Thursday, August 03, 2006

freakier than echelon

* last week, EW wrote a post called "why tice?"

i left a comment and ew responded:
" lukery

And if I had to guess, I'd say Tice's program is just that, the application of Echelon to the US (which would explain why someone pointed both the Slate writers and Leopold to that transition doc). One key point about Echelon is that it used to work primarily by satellites, which is where Tice was at.

and i replied:
" EW - I'm actually leaning away from the idea that Tice=Echelon. Not least because he said "there's no way the programs I want to talk to Congress about should be public ever, unless maybe in 200 years."

Given that we've long known about Echelon, and the not unreasonable assumption that it has or will migrate to domestic territory - his statement seems to point to something much more significant/intrusive."

and someone else joined in there, asking questions - and the same person (presumably) left a msg at my place:

"Would like to read more about your speculation on what the secret NSA program spying on US citizens is that Tice has been testifying in secret session to Congress.

The delay in hearing the rest of Tice's testimony along with Sibyl's article on the Whistleblowers site is something to be concerned about.

Please sign the petition on Sibyl's site to stop the gag order so that we can learn the truth about 911."

I'm late in responding to the specific question given that i've been otherwise busy these last days (and i'll pass over the request that i sign sibel's petition (!) - but will ask that you all go sign it (and fwd it to your friends) - because i understand that there will be a 'handing-over' of the petition in the next month or two.)

re the specific question about what Tice is referring to - as i indicated, it seems to be something (can you believe it?) that is much freakier than the downloading and storage of the entire telecommunications system! What could be freakier than that? I don't know - but even allowing for much hyperbole, Tice doesn't think that the public should be informed for 200 years!

Trying to put this into perspective, Tice's work apparently related to satellite work, and he's been in the industry for 2 decades, and he isn't known for hyperbole, and Echelon has been in place for a couple of decades. Do you really think that he's arguing that for the next 200 years it should be a secret that Echelon has migrated to the domestic environment? Me either. There's something much, much more sinister going on.

I can't even begin to imagine what that might be. I've repeatedly pointed to this 'harrowing' interview where, for example, James Risen said:

One of the things that Congress - in the 90's - really institutionalized this and formalized this in a law called CALEA which was a law that requires software companies and telecoms companies to basically install access when they're designing software for law enforcement to get into it - whenever they want. So essentially all new software - on cellphones, on phones, on computers - telecoms software - they build in access for the government.
The way that argument is framed, it would appear that it only captures 'communications' - emails and phone calls and what-not - which would appear to be something akin to Echelon - but Tice appears to be talking about something much freakier than even that!

any ideas?

update: emptywheel in the comments writes:
"I agree with you, kind of, about Echelon. But Tice has said (in that interview, and other places) that this is a program that had a foreign applicaiton that is now domestic. So it probably is something we've been doing internationally for years (thus the reason it shouldn't be public) that they're now turning to domestic applications."
In the Reason interview, Tice says:
"We're finding out that NSA conducted surveillance on U.S. citizens. And FISA could have been used but wasn't, was sidestepped. No one even made the attempt to see if they had a problem they could have fixed through FISA.

That would lead one to ask the question: "Why did they omit the FISA court?"

I would think one reason that is possible is that perhaps a system already existed that you could do this with, and all you had to do is change the venue. And if that's the case, and this system was a broad brush system, a vacuum cleaner that just sucks things up"
It's not obvious that this 'change of venue' is referring to his program, or simply the fact that Echelon has gone domestic.

even if Tice is being hyperbolic with his '200 years' we might reasonably assume that he is at least talking about 20 years. surely given what we know, it would be a little bit odd to presume that the extension of the echelon program to include domestic surveillance is even a 20 year secret, (not to mention a 200 year secret.)

also remember, Tice can't even inform his bosses about this. there are only (by his account) 3 or 4 people who could possibly be briefed into the program - that sounds to me like there's something more than 'domestic echelon' going on.



emptywheel said...

I agree with you, kind of, about Echelon. But Tice has said (in that interview, and other places) that this is a program that had a foreign applicaiton that is now domestic. So it probably is something we've been doing internationally for years (thus the reason it shouldn't be public) that they're now turning to domestic applications.

rimone said...

i forget to whom it was in relation, but didn't it come out a few weeks back that the US gov't are using satellites to spy on US?

i read about this here and there at the time and then the usual daily outrages took my attention away (and then i forgot).

lukery said...

post updated.

Miguel said...

I wouldn't want to speculate on what Tice is talking about- we could speculate forever and ever, and never get close to the truth.

But the more I learn about the NSA, the more I realize that U.S. Presidents have the power potentates and tyrants of old never had- the ability to almost literally look into our most private thoughts and feelings.

This is not a power I trust with any government- liberal or conservative.

Anonymous said...

Knowing that these fascists rightwingers have no respect for playing by the rules, and knowing how they hate anyone an inch left of extreme far right.... they are probably watching political opponents in secret programs in everyway you can imagine internet browsing, satelites peeping at your house, listening to cell phone calls, your credit card purchases, buying habits, GPS info in your computer, whatever and sweeping it all up to build a file to blackmail/discredit trouble makers.

They can't seem to sweep up the 9/11 hijackers before they attack us. But they can waste time pointing satellites at political opponents (that was in the news awhile back)

Welcome to the NEW WORLD!

lukery said...

post updated again.

miguel - you are correct that speculating about the specifics would be futile - my only point is one of 'magnitude' - ie it appears (to me) that Tice is talking about something much bigger than echelon - and probably much bigger than echelon+choicepoint. that's pretty amazing. i can hardly even begin to speculate about what it might entail.

anon - yep - i'm sure that most of their energies will be spent J.Edgar Hoover-style.

lukery said...

Rimone - yeah - Tice worked in satellites - and there was also that outrage from Jay Rockefeller way back.