The “end” is near for bulk phone surveillance

The Obama Administration is asking the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a 90-day extension to the NSA phone surveillance program, while the White House works with congress to “end” the program (Section 215 Bulk Telephony Metadata program). Read full White House release or see the excerpt below.

…The President has decided on a proposal that will, with the passage of appropriate legislation, allow the government to end bulk collection of telephony metadata records under Section 215, while ensuring that the government has access to the information it needs to meet its national security requirements.  Under the President’s proposal, a new program would be created with the following key attributes:

  • the government will not collect these telephone records in bulk; rather, the records would remain at the telephone companies for the length of time they currently do today;
  • absent an emergency situation, the government would obtain the records only pursuant to individual orders from the FISC approving the use of specific numbers for such queries, if a judge agrees based on national security concerns;
  • the records provided to the government in response to queries would only be within two hops of the selection term being used, and the government’s handling of any records it acquires will be governed by minimization procedures approved by the FISC;
  • the court-approved numbers could be used to query the data over a limited period of time without returning to the FISC for approval, and the production of records would be ongoing and prospective; and
  • the companies would be compelled by court order to provide technical assistance to ensure that the records can be queried and that results are transmitted to the government in a usable format and in a timely manner.

Maybe Mom wants to be left alone

It’s none of our business of course. but one can speculate that if the Burger King baby’s mom wanted a reunion, she’d have made it happen already. We’ll soon see whether there is any corner of the Facebook and Twitterverse where Mom can hang onto her privacy.

In 1986, a newborn wrapped in a red sweater was found abandoned in the bathroom of a fast-food restaurant. Nearly three decades later, the baby is all grown up and looking for her biological mother, and tens of thousands of people are trying to help.

Katheryn Deprill began her quest on March 2 by posting a photo on her Facebook page in which she held up a sign that said, “Looking for my birth mother. … She abandoned me in the Burger King bathroom only hours old, Allentown PA. Please help me find her by sharing my post.”

Feinstein: Privacy for me, but not for thee

Dianne Feinstein apparently believes she has a right to conduct business in private, but you and I don’t have the same right. She suggested that a secret search of the computers used by the committee she chairs might be a Fourth Amendment violation. Constitutional principles apply to the members of the U.S. Senate, but can be abridged as they apply to the U.S. citizen.  Appalling.

California U. S. Senator Dianne Feinstein in June of 2013:

WASHINGTON, June 10 (UPI) — U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein Monday called self-professed National Security Agency surveillance plans leaker Edward Snowden a traitor.

The California Democrat said she doesn’t see Snowden as the hero some supporters view him, The Hill reported.”I don’t look at this as being a whistle-blower. I think it’s an act of treason,” said Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

California U. S. Senator Dianne Feinstein in March of 2014:

Washington Post Tuesday, March 11 — A behind-the-scenes battle between the CIA and Congress erupted in public Tuesday as the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee accused the agency of breaking laws and breaching constitutional principles in an alleged effort to undermine the panel’s multi-year investigation of a controversial interrogation program.

Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) accused the CIA of secretly removing documents, searching committee-used computers and attempting to intimidate congressional investigators by requesting an FBI inquiry of their conduct — charges that CIA Director John Brennan disputed within hours of her appearance on the Senate floor.

Feinstein described the escalating conflict as a “defining moment” for Congress’s role in overseeing the nation’s intelligence agencies and cited “grave concerns” that the CIA had “violated the separation-of-powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution.”

Brennan fired back during a previously scheduled speech in Washington, saying that “when the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong.”

Et tu, Twitter? Private accounts exposed to “unapproved” followers

We might expect this from Facebook or Google. But Twitter has been the preferred platform of the privacy lover.  Now comes an announcement and apology from Twitter, for exposing 97,788 account holders to a bug that’s made  some of their tweets available to prying eyes, when the users believed those posts were private.

Security blogger Graham Cluley correctly points out that most Twitter users post for public consumption, but says they should be able to take at face value the promise of privacy.

Maybe. But the history of social media is not exactly a chronicle of privacy protection. Quite the contrary.

There’s hardly anything that’s caused more inadvertent embarrassment, exposed more personal foibles, revealed more private body parts, betrayed more secrets and lies, and divulged more trust-killing truths to parents, spouses, and bosses. To say nothing of the litigation it’s generated, and the cheap, easy boost social media has provided for cops and criminal prosecutors.

Give Twitter credit. The company offers a channel for reporting security flaws, and it is responsive — unusual, say some in the white-hat community, where they’ve been complaining for years that entities of all kinds are deaf to their warnings.

It’s also true that Twitter is a leader when it comes to respecting user privacy, allowing pseudonyms, and refraining from tracking its users by default.

That said, social media is forum for public communications, not private messaging, no matter what they promise. That’s why they call it “social” media.