Saturday, December 22, 2007

Joy to the World!

The people that walked in darkness
have seen a great light:
they that dwell
in the land
of the shadow of death,
upon them hath the light shined.

For unto us a Child is born,
unto us a Son is given,
and the government shall be upon His shoulder;
and His name shall be called
The Mighty God,
The Everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace
there shall be no end,
upon the throne of David,
and upon his kingdom,
to order it,
and to establish it
with judgment and with justice
from henceforth even for ever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts
will perform this.

And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together:
for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bugged about "Wiretapping"

I know some continue to entertain serious doubts about the morality of certain government actions being justified under the "defense" clause of the Constitution. It remains a troubling issue, to discern whether it is worse to be under the "protection" of the US Government or to be subject to unannounced attacks by foreign powers.

In the debate about electronic surveillance by the NSA, the US Court of Appeals recently issued a decision to allow the current practice to continue while the merits of the case are heard.

Here's a typical news story:
Court rejects challenge to wiretap program

And a background discussion of issues:
NSA warrantless surveillance controversy

Also, an authoritative press briefing:
Press Briefing by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and General Michael Hayden, Principal Deputy Director for National Intelligence

Several things about the news reporting of this story just drive me nuts, and I can't get past that exasperation.

The technology being used is not "eavesdropping", it is intercepting broadcast data.

This approach to gathering counterintelligence is not new. It has been in constant use since the advent of radio communications.

Publicly broadcast signals are not proprietary. Anyone with the appropriate communications equipment can listen to them.

Since the data being intercepted is a "wireless" broadcast over public radio waves, by definition there is no "wiretapping" involved.

In fact I have a radio set sitting right here beside me that can tune 800MHz cell phone bands. It is perfectly legal for me to tune in the broadcast signals from the public airwaves. I can't understand what anyone is saying because the signals are encrypted. If I knew the encryption key, I could decrypt the signals and hear everything the people are saying.

That I don't really care to do this seems entirely beside the point.

In any case there are obvious differences here between such a practice and the physical "wiretapping" and "eavesdropping" that media reports are so wont to associate. It is a false parallel.

In fact, there is far too much broadcast traffic for anyone to monitor. Imagine trying to scan the Internet continuously. Internet traffic is just a fraction of the data streaming on public broadcast medium. Nobody can monitor all of it, not even Google with their awesome data storage and throughput capability. Not even the NSA, with their antenna arrays and massively parallel data processing.

The fact is, nothing is much changed in this matter since it became a topic of public debate, other than the attention being paid by the media. How did this suddenly become an issue for concern? Just because now you think you know something about it?

I dunno. Maybe y'all have something to worry about. Personally, I've always laughed at the thought of someone monitoring my boring private conversations.

News updates:

Court Rejects ACLU Challenge to Wiretaps

FISA Decision Dictates Death of Americans

Lowry: Democrats endanger U.S. security by opposing terrorist surveillance