Aug 09 2007
Susan Landau wrote an article for the Washington Post explaining why Congress giving the NSA right to tap phone conversations without a FISA warrant is such a bad idea. To boil it down, in order to tap phone conversations between people outside the US and people in the US, the NSA would need to have standing taps in nearly every single phone interchange through out the United States. And as the Greek government has already learned the hard way, any surveillance technology that can be used by the government can potentially be used against the government.
Especially after attending Black Hat and Defcon, I’m under no illusions that such a system can’t be compromised. It may only be for a few minutes at a time, as in several of the examples cited by Susan, or it may go on for years, as happened to the Greek government. And the potential for the same system to be misused by the NSA and other law enforcement agencies (can you say FBI?) is almost as scary; our democracy only works as well as it does because each of the branches of has oversight from the other branches. Without even the tenable controls of the Foreign Intellegence Surveillance Act in place, abuses could be rampant in the system and no one would ever know.
I know there’s a good possibility that a certain analyst friend of mine is going to call me “Captain Privacy” again over this post, but this really is a scary proposition. Such a system will be abused. The question is, are the risks worth the potential abuse? I don’t think they are. I think it’s already been proven that the federal government can’t be trusted to act without oversight. But Congress seems to think the NSA will act responsibly with their power. I just don’t want to be part of the group that’s going to have to become an example to prove them wrong.
By the way, am I the only one who’s noticed that Bruce Schneier usually only writes one or two sentences and includes large blocks of quotes in many of his blog posts lately? It’s a blog, so that’s okay, but he used to write so much more.