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A Guiding Light on Internet Issues
Newsletter of the Internet Users Consortium

NorthStar is a guiding light to help you focus on the issues which threaten our Internet Freedom. We sincerely invite your participation at any level, from discussion to action. Rethink what Activism means - Isn't it just participation?

NorthStar #18   Sunday 5/26/96

NEVER SAY NEVER . . . but . . .
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The National Security Administration is Poised to Control the Internet

The oppressive atmosphere of Orwell's 1984 arises from the omnipresence of Big Brother, the symbol of the government's concern for the individual. Big Brother controls the language, outlawing words he dislikes and creating new words for his favorite concepts. He can see and hear nearly everything - public or private. Thus he enforces a rigid code of speech and action that erodes the potential for resistance and reduces the need for force. As Noam Chomsky says, propaganda is to democracy what violence is to totalitarianism. Control thoughts, and you can easily control behavior.

U.S. history affords a prime example in the era named after Senator Joseph McCarthy, though he had many supporters in his attack on freedom of thought and speech. Perhaps his most powerful friend was J. Edgar Hoover, who fed him material from FBI files (some of it true) which he used to attack individuals for their supposed political leanings. By the time of Watergate, the CIA had become at least as notorious as the FBI, due largely to its assassinations of foreign leaders and support for military coups around the world.

Now its the 90's. A computer revolution seems to be happening and with it a dramatic increase in people using the Internet, as well as people watching what the people use it for. Ever heard of the NSA? This could very well be the NSA decade for the Internet. Conspiracy, power struggles and survellience of the citizenry may be what is remembered about the NSA during this period of time. I used to think democracy meant people keeping a watchful eye on its government, not its government keeping a watchful eye on its people. Today we can now see comparisons being drawn between the FBI of the 50s and the CIA of the 60s, the obvious government corruption in the 70s, Reagan in the 80s (sorry - that was just incompetence), and the emerging role of the NSA in the 90s.

Is NSA Sniffing the Internet? Do they have the jurisdiction? Lets take a look back and see what they are all about and make an educated hypothesis.

Budgetary authority for the National Security Agency (NSA) apparently comes from the Central Intelligence Act of 1949. This act provides the basis for the secret spending program known as the black budget by allowing any arm of the government to transfer money to the CIA "without regard to any provisions of the law," and allowing the CIA to spend its funds as it sees fit, with no need to account for them.

Congress passed the C.I.A. Act despite the fact that only the ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees knew anything about its contents; the remaining members of Congress were told that open discussion, or even clear explanation, of the bill would be counterproductive. There were complaints about the secrecy; but in the end the bill passed the House by a vote of 348-4, and the Senate by a majority voice vote. Hmmmm, it seems several legislative disasters have occurred by landslides. Anyone remember the Telecommunication Attack of 1996?

The NSA's estimated $10 billion annual allocation (as of 1990) is funded entirely through the black budget. Thus Congress appropriates funds for the NSA not only without information on the agency's plans, but without even a clear idea of the amount it appropriates; and it receives no accounting of the uses to which the funds were put. This naturally precludes any debate about the direction or management of such agencies, effectively avoiding public oversight while spending public funds. Weiner notes the analogy to "Taxation without representation." In any respect, it seems to be unconstitutional - a major point that has failed to stop them.

"The NSA has also spent a great deal of time and money spying on American citizens. For 21 years after its inception it tracked every telegram and telex in and out of the United States, and monitored the telephone conversations of the politically suspect." (Weiner, Blank Check)

Due to its unique ability to monitor communications within the U.S. without a warrant, which the FBI and CIA cannot legally do, NSA becomes the center of attempts to spy on U.S. citizens. Nominally this involves only communications in which at least one terminal is outside the U.S., but in practice target lists have often grown to include communications between U.S. citizens within the country. And political considerations have sometimes become important. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that in the NSA's Charter they claim to be unable to spy on US citizens. Apparently, the real charter is as elusive as what they do with taxpayer money.

The Huston Plan, formally known as "Domestic Intelligence Gathering Plan: Analysis and Strategy," was submitted in July 1970 to President Nixon. The goal of the plan was to relax some restrictions on intelligence gathering, apparently those of NSCID No. 6. Some parts of the intelligence community felt that these relaxations would assist their efforts.

Like most intelligence agencies, the NSA uses words such as "interrupt" and "target" in a technical sense with a precise but often classified definition. This specialized language makes it difficult to legislate or oversee the activities involved. For instance, in NSA terms a conversation that is captured, decoded if necessary, and distributed to the requesting agency is not considered to be the product of eavesdropping unless one of the parties to the conversation is explicitly targeted. However, the NSA does not depend on semantic defences; it can also produce some legal arguments for exempting itself from normal requirements. How convenient.

