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U.S. Plans to Monitor Domestic Networks to Protect National Security

In an extensive project they have dubbed “Perfect Citizen,” the federal government wants to set up a system to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies. This is to protect critical infrastructure like the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants.

This sounds like a good idea, especially if you saw that movie Live Free or Die Hard. In the movie, Bruce Willis and the Mac Guy try to stop hackers from completely shutting down the United States computer infrastructure. The hackers even crash the stocke market and bring the economy to its knees.

While this is the plot of a movie, it’s not an impossible scenario. In trying to make things more efficient, most of our infrastructure is networked and connected to the Internet. This makes it easier for different pieces to talk to each other, but also opens up the doors to hackers and this is what Perfect Citizen is aimed at stopping.

This is being funded by the multibillion-dollar Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative that started at the end of the Bush administration and has been continued by the Obama administration. There is another side to the story, though. In order to put preventative measures in place to stop hackers, the government will need to listen in on all of our Internet traffic. According to those close to the project:

The surveillance by the National Security Agency, the government’s chief eavesdropping agency, would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack, though it wouldn’t persistently monitor the whole system.

I’m not an expert on network security, but I don’t see how they can detect unusual activity without monitoring persistently. Those computer networks would belong to electric companies, air traffic controls systems, public transit, and other important pieces of infrastructure. The government plans to work with these private companies to come to an agreement on where their sensors should be placed within the private system and what types of sensors should be used.

On the surface, this all seems to make sense. One military official called the program “long overdue” and said “any intrusion into privacy is no greater than what the public already endures from traffic cameras.” I’m pretty sure there are many Americans quite upset about those traffic cameras, though.

via U.S. Program to Detect Cyber Attacks on Infrastructure – WSJ.com

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Ross Wolf says:

NSA Illegally Wiretapped Your Phone, Fax and Private Email Communications? Now Your Internet?

In 2008 Telecoms were granted government immunity after they helped U.S. Government spy on millions of Americans’ electronic communications. Since, Government has not disclosed what happened to NSA’s millions of collected emails, faxes and phone call information that belong to U.S. Citizens? Could those wiretaps perhaps illegal, become a problem for some Americans? Neither U.S. Congress nor the courts—determined what NSA electronic surveillance could be used by police or introduced into court by the government to prosecute Citizens.

In 2004, former Attorney General John Ashcroft asked government prosecutors to review thousands of old intelligence files including wiretaps to retrieve information prosecutors could use in “ordinary” criminal prosecutions. That was shortly after a court case lowered a barrier that prior, blocked prosecutors from using illegal-wire tap evidence in Justice Dept. “Intelligence Files” to prosecute ordinary crimes. It would appear this information, may also be used by government to prosecute civil asset forfeitures.
See: http://www.securityfocus.com/news/5452

Considering that court case, it appears NSA can share its electronic-domestic-spying with government contractors and private individuals that have security clearances to facilitate the arrest and forfeiture of Americans’ property—-to keep part of the bounty. Police too easily can take an innocent person’s hastily written email, fax, phone call or web post out of context to allege a crime or violation was committed to cause an arrest or asset forfeiture.

There are over 200 U.S. laws and violations mentioned in the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 and the Patriot Act that can subject property to civil asset forfeiture. Under federal civil forfeiture laws, a person or business need not be charged with a crime for government to forfeit their property. In the U.S., private contractors and their operatives, work so close with police exchanging information, to arrest Americans and or share in the forfeiture of their assets, they appear to merge with police.

Rep. Henry Hyde’s bill HR 1658 passed, the “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000” and effectively eliminated the “statue of limitations” for Government Civil Asset Forfeiture. The statute now runs five years from when police allege they “learned” that an asset became subject to forfeiture. With such a weak statute of limitations and the low standard of civil proof needed for government to forfeit property “A preponderance of Evidence”, it is problematic law enforcement and private government contractors will want access to NSA and other government wiretaps perhaps illegal and Citizens’ private information U.S. Government agencies glean monitoring the Internet, to arrest Americans and to seize their homes, inheritances and businesses under Title 18USC and other laws. Of obvious concern, what happens to fair justice in America if police and government contractors become dependent on “Asset Forfeiture” to pay their salaries and operating costs?

Under the USA Patriot Act, witnesses including government contractors can be kept hidden while being paid part of the assets they cause to be forfeited. The Patriot Act specifically mentions using Title 18USC asset forfeiture laws: those laws include a provision in Rep. Henry Hyde’s 2000 bill HR 1658—for “retroactive civil asset forfeiture” of “assets already subject to government forfeiture”, meaning “property already tainted by crime” provided “the property” was already part of or “later connected” to a criminal investigation in progress” when HR.1658 passed. That can apply to more than two hundred federal laws and violations.

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