Seecrypt costs $3 a month and allows subscribers to make encrypted phone calls to each other. It promises a "100% protected network through encryption between two callers anywhere in the world." Sounds interesting and useful for keeping government snoops away. However, the press release issued today tells a somewhat different story:
“Seecrypt will pro-actively assist law enforcement agencies to prevent criminal activity being carried out using this encryption service. Our technology is designed to restore privacy rights for legitimate usage," stated Seecrypt CEO Mornay Walters. “Seecrypt's Privacy Network has been designed so that it can terminate access rights immediately for any individual identified by law enforcement or other governmental authorities as suspected of improper use.”
Does that mean that if someone is using Seecrypt and the government starts investigating them the service simply shuts off? If so, it's a great way for criminals to learn that they are under investigation.
Or does it mean that Seecrypt will let the suspect make calls without letting them know that the encryption has been disabled?
Or, does it mean Seecrypt will do something else that I can't think of? I emailed SeeCrypt to find out and will share my answer when I get it.
More from the press release:
Seecrypt advisor and former assistant director, U.S. Secret Service, Anthony Chapa added, “Seecrypt’s impressive technology provides a new level of protection to company executives and individual citizen’s privacy rights, while not compromising international and U.S. investigative efforts surrounding serious criminal activity. There are techniques that law enforcement and intelligence organizations have available, and with the help of Seecrypt would not impede their mission.”
Given the Obama administration's alarming record of surveillance, I think any investigative journalists thinking of using this service should make sure they really are "100% protected."
The ACLU of Massachusetts made this video of civil liberties and civil rights attorney Harvey Silverglate explaining how to protect yourself from FBI agents who will interview you, then claim you lied so they can threaten you with imprisonment (unless you agree to become their puppet).
The message from Robel’s prosecution and Silverglate’s advice is clear: do not talk to the FBI without your lawyer present. If Harvey’s decades long experience is any indication, chances are that the agents will politely decline to interview you if you and your attorney insist on creating an accurate record of an FBI interrogation.
Photography is not a Crime has been one of my must-read blogs for a long time. The owner, Carlos Miller, posts stories of people getting hassled or even arrested for using their cameras in public spaces. He himself even asserts his right to photograph (or, more accurately, videorecord) despite some intimidation from Miami-Dade Metrorail Security Guards. He and his friend were arrested and released an hour later with a $100 citation for producing loud or excessive noise.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a Texas judge is asking questions about whether investigators are providing courts with sufficient detail details on technlogies that allow them to grab data on all cellphones in a given area, including those of people who are most certainly innocent of any crime. Snip:
One of the investigative tools in question is something called a “cell tower dump,” which allows law enforcement to get information on all the phones in a given area at a given time.
In two cases, Magistrate Judge Brian Owsley rejected federal requests to allow the warrantless use of “stingrays” and “cell tower dumps,” two different tools that are used for cellphone tracking. The judge said the government should apply for warrants in the cases, but the attorneys had instead applied for lesser court orders.
Among the judge’s biggest concerns: that the agents and U.S. attorneys making the requests didn’t provide details on how the tools worked or would be used — and even seemed to have trouble explaining the technology.
Today James Woosley became the fifth — and highest-ranking — individual to plead guilty as part of a series of fraud schemes among rogue employees and contractors at ICE,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said in a statement. “He abused his sensitive position of trust to fleece the government by submitting phony paperwork for and taking kickbacks from subordinates who were also on the take.”
The Sikh Coalition just released the FlyRights app. It’s a smart phone app that gives travelers who believe they’ve been the victim of discrimination by the TSA the ability to submit formal complaints directly from their smart phones.
You should have this on your phone the next time you fly!
Available for both Android and iOS. Makes perfect sense to me that a Sikh organization would be the one to put this together, given all of the idiot-hate that community has received post-9/11.
Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic reports that his 79-year-old mother-in-law triggered a TSA pornoscanner at Washington Reagan airport last week, and was then asked by a TSA officer to explain what was the matter with her crotch:
She entered the machine and struck the humiliating pose one is forced to strike -- hands up, as in an armed robbery -- and then walked out, when she was asked by a TSA agent, in a voice loud enough for several people to hear, "Are you wearing a sanitary napkin?"
Remember, she's 79.
My mother-in-law answered, "No. Why do you ask?"
The TSA agent responded: "Well, are you wearing anything else down there?"
Yes, "down there."
She said no, at which point, the friend with whom she was traveling, also a not-young volunteer library advocate, came over and asked if there was a problem.
The TSA agent said, again, in full voice, "There's an anomaly in the crotch area."
This is, of course, a painful post for me to write. Like most normal American men, I don't want to see the words "my mother-in-law" and "crotch area" in the same paragraph. But let me go on anyway.
