© 2013 FJ Rouse-Lane – StorySwift
Debate over the U.S. collecting metadata of Verizon customers revealed in The Guardian
adds to controversy posed by legislation impacting new media journalism. The “top secret” court order
to collect metadata generated by millions of Verizon telephone users through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
(FISA) supported by a provision of the USA PATRIOT Act
is but one of several pieces of legislation capable of affecting how information is disseminated and absorbed on the Internet.
New media journalists rely on mobile devices as tools for producing and disseminating stories through photographs, social media outlets and live streaming video across the Internet. With the PATRIOT Act allowing for collection of phone meta data a relational map of a person’s activities might be drawn appearing one way but really is another. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden who leaked surveillance program to The Guardian amplified this possibility in an interview released Sunday.
Serving as an example of how errors in connecting the dots through data mining can occur a Tweet landed a pair of British tourist in handcuffs for 12 hours after being detained by Department of Homeland Security at Los Angeles International Airport last year.
© Mail Online
Leigh Van Bryan’s tweet to friends in the UK was parsed out of Twitter feed having the words “destroy America” which was meant as the axiom for “tearing up the town” or British slang for partying as Van Bryan tried to explain. Van Bryan and friend Emily Banting were denied entry to the U.S. and sent back to the UK.
NSA Data mining tools such as PRISM and “Boundless Informant” has global reach according to documents presented by The Washington Post’s coverage of Prism and The Guardian article by Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill subjecting people around the world such as Van Bryan to secret surveillance.
© The Guardian – The color scheme ranges from green (least subjected to surveillance) through yellow and orange to red (most surveillance).
While the President has insisted
, “no one is listening” to phone calls, a vignette of a person’s life can nonetheless be constructed from activities revealed in phone records. Call and text records, website visits, photo sharing and the like can paint a vivid picture of a person’s life. Piecing together bits of information to create a bigger picture is standard tradecraft
for the Intelligence Community becoming “finished intelligence” included in products summoned by consumers of intelligence such as policy makers and other officials for constructing tactical and/or strategic plans.
Following are a list of some key legislation and issues up for legislation affecting how news can be obtained and shared.
• Initially created in 1978 in the wake of the Watergate scandal to regulate domestic surveillance.
• Expanded after 9/11 to allow NSA warrantless wiretapping of overseas phone calls and emails without a court order for every communication intercepted.
• Further expanded in 2008 and most recently given another five-year extension December 2012.
2. USA PATRIOT Act
• Section 215 referred to as the “libraries provision” gives the FBI and other authorities ability to sequestrate all tangible items such as, “books, records, papers, documents and other items” without a warrant.
• The acquisition of these tangible items is only qualified by their connection to an investigation involving terrorism.
• Uses secret FISA court to acquire these “tangible items”.
The Patriot Act immediately fell under critique from the inception and continues to draw fire from free press advocates, civil liberties organizations and politicians alike. It was under the PATRIOT Act that the Department of Justice (DOJ) secretly seized telephone records of reporters and editors of the Associated Press.
3. Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (PCNAA)
• Gives President explicit power to pull a “kill switch” on the Internet should a threat to national security be posed.
“Authorizes the President to issue a declaration of a national cyber emergency to covered critical infrastructure if there is an ongoing or imminent action by any individual or entity to exploit a cyber risk in a manner that attempts to disrupt the operation of the information infrastructure essential to the reliable operation of covered critical infrastructure.”
During the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 “kill switches” were activated by Egypt and Libya to thwart protestor mobilization and Syria continues shutting down the Internet in an attempt to halt government opposition organization. While it is not entirely surprising repressive regimes use “kill switches” in controlling their populace it is of great concern to the democratic polity of the U.S. should the Government exercise that level of control.
Although a concern civil liberties are relinquished by the PCNAA a Pew survey conveys the level of concern the U.S. has regarding a cyber attack from China in particular.
Cyber security expert in the field of white hat hacking for vulnerability assessment and mitigation and a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) Peter Sitero of CEP Logic relates that PCNAA is, “…an encouraging first step in protecting the critical infrastructure systems of the United States, our government security and the security of our country as a whole.”
Sitero explains, “Not having the ability to take critical systems off line when being attacked by an enemy force would be similar to making automobiles without breaks. With proper legislation and the ability to oversee any misuse, I would think it to be negligent for our government not to have the ability to shut down a full blown cyber war attack.”
4. Net Neutrality
• Provides for communicating freely on the Internet without constraint
• Internet service providers cannot charge based on content, platform, technology, equipment, connection speeds and the like creating a “tiered” Internet.
Free Press points out that a free Internet is, “…how bloggers can compete with CNN or USA Today for readers. That’s how up-and-coming musicians can build underground audiences before they get their first top-40 single. That’s why when you use a search engine, you see a list of the sites that are the closest match to your request.”
Cryptologist, internationally recognized computer security technologist and best selling author Bruce Schneier stressed on his blog, “There is an inherent insecurity to technologies that try to own people’s computers: They allow individuals other than the computers’ legitimate owners to enforce policy on those machines. These systems invite attackers to assume the role of the third party and turn a user’s device against him.”
Based upon the tenet that the Internet represents an open platform for the free movement of ideas and ability to express these ideas without any fear of disruption or reprisal many are allied for the cause of Net Neutrality.
The FCC has outlined three rules underscoring an open internet of transparency, no blocking and no unreasonable discrimination by an Internet provider. Currently there is litigation between the FCC and several Internet providers over the interpretation and implementation of Net Neutrality as charging more for tiered services means big dollars for the providers.
FJ Rouse-Lane © 2013 All Rights Reserved