Wired.com has started up a new blog, 27B Stroke 6, devoted to exploring the issues around electronic data gathering.
27B Stroke 6 refers to a piece of bureaucratic paperwork featured in Terry Gilliam's film, Brazil, and in the geek world refers to the government's ability to invoke "state secrecy" laws.
Here's their summary of this administration's War on Privacy so far (near as we can tell):
You can't understand yesterday's news without thinking of it as one more known component of an architecture of surveillance. Here are some of the known and alleged pieces:
- A terrorist watch list some 340,000 names long which is shared with other governments, checked by state troopers and local cops when they pull you over, used to determine your eligibility to drive a commercial truck or work at a seaport, and decide what level of screening you get at the airport
- A massive NSA database comprising the phone records of nearly every American stretching back almost 4 years
- An NSA international eavesdropping program that is likely monitoring every email and phone call that crosses the border and which allows a staff technician to decide when a call is to be listened to or emails read
- A massive FBI data mining operation which is fed with information from wiretaps conducted through the FISA process (more than 2,000 of these applications were submitted and approved last year)
- FBI agents also have the power to compel business and communications records by writing themselves a subpoena (known as a National Security Letter). Last year, the FBI issued 9,254 NSLs to get information on 3,501 U.S. persons. An undisclosed number of NSL were issued to get information on non-U.S. persons (presumably FBI didn't tell Congress this since the law didn't require it to), though the Washington Post has reported that the FBI issues some 30,000 NSLs in total every year
- The Pentagon also has its own surveillance teams and databases
- Private companies such as ChoicePoint serve as privatized intelligence services for the government, compiling dossiers on nearly every American and selling them to a dizzying acronym soup of federal investigatory agencies
- Telecom companies in accordance with federal law have modified their networks to federal wiretapping standards, so federal investigators don't have to figure out how to tap a network -- they simply have to provide the subpoena and possibly reimburse the company
- Soon almost all internet telephony providers, as well as nearly all Internet Service Providers -- including colleges, will have to also build in eavesdropping capabilities as specified by the government
- The Supreme Court has recognized ability of the President to unilaterally declare a citizen an "enemy combatant" and put him on trial in a military court
- The CIA has the ability to grab a person, put them on a secret plane and fly them to a secret prison or turn them over for questioning to a government that is known to torture its prisoners