My mother-in-law said, "As far as I know I don't have any anomalies in the crotch area."
The TSA agent told her she would have to go through the scanner again. She demurred, saying she didn't like the machine very much. The agent told her she could opt for a pat-down. My mother-in-law refused to be frisked, figuring, correctly, that "they were going to pat-down my crotch area. I mean, there wasn't an anomaly in the chest area."
Our close personal friend at the TSA, Blogger Bob, gave a rundown of prohibited items confiscated by his fellow officers on the front lines of the War on Terror.
Concealed Knife – A knife was found zip-tied to the inner workings of a bag handle at Cedar Rapids (CID). Clever, but no match for our officers and technology.
Chicken Soup for Your Pants? – Officers found a can of soup in a Las Vegas passenger’s carry-on bag. When told that it couldn’t go through because of the liquids rule (it was more than 3.4 ounces), the passenger said they would put the soup in their checked baggage. But when the passenger returned to the checkpoint, officers saw that the passenger had tried to hide the soup in their pants. No soup for them.
Derringer in a Dopp Kit – A Derringer was found amongst everyday toiletry items in a dopp kit at San Diego (SAN). I don’t think you could trim your nails, but I bet you could knick yourself if you shaved with it.
Stun Pen – I’ve often heard that the pen can be mightier than the sword. Well, in this case that statement is pretty close to being true. A stun-pen was found on a passenger at Chicago Midway (MDW).
Bad Kitty – Known as a black cat, or cat eyes, this seemingly harmless kitty cat becomes a punching weapon when your fingers are inserted in its eyes. It's cute little pointy cat ears are designed to puncture and rip flesh.
Belt Buckle Knife – A belt buckle knife was found was found on a passenger during screening at Akron (CAK). Holy utility belt, Batman, good thing you didn’t bring your batarang and grappling gun.
More Grenades – An inert grenade was found this week in a checked bag at Salt Lake City (SLC). Another was found in a carry-on bag at San Diego (SAN) and it had a 1" knife concealed inside it.
Bruce Schneier was invited to testify about the TSA to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, but at the last minute he was disinvited, after the TSA objected to having him in the room.
On Friday, at the request of the TSA, I was removed from the witness list. The excuse was that I am involved in a lawsuit against the TSA, trying to get them to suspend their full-body scanner program. But it's pretty clear that the TSA is afraid of public testimony on the topic, and especially of being challenged in front of Congress. They want to control the story, and it's easier for them to do that if I'm not sitting next to them pointing out all the holes in their position. Unfortunately, the committee went along with them. (They tried to pull the same thing last year and it failed -- video at the 10:50 mark.)
The committee said it would try to invite me back for another hearing, but with my busy schedule, I don't know if I will be able to make it. And it would be far less effective for me to testify without forcing the TSA to respond to my points.
The Economist is hosting a debate between Bruce Schneier and former TSA honcho Kip Hawley, on the proposition "This house believes that changes made to airport security since 9/11 have done more harm than good." I'm admittedly biased for Bruce's position (he's for the proposition), but it seems to me that no matter what your bias, Schneier totally crushed Hawley in the opening volley. The first commenter on the debate called Hawley's argument "post hoc reasoning at its most egregious," which sums it all up neatly.
Here's a bit of Schneier:
Let us start with the obvious: in the entire decade or so of airport security since the attacks on America on September 11th 2001, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has not foiled a single terrorist plot or caught a single terrorist. Its own "Top 10 Good Catches of 2011" does not have a single terrorist on the list. The "good catches" are forbidden items carried by mostly forgetful, and entirely innocent, people—the sorts of guns and knives that would have been just as easily caught by pre-9/11 screening procedures. Not that the TSA is expert at that; it regularly misses guns and bombs in tests and real life. Even its top "good catch"—a passenger with C4 explosives—was caught on his return flight; TSA agents missed it the first time through.
In previous years, the TSA has congratulated itself for confiscating home-made electronics, alerting the police to people with outstanding misdemeanour warrants and arresting people for wearing fake military uniforms. These are hardly the sorts of things we spend $8 billion annually for the TSA to keep us safe from.
Don't be fooled by claims that the plots it foils are secret. Stopping a terrorist attack is a political triumph. Witness the litany of half-baked and farcical plots that were paraded in front of the public to justify the Bush administration's anti-terrorism measures. If the TSA ever caught anything even remotely resembling a terrorist, it would be holding press conferences and petitioning Congress for a bigger budget.
And some of Hawley:
More than 6 billion consecutive safe arrivals of airline passengers since the attacks on America on September 11th 2001 mean that whatever the annoying and seemingly obtuse airport-security measures may have been, they have been ultimately successful. However one measures the value of our resilient society careening through ten tumultuous years without the added drag of one or more industry-crushing and national psyche-devastating catastrophic 9/11-scale attacks, the sum of all that is more than its cost. If the question is whether the changes made to airport security since 9/11 have done more harm than good, the answer is no.
