Sense, and boy, could they do with the Help or could they do with the Help. Presently they are as fresh water minnows swimming in a sea of sharks.

    And yes, there is a lot more than just a movie plot available, there is AI Script to Drive the Media Industry to NeuReal Heady AesThetan Heights.

  20. Tampa Dave

    RIPA --- HA!

    Your RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) is nothing, compared to our (US) Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, Yearly Organized, Actualized Security Systems.

    (RIPA YO ASS).

    Oh yeah, badness incarnate! So secret it's only just now, dropped trowl.

    Tampa, Florida, USA.

  21. Anonymous Coward


    Wow, looks like you just have to mention 'guns' and 'George W. Bush' on the same page for you to be enjoying the fine cuisine of the wonderful seaside resort, Guantanamo Bay within a day or two!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Perhaps its the whole world's email he wants to look at!

    Most of the good freestanding email operators have their servers in the US, even if they are based somewhere else.

    Many of the anti-spam services are based in the US.

    My (UK) ISP now sends all my email to the US (Postini) to be classified as to whether it is spam or not, before it comes back again.

    Probably just a PlusNet cock up all the way through, but if it _were_ a conspiracy:

    1. Leave the security poor on the webmail server so that you know who can break in,

    2. When the inevitable flood of spam starts, fail to address it effectively,

    3. Just happen to need to use a US "partner" company to salvage the business reputation.

    And wow, Uncle Sam gets to look at my email on its way through. Now I know that PlusNet deny that it is stored in the US, and that therefore it is safe from the Fed's prying eyes, but black helicopters?

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