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The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy “shadow” Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks.
The effort includes secretive projects to create independent cellphone networks inside foreign countries, as well as one operation out of a spy novel in a fifth-floor shop on L Street in Washington, where a group of young entrepreneurs who look as if they could be in a garage band are fitting deceptively innocent-looking hardware into a prototype “Internet in a suitcase.”
Financed with a $2 million State Department grant, the suitcase could be secreted across a border and quickly set up to allow wireless communication over a wide area with a link to the global Internet.
The American effort, revealed in dozens of interviews, planning documents and classified diplomatic cables obtained by The New York Times, ranges in scale, cost and sophistication.
Some projects involve technology that the United States is developing; others pull together tools that have already been created by hackers in a so-called liberation-technology movement sweeping the globe.
The State Department, for example, is financing the creation of stealth wireless networks that would enable activists to communicate outside the reach of governments in countries like Iran, Syria and Libya, according to participants in the projects.
In one of the most ambitious efforts, United States officials say, the State Department and Pentagon have spent at least $50 million to create an independent cellphone network in Afghanistan using towers on protected military bases inside the country. It is intended to offset the Taliban’s ability to shut down the official Afghan services, seemingly at will.
Continue reading at The New York Times
While this sounds fantastic, I have never trusted any advancement in technology or science backed by government under the “freedom of speech” banner. They can take this away just as easily. Don’t be fooled into a false sense of security or pride. The major players are developing their own internet kill switches to evoke an even more powerful rendition of what we have seen in Egypt and Syria. Guaranteed.
I want to believe this “shadow” internet is being developed to empower the people but the cynic in me sees this inverted for oppression. Will this really be used to “undermine repressive governments?” This could just as readily be employed to stage a coup d’état in favor of a puppet state. Time will tell.
In light of such dissident supportive endeavors perhaps we should remember this proverb:
The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
But for how long?
Reading it, weeping. The wage gap really gets me every time.
The House failed to extend three key expiring provisions of the Patriot Act on Tuesday, elements granting the government broad and nearly unchecked surveillance power on its own public.
The act was hastily adopted six weeks after the 2001 terror attacks. Three measures of the act are set to expire at month’s end, and the House’s lack of a two-thirds vote on Tuesday failed to move the sunsetting deadline to Dec. 8, as proposed. The vote was 277-148 or 23 votes short.
The failure of the bill, sponsored by Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wisconsin), for the time being is likely to give airtime to competing measures in the Senate that would place limited checks on the act’s broad surveillance powers. The White House, meanwhile, said it wanted the expiring measures extended through 2013.
The three expiring Patriot Act provisions are:
• The “roving wiretap” provision allows the FBI to obtain wiretaps from a secret intelligence court, known as the FISA court, without identifying the target or what method of communication is to be tapped.
• The “lone wolf” measure allows FISA court warrants for the electronic monitoring of a person for whatever reason — even without showing that the suspect is an agent of a foreign power or a terrorist. The government has said it has never invoked that provision, but the Obama administration said it wanted to retain the authority to do so.
• The “business records” provision allows FISA court warrants for any type of record, from banking to library to medical, without the government having to declare that the information sought is connected to a terrorism or espionage investigation.
The same provisions were set to sunset in December of 2009. Congress extended the deadline until the end of February 2010 in a bid to work out compromise legislation. When that failed, lawmakers punted for a year, declaring that those measures would expire at the end of this month unless new action was taken.
“The entire justification of the last Patriot Act extension for a year was that there was no time before the deadline to consider the range of proposals. The excuse was we would have this full year to consider. And then Congress did nothing,” said Kevin Bankston, a privacy attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
This just made my day. You bet your ass I signed the petition against its renewal. Enjoy the victory but pay attention, this will be back. Let’s hope it stays dead.
For the curious, here’s the vote break down.
President Obama has signaled that he will give the United States Commerce Department the authority over a proposed national cybersecurity measure that would involve giving each American a unique online identity. Other candidates mentioned previously to head up the new system have included the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security, but the announcement that the Commerce Department will take the job should please groups that have raised concerns over security agencies doing double duty in police and intelligence work. So anyway, what about this unique ID we’ll all be getting? Well, though details are still pretty scant, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, speaking at an event at the Stanford Institute, stressed that the new system would not be akin to a national ID card, or a government controlled system, but that it would enhance security and reduce the need for people to memorize dozens of passwords online. Sorry, Locke, sounds like a national ID system to us. Anyway, the Obama administration is currently drafting what it’s dubbed the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, which is expected at the Department of Commerce in a few months. We’ll keep you posted if anything terrifying or cool happens.
Update: For clarity’s sake, we should note that the proposed unique ID system will be opt in only, not a mandatory program for all citizens.
Scary shit here, but perhaps an eventuality for the world as everything goes digital? For now it’s “opt in” only… we’ll see if it stays that way.