Risk management is second nature to us. At the airport we see a simple equation: "I pay a cost in convenience and privacy to get reasonable certainty that my flight will be terror-free." Since 9/11, the cost feels greater while the benefits seem increasingly blurred. Much of the pain felt by airport security stems from the security process not keeping up with its risk model. In airport security, we have stacked security measures from different risk models on top of each other rather than adding and subtracting security actions as we refine the risk strategy. This is inefficient but it does not create serious harm.
Schneier adds, "I'll take suggestions for things to say in Part III."
Here's a video of a Chicago TSA operative searching a three year old boy who is in a wheelchair, wearing a body-cast, on the way to his family trip to Disney World. The boy's parents were not allowed to hold him or touch him to comfort him during the procedure.
A toddler in a wheelchair is stopped by the TSA at ORD (O'Hare Airport in Chicago) and forced to into a sequestered area. On his way to a family vacation in Disney, this 3 year old boy is in a body cast for a broken leg. Despite assurances from his father that "everything is ok", he is physically trembling with fear while he watches his two siblings, mother, father, grandfather and grandmother pass through along with everyone else...only to be singled out.
The TSA has announced a new program rolling out at a few airports that allows selected customers to skip the security lines by checking in at a kiosk and going through a nominal screening, but only after they've paid a $100 application fee and been approved through a background check. The Wall Street Journal reports:
The Transportation Security Administration is rolling out expedited screening at big airports called "Precheck." It has special lanes for background-checked travelers, who can keep their shoes, belt and jacket on, leave laptops and liquids in carry-on bags and walk through a metal detector rather than a full-body scan. The process, now at two airlines and nine airports, is much like how screenings worked before the Sept. 11 attacks.
To qualify, frequent fliers must meet undisclosed TSA criteria and get invited in by the airlines. There is also a backdoor in. Approved travelers who are in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's "Global Entry" program can transfer into Precheck using their Global Entry number.
I can't quite decide whether this is the TSA finally getting their shit together to put things back to normal with some intelligent screening practices that inexplicably can't be covered by the same budget that bought all those scanners, or if it's boldly admitting to the world that it's all been a horrific charade. Let's see what the TSA blog has to say about it:
The ACLU of Massachusetts is representing an anonymous Twitter user who has been targetted by an Assistant DA who is trying to build a case related to Occupy Boston; the court and the ADA have sealed the proceedings, so no one -- not even some of the ACLU staff working on the case -- is allowed to know what is going on:
I had gone to court to listen to our legal team argue a case to protect the First Amendment rights of our client, Twitter user @p0isAn0n, aka Guido Fawkes. That user, who wishes to remain anonymous throughout the proceedings, was the target of a Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney’s administrative subpoena to Twitter, dated December 14, 2011. As we wrote last week, the subpoena asked Twitter to hand over @p0isAn0n’s subscriber information, including our client’s IP address, which can be used to help track down someone’s physical residence...
The known knowns: the scrum of lawyers, defense and prosecution, addressed the judge. I saw the judge speak to the lawyers. Then I saw our attorneys return to their bench, closer to where I was sitting, out of earshot of the sidebar. But the ADA stayed with the judge. He spoke to her, with his back to the courtroom, for about ten minutes. Our attorneys didn’t get to hear what he said to her, didn’t have a chance to respond to whatever the government was saying about our client, about the case. It was frankly shocking.
After those ten minutes of secret government-judge conversation, our attorneys were invited back to the sidebar, whereupon the scrum of lawyers spoke with the judge for another ten or fifteen minutes. Then they dispersed. The judge uttered not one word to the open court. And that was it.
Stunned, I followed a group of reporters outside and listened as Attorney Krupp attempted to answer their questions. It was then I realized that the judge had impounded all the court records related to the case, and mandated complete secrecy governing the proceedings. The public wasn’t even to know whether our motion to quash had been approved or denied.
Clubgoers in South Wales are to be fingerprinted, with the resulting biometric data to be retained indefinitely. The scheme is "voluntary" -- unless local councils make it a licensing condition for clubs. Gerry Shy notes, "The march to sleeping submission of our biometric data to anyone and everyone who can invent a security/convenience justification continues. So many familiar elements here: think of the convenience; we can change mindsets..."
Mr Newman, whose forum represents about 100 premises in the city, said the benefits of digital ID scheme were "many and varied".
In addition to identifying fake identify documents, information could be shared between venues about people who have been banned, he said.
He said: "Commercially, you benefit from a reduction in people trying to get in underage, if they are using someone else's ID.
"As word spreads, people will know they are easily identified if they are associated with an incident of disorder.
"If you have less trouble, that's good for business."