Sunday, November 18, 2012

‘Once... I Had A Secret Law,’ Part 148257

Obama has issued a secret directive regarding cyber security which may, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), enable "military deployment within the United States." EPIC has filed a FOIA request for the text of the heretofore secret law. Here's Stephen C. Webster at Raw Story:

Bill of Rights
The FOIA was filed in response to an article that appeared in The Washington Post this week, claiming that Obama issued a secret directive shortly before the elections that empowers the military to “vet any operations outside government and defense networks” for cyber security purposes.

However, because the exact text of the directive remains a secret, nobody can really say exactly what it does. That was somewhat disconcerting to American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel Michelle Richardson, who told Raw Story on Wednesday that without the text, “it’s hard to see what they mean.”

In their FOIA, EPIC attorneys Amie Stepanovich and Ginger McCall go even further, arguing that the directive is tantamount to the president issuing a “secret law” that may enable “military deployment within the United States” in order to vet network security at companies like AT&T, Facebook, Google and others. And indeed, the Post‘s article seems to substantiate that concern, explaining that the order will help “finalize new rules of engagement that would guide commanders when and how the military can go outside government networks to prevent a cyberattack that could cause significant destruction or casualties.”

But that’s literally all anyone outside of the chain of command knows about this order, McCall told Raw Story Thursday afternoon. “We don’t know what’s in this policy directive and we feel the American public has the right to know.”

Indeed we do. "AT&T, Facebook, [and] Google" are companies with substantial involvement in civilian communications of several types. Yet the NSA is first and foremost a military agency. While it is difficult from the wiki to ferret out all the interrelationships among intelligence-related agencies, there is a clear, unambiguous statement that "[b]y law, NSA's intelligence gathering is limited to foreign communications, although domestic incidents such as the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy have occurred." So which is this secret law: military or civilian? If it is civilian, why is it secret?

One of the aspects of the "war on terror[ism]" that most upsets me is the apparent use of the "war," which has no end and no limits to its scope, as a means to involve our most powerful, capable government intelligence-gathering agencies in the process of spying on American civilians... a practice hard to justify in any case and surely unconstitutional.

I don't want to know military secrets; they are for the most part none of my affair. But I damned surely want to know when my "person[], house[], papers and effects" (and implicitly, emails including encrypted business emails, and other electronic communications) are being spied upon without benefit of a warrant. The Fourth Amendment, at least in theory, guarantees us all no less than the security of those things. I want my security, or I want to know a damned good reason why I don't have it.

Correction (?): apparently I mistakenly assumed the NSA was involved. Well, OK, it was to have been, but apparently, facing considerable pushback, Obama has moved the most draconian information-sharing parts of the mystery program under the control of the DHS, which is a civilian agency. See this Raw Story article.


  1. What bothers me is that while they are screwing around with all of this crap civilian data that they can't possibly do anything really useful with, they have to be missing things that deal with their real, primary mission - watching the world's military.

    You can always add hardware, but people who are actually good at the job require a lot time to develop and NSA has to compete with Wall Street for certain people. This is an example of omnishambles.

    1. Bryan, I can see how Wall Street and NSA both would seek mathematical adepts for their staffs. While no network is perfectly secure, I believe it is an error to presume that AT&T, Google etc. are somehow incapable of securing their own data stores... and how much military data and how many military apps do they store anyway? I could see how the continued functioning of AT&T might be essential to national security, but I have a feeling it's damned nearly impossible to hack any part of their network. But what do I know.



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