NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

LIVE from Detroit: NSA Surveillance Reform: Pitfalls and Opportunities

Pan­el descrip­tion: A recent­ly launched cam­paign in Europe calls on indi­vid­u­als to “vote for [their] dig­i­tal rights.” How­ev­er, no such move­ment has caught on in the Unit­ed States, despite the upcom­ing elec­tion cycle. Ral­lies and events—including the Ral­ly to End Mass Sur­veil­lance and the Day We Fight Back—have demon­strat­ed wide sup­port for sur­veil­lance reform. By edu­cat­ing the pub­lic about sur­veil­lance issues, dig­i­tal rights activists can ensure vot­ers under­stand where their elect­ed lead­ers stand on defend­ing our pri­va­cy and Con­sti­tu­tion­al rights. The elec­tion year also offers an oppor­tu­ni­ty to engage with Con­gress mem­bers direct­ly on sur­veil­lance. This pan­el will dis­cuss the polit­i­cal envi­ron­ment around sur­veil­lance reform, includ­ing grass­roots engage­ment and the poten­tial for lead­er­ship on the issues. The pan­el will con­clude with a dis­cus­sion of the ongo­ing chal­lenges faced in com­mu­ni­cat­ing to the pub­lic audi­ence on the so-called “bal­ance” between nation­al secu­ri­ty and civ­il lib­er­ties.

This pan­el is mod­er­at­ed by Amie Stepanovich who is Senior Pol­i­cy Coun­sel at Access. Amie is an expert in domes­tic sur­veil­lance, cyber­se­cu­ri­ty, and pri­va­cy law. At Access, Amie leads projects on dig­i­tal due process and responds to threats at the inter­sec­tion of human rights and com­mu­ni­ca­tions sur­veil­lance.

Amer­i­cans do get that sur­veil­lance is hap­pen­ing even though Oba­ma says it’s not. How­ev­er many Amer­i­cans believe that it does­n’t direct­ly affect them. The real prob­lem in Amer­i­ca is that many believe that “If I am not doing any­thing wrong, I should have noth­ing to wor­ry about.” So there is work to be done in order to make NSA sur­veil­lance an elec­tion issue.

One suc­cess in fight­ing NSA Sur­veil­lance was an amend­ment, the Massie-Lof­gren Amend­ment, added to an annu­al defense spend­ing bill to end back­door spy­ing and sab­o­tage com­mer­cial soft­ware with back­door entry points. But more work needs to be done. The unfet­tered sur­veil­lance has a chill­ing effect on our democ­ra­cy.

Since 911 there is a lot of shar­ing of this infor­ma­tion going on. Your per­son­al infor­ma­tion that the NSA col­lects can go all the way down to the “bungling local cop”.

JTTF, or Joint Ter­ror­ism Task Force has secret con­tracts with local law enforce­ment which essen­tial­ly draft local law enforce­ment into act­ing as part of the fed­er­al anti-ter­ror­ism force.

Fusion Cen­ters were cre­at­ed by US DHS to facil­i­tate shar­ing the col­lect­ed per­son­al data. All this data can be used to pro­file indi­vid­u­als. For exam­ple, a Mus­lim who makes many calls out­side the US could be labeled as a ter­ror­ist sus­pect.

Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s planned reform of data col­lec­tion will immu­nize cor­po­ra­tions. It is actu­al­ly an expan­sion because not only will call meta­da­ta be col­lec­tion, but cell phone con­nec­tions will be logged. For instance, just cell phones being in the same room, being in range of each oth­er will be logged.

One vio­la­tion of the law that is cur­rent­ly hap­pen­ing is that if some­one is being inves­ti­gat­ed, queries to the NSA data­base will return all infor­ma­tion logged with­in the pre­vi­ous 5 years. This includes all indis­crim­i­nate data.

Anoth­er prob­lem is that not all con­gress­men have access to what is going on in the intel­li­gence agen­cies. Con­gress­men who don’t have access are told to just go along with those mem­bers who are on the Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, because “they are the ones who have the infor­ma­tion”. How­ev­er, those on the Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee are not shar­ing much infor­ma­tion with oth­er con­gres­sion­al mem­bers.

Anoth­er prob­lem­at­ic issue is that with Oba­ma’s reform, secrets clas­si­fi­ca­tions can be award­ed to those out­side of the gov­ern­ment, such as bankers. This would mean bankers and peo­ple in oth­er cor­po­ra­tions could have access to your per­son­al infor­ma­tion that the NSA has col­lect­ed.

Exec­u­tive order 12333 is also prob­lem­at­ic because there is no over­sight, either by con­gress or the courts. Even though the exec­u­tive order involves col­lect­ing over­seas data, a lot of domes­tic data is col­lect­ed through this as well. Even Fein­stein, who defends the col­lec­tion of sur­veil­lance data includ­ing cell phone meta data, has said that there are no pri­va­cy pro­tec­tions built in.

NSA lost its push for the Clip­per Chip in a pre­vi­ous bat­tle to enable back­doors in encryp­tion, how­ev­er, the NSA is still work­ing on putting back­doors into encryp­tion stan­dards. One dri­ving force for this in a “sur­veil­lance state” is mon­ey. There is a lot of mon­ey to be made in sur­veil­lance tech­nol­o­gy.

Call to action: call your rep­re­sen­ta­tives out on the NSA Sur­veil­lance issues. Impress upon them on how impor­tant the issue is to you. It is essen­tial­ly a vir­tu­al “stop and frisk” pol­i­cy that vio­lates your rights. Use tools to pro­tect your own pri­va­cy from sur­veil­lance. There are many options, but to get start­ed, you can check out “Reset the Net” Pri­va­cy Pack.

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  1. […] LIVE from Detroit: NSA Sur­veil­lance Reform: Pit­falls and Oppor­tu­ni­ties […]

    Ping from nsa – 7_21_2014 | Headline News :: July 21st, 2014 at 4:32 AM