Patriot Act

Privacy, Forget It

The US National Security Agency apparently played a major role in the arrest of 9 folks in Britain and 1 in Canada on charges of planning a terrorist act and belonging to a terrorist group. The key: an intercepted email message:

“That’s the first admission I’ve actually seen that they actually monitor Internet traffic. I assumed they did, but no one ever admitted it,” Mr. Farber said.
Officials at the NSA could not be reached for comment. But U.S. authorities are uniquely positioned to monitor international Internet and telecommunications traffic because many of the world’s international gateways are located in their country. And once that electronic traffic touches an American computer — an e-mail message, a request for a website or an Internet-based phone call, for instance — it is routinely monitored by NSA spies.
“Foreign traffic that comes through the U.S. is subject to U.S. laws, and the NSA has a perfect right to monitor all Internet traffic,” said Mr. Farber, who has also been a technical adviser to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

Uhhh, no they do not have that right and to the extent that there are laws allowing this behavior they need to be severly curtailed if not eliminated. There is too great an opportunity for abuse and, at minimum, these searches should not be allowed without probable cause. This does not appear to be the case at NSA.
Frankly, I would have expected Farber, who sits on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation to express a little more concern about this.

Keeping Track of Your Clothes (and maybe you)

RFIDs well probably be a positive thing for retail inventory management:

(London, UK – 18 February 2004) Exel, the global leader in supply chain management, has announced that it will embark on a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) project with House of Fraser, Britain’s leading department store group. The trial will represent one of the most advanced and ambitious projects in the industry as it will test the application of RFID across international supply chains.
The project will encompass individual products from House of Fraser’s own brand manufacturers in China. RFID tags will be attached directly to garments providing the scope to track shipment movements at item level. The tags enable automatic, real-time product visibility at any point in the supply chain.

This type of application is well underway in the US as well. In particular Wal-Mart has an agressive program.
Once these things proliferate everyone and their cousin will have RFID readers, for example: 1) your friendly border guard will quickly know that you are lying about the price of that nice coat from Canada; 2) on the positive (?) side the traffic cop could quickly know if there are stolen goods in the car she just stopped; 3) your neighbor will know that you bought that sweater at the dollar store not Nordstroms. We will all probably need to buy RFID zappers to kill the damn things once we take something out of the store.
Oh, and remember to pay cash so that your purchases can’t be tied back to your credit card. There is no point in feeding federal, state, local or business databases and giving the banks an automatic skim on everything that you buy.
Via White Rose.

Almanac Users Beware

Let’s see: you are standing on the Golden Gate Bridge, map in hand pointing out across the bay:

The FBI noted that use of almanacs or maps may be innocent, “the product of legitimate recreational or commercial activities.” But it warned that when combined with suspicious behavior — such as apparent surveillance — a person with an almanac “may point to possible terrorist planning.”

Terrorist or recreationist?
How long before almanacs, maps, etc., disappear from stores, libraries and the web?
Via Atrios.


The bush administration could go a long ways in blunting its opposition by at minimum maintaining even the woefully poor previous levels of transparency. They, as the champions of freedom, would do even better if they broadened public access to government records and activities.
According to the Washington Post this does not appear to be the direction they have chosen:

…the Bush administration seems to be going in the other direction. The administration has been unusually successful keeping its policy deliberations out of public view, and millions of government documents — including many historical records previously available — have been removed from the public domain.

That the bush administration appears to feel an increasing need to hide the details of its activities from the public, even after the fact, seems to confirm that there is indeed something to hide.
Via Secrecy News.