Sunday, October 19, 2014

NSA Helps Cops Spy


Click here for related story [Bloomberg]

We've commented earlier about NSA sharing their high tech capabilities with local police agencies, which was the basis for much of Mr Snowden's leaks of NSA Top Secret briefing slides.

As you may recall, NSA's mission was to spy on foreign powers, both enemy and friendly, to assure US national security.  However, after 9/11 [well, in reality, long before], NSA began spying on US citizenry; they started with Congress and political candidates, and moved from there down to Joe the Plumber -- for no other reason than that they could.

NSA: Rogue Agency                                          [FARSNews]
Of late, the NSA is an agency without portfolio.

With all their whiz-bang hardware and software, they still can't break most encrypted communications since the protective technology is much stronger than NSA's hacking capabilities.

Think in terms of encryption between two communicators in which the call is transmitted over a broad bandwidth, changing frequencies hundreds of times a minute, with the encryption changing modes every few seconds.

It takes time to even locate a transmission, much less to lock on to it; and then there's the key word search -- but if it's encrypted, NSA won't hear it.

So, NSA focuses on clear, open text communications which they can gather in huge volume, store in massive vaults, and then sort -- very efficiently by computers.  That helps analysts, but leaves the barrier of access to the really good intelligence.

So, NSA turns inward, to collect all the metadata on American citizens which DHS has now declared as "potential terrorists".  The definition of "terrorist" has now been adjusted to cover anyone who is critical of the government -- especially the President.

NSA, via DHS, has now assumed a training and support mission to local police forces monitor the local population; of late, DHS has "showered more than $35 Billion on states and localities for 'terrorism prevention'."  Sadly, Congress has now passed a bill to legitimize police access to the private communications of citizens.

 In the story linked to this blog, we learn that police are now using NSA equipment at the local level to not only track citizen telecommunications, but to disrupt, reroute, and block telecommunications -- particularly cell phones.  Since targets are unaware they are being monitored, and the equipment is essentially unregistered and used by street level cops, there is no judicial link to such surveillance in which court orders are required.

Harris StingRay II
The Harris Corporation, a Defense contractor, is authorized by the Federal Communications Commission [FCC] to sell a mobile/cell phone tracking system the size of a suitcase called the StingRay - an IMSI-catcher [International Mobile Subscriber Identity].  The function of the StingRay is send signals which mimic cell towers, thereby accessing all the identifying data from cell phones up to a mile away.

Its capabilities include:
1) Extracting data from cellphone internal storage [e.g., all phone numbers, logs, voicemails, etc.]
2) Writing Metadata to internal storage [e.g., boosting power to extend the transmission range to assist monitoring of the call; making it easy to track.
3) Tracking and Locating the cell phone or compatible cellular device even when the device is turned off.
4)  Denial of Service, or blocking of all transmissions while the StingRay conducts its surveillance.
5)  Interception of Communications Content by simulating a cell site which forces a connection with the target device [cell phone] to
     a) conduct "GSM Target Key Extraction"  to obtain the target device encryption key
     b) download the target device's IMSI and other identifying data;
     c) simulates the target device to connect to the legitimate service provider;
     d) forwards signals between the target device and the legitimate cell site -- while decrypting
         and recording the communications content

Police say they purchase these systems to "detect mobile phone detonated bombs like those used in Middle East IEDs".  In reality, the police use the StingRay to monitor and disrupt cell phones of private citizens -- and protestors at rallies.

Chicago spent $150,000 on StingRay equipment; Harris has also peddled its equipment to San Francisco, Takoma, and Miami, but they will not disclose the purpose for which their equipment is being used.

Local law enforcement and the federal government have blocked judicial enforcement simply by refusing to turn over records demanded by the courts.  In one case, when the court demanded police documents, the US Marshalls Service seized the records to ensure the court could not access them.

The term "above the law" has taken on a completely new meaning!