Thursday, February 09, 2006

ADVISE: Another massive government spying program

This administration just can’t help but keep on outdoing itself time after time. Right as congressional inquires are underway into one certainly illegal wiretapping and data mining operation – ECHELON -in order to monitor alleged terrorists, we find out that there’s another, bigger spy apparatus chugging away, looking for potential terrorists among American bloggers, emailers and Internet users.

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that the program, Code-named ADVISE, is a behemoth of a snooper, using purchased information from credit card applications, financial records, DMV records, blogger entries, emails, and recorded Internet surfing habits, and anything else that may be available online to sift for patterns that may point to potential “terrorist” activity.

This program, administered by the Department of Homeland Security (sic), is similar to a program –
TIA, Total Information Awareness - that was shut down after Congress blew its top because they had not been consulted on its implementation, and its legality was dodgy, to say the least.

In 2002, news reports revealed that the Defense Department was working on Total Information Awareness, a project aimed at collecting and sifting vast amounts of personal and government data for clues to terrorism. An uproar caused Congress to cancel the
TIA program a year later.

From the Monitor:

What sets ADVISE apart is its scope. It would collect a vast array of corporate and public online information - from financial records to CNN news stories - and cross-reference it against US intelligence and law-enforcement records. The system would then store it as "entities" - linked data about people, places, things, organizations, and events, according to a report summarizing a 2004 DHS conference in Alexandria, Va. The storage requirements alone are huge - enough to retain information about 1 quadrillion entities, the report estimated. If each entity were a penny, they would collectively form a cube a half-mile high - roughly double the height of the Empire State Building.
As envisioned, ADVISE and its analytical tools would be used by other agencies to look for terrorists. "All federal, state, local and private-sector security entities will be able to share and collaborate in real time with distributed data warehouses that will provide full support for analysis and action" for the ADVISE system, says the 2004 workshop report.

Now, just what the hell does that last statement mean?

Which way is the sharing going, and who’s interpreting this stuff? A bunch of bloggers or on-line chat room customers start yakking about a SIM CITY war game, and suddenly the freaking Secret Service is pounding on their doors? And we already know that the information backlog on similiar systems (ECHELON, for instance) is weeks’ worth of jumbled information.

Given the way this administration works, you have got to be banging your head on your desk.

As I write this, CNN is reporting that the feds had a report/tip/data-mined, trawled, probability/guess that a building in Los Angeles was the target of a “terrorist” plot, and the Mayor of LA is right now telling us that he just found out about it from President Bush’s self-serving TV speech a couple of hours ago.

When did the feds know this, and why is the President taking this moment in time to tell us about it? Surely, this is politically motivated, designed to distract the American public from the ongoing Senate NSA wiretapping investigation.

I applaud the fact that the feds managed to disrupt some attacks - that’s their freaking job, after all - but the release of this information at this particular moment is grandstanding of the most odious sort.

This just gets stupider and stupider.

There's a discussion about all of this vis-a-vis our new-found high tech ability to sweep massive amounts of data from the Net - with the ethical implications involved - over on visit.

No comments: