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September 08, 2007



A few thoughts:

I've been in the current AT&T's data center. They have two floors (secure even by their somewhat tougher definition) that are devoted to compliance with law enforcement "requests". It doesn't surprise me that they are able to comply with the FBI requests; nor that they'd like to get paid for the extra work they do to be able to comply.

For some reason, I've thought for some time that current privacy law does not protect "pen register" data with a warrant requirement. That is, data which doesn't go much further than what shows up on your wireless bill is fair game for subpoena in a civil case or requests for viewing by a law enforcement professional.

The biggest problem I see for the telcos is that posed by state regulatory agencies. Dating back to the old AT&T days, there is a strong prohibition against using data gathered in the course of providing service for any other purpose. If the current wave of cases fail in the federal courts, expect to see hearings in friendly (CA, etc.) regulatory bodies.

Strictly as an aside, I've been out of the scene for some time, so I was surprised by how useful that data could be in the context of a criminal data in the fictional setting of the Wire. Anyone have more recent actual experience?


Why do I feel that the lawyers who challenge this are bound and determined to deny us the tehnological advantage we have over a quickly metastizing enemy.


walter, you're right about the warrant requirement--and a good thing for all of us, except those who prefer to see their neighbors go up in flames than sacrifice their anonymity.


So good of Eric Lichtblau to give the enemy a heads up,interesting that Joe,Mao and Fidel would have had him shot.



The old wire for a call end to end switched networks are long gone.

Even analog phone calls are now converted to digital and packet switched over networks separate from the data networks.

They can loose all the dead time when pauses occur in the conversation and as lasers go up in speed that can pack more calls per fiber than any wire bundle can.

In the old days you switched to hook local wires into long distance wires and then back.

Gone the way of the horse and buggy now my friend.

Plus the tap capability to hook into the whole flow is already required under the CALEA legislation and was installed years ago after a couple of years stalling over who had to pay the bill to provide the capability.


This actually fits very well with one of the implicit undercurrents of the original NYT leaks -- that the FBI agents who were leaking were whinging on about how overworked they were by the huge volume of leads that were coming in once the Gorelick Wall was taken down. As this Frontpage article details, there weren't just firewalls between the foreign intel agencies as the FBI, but walls all over the DoJ keeping them from sharing info with each other.

There are some serious technical problems to solve in this work. The problem is not getting leads, but figuring out how to pick out the real leads from the raging torrent and only sending field agents out to check out the most promising. Another technical problem is figuring out who is going to pay for the data collection (of particular interest to the telcos, of course.)

Leaks provide sort of a "peephole" view into the programs that are being leaked about. You are only seeing a small part of the information, the part that the leakers want to show you. Understanding that the leakers seem to frequently be motivated by a desire to convince the world of how overworked they are by their bosses' "outrageous" expectations is a valuable clue to figuring out how the little peephole view relates to the reality.


-- If the current wave of cases fail in the federal courts, expect to see hearings in friendly (CA, etc.) regulatory bodies. --

Not so much "if" as "when." Statutory immunity is around the corner. I believe the "privacy friendly" state bodies are already being sued under various legal theories. There are extensive proceedings in the Maine Public Utilities Commission, for example.

I figure federal preemption can carry the day and dispose of the claims of excessive invasion of privacy. As long as the purpose for giving/selling the information to the government is terrorism prevention, why should any communication record (call logs, e-mail headers, web-serves) be private as against a government entity?

Charlie (Colorado)

Okay, I'm confused. I don't have the time or energy to search for it right now, but I remember clearly talking about the use of pen registers for social network analysis when this stuff first came up, and Wretchard and I corresponded about it a good bit at the time, considering building an open source SNA tool. I'm sure it came up, though, because I bought half a dozen books on SNA, which are right next to me in the bookcase.

In fact, I think one of the places we talked about it was here.

Isn't this just one of those stories being revived for no obvious reason?


Considering that the recent Frontline piece even gave the equipment being used; the NARUS mainframe (so they can research the
specs later) is they're any doubt there not
"antiwar , they're on the other side. To answer your question Charlie, yes, this piece is designed to bollox up the current system that way they did to the original TSP.


None dare call it treason.

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