For those who feel your lives are too flawless to be affected, or for those of you who actually vote Republican or Democrat thinking the change will come from within (nice try), and for the lowest common denominator - dittoheads, this is not a good thing. Complete control over a secret agency with at least 60,000 direct employees, a $10 billion budget, direct command of some military units, and the ability to read all communications would be an enormous weapon with which to maintain tyranny were it to arise. A President with a Napoleonic or Stalinistic delusion would find the perfect tool for the constant supervision of the individual by the state in the NSA; not unlike scenarios depicted in novels such as Orwell's 1984.

***The National Security Administration is Poised to Control the Internet***
NSA Homepage
NSA Can Break PGP Encryption
Houston Chronicle Interview
Original Charter of the National Security Agency
CFP'92 - Who Holds the Keys?

Americans would not have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, or in our case email, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny. There would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is, and would continue to be, within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology ...

I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capability that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return...

So, is the NSA 'sniffing' on the Internet? Does their reputation seem worthy of our trust and respect? Lets take a look at some of their recent plans for Internet communication. Then you can decide for yourself if you want to watch the magic act....the "now you see it....now you don't" act starring Freedom, of course.

Puzzle Palace co-author Wayne Madsen, in an article written for the June 1995 issue of Computer Fraud & Security Bulletin (Elsevier Advanced Technology Publications), wrote that "according to well-placed sources within the Federal Government and the Internet service provider industry, the National Security Agency (NSA) is actively sniffing several key Internet router and gateway hosts."

Madsen says the NSA concentrates its surveillance on destination and origination hosts, as well as "sniffing" for specific key words and phrases. He claims his sources have confirmed that the NSA has contracted with an unnamed private company to develop the software needed to capture Internet data of interest to the agency.

According to Madsen, the NSA monitors traffic primarily at two Internet routers controlled by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), one in College Park, MD (dubbed "Fix East") and another at NASA Ames Research Center in Sunnyvale, CA ("Fix West").

Other NSA Internet sniffers, he said, operate at busy routers known as Mae East (an East Coast hub), Mae West (a West Coast hub), CIX reportedly based in San Jose), and SWAB (a northern Virginia router operated by Bell Atlantic).

Madsen continues on to say the NSA may also be monitoring traffic at network access points (NAPs), the large Internet gateways operated by regional and long-distance service providers. The NAPs allegedly under surveillance are in Pennsauken, NJ (operated by Sprint), Chicago (run by AmeriTech and Bell Communications Research), and San Francisco (Pacific Bell).

Madsen claims the NSA has deals with Microsoft, Lotus, and Netscape to prevent anonymous email. "One senior Federal Government source has reported that NSA has been particularly successful in convincing key members of the US software industry to cooperate with it in producing software that makes Internet messages easier for NSA to intercept, and if they are encrypted, to decode," Madsen wrote. "A knowledgeable government source claims that the NSA has concluded agreements with Microsoft, Lotus and Netscape to permit the introduction of the means to prevent the anonymity of Internet electronic mail, the use of cryptographic key-escrow, as well as software industry acceptance of the NSA-developed Digital Signature Standard (DSS)."

Similarly, according to reports in several trade magazines, the Defense Messaging System (DMS) developed by the Pentagon is nearly ready for implementation, but prospective users are threatening to shun the universal e-mail platform unless Pentagon officials eliminate cumbersome security procedures designed by the NSA.

DOD designed DMS a decade ago to replace the aging AUTODIN message system and to serve as the armed services' global e-mail infrastructure. Officials familiar with DMS' security features, which rely on the National Security Agency's Fortezza encryption card, said the system's slowness is likely to alienate users who send mostly unclassified messages over commercial e-mail systems. Users of wireless systems are also complaining about the high overhead.

The DMS adopted the Fortezza card and is expected to implement over 450,000 cards in the next few years. Inside sources note that the NSA is using the DMS as a justification for paying companies such as Microsoft and Netscape to adopt the Fortezza card as a standard for their products. NSA has pushed agencies such as the CIA, NASA, IRS and the Federal Reserve to adopt Fortezza without success.

Cost is also a major factor. Fortezza's PCMCIA cards cost nearly $100 each and all computers must be equipped with a card reader that costs an additional $150. (Would you like to have to buy a modem or pre-assembled computer system that would make it easier for the NSA to monitor your communications? Not me!)

Is the NSA really snooping on the Net? If they are, would that violate the agency's charter, which specifically prohibits it from spying within the US? "Well, Net traffic is routed from God knows where to God knows where around the world," says George Washington University Professor Lance Hoffman, a professor of Communications and Telecommunications Systems Policy at George Washington University. "So if the NSA is doing this, they could say they are not violating their charter not to spy in the US. That's the thing. Intelligent routers send stuff any which way."

What can be done? - you say. There is a solution.....


Next issue will discuss trap doors and your right to use encryption as strong as you can make it.

***The National Security Administration is Poised to Control the Internet***
The Agency That Came in from the Cold
The Codex Surveillance & Privacy Page
Profiles of the U.S. Intelligence Community
Intelligence and CounterIntelligence
The National Security Administration
Internet Users Consortium Archives
*** PLEASE send us any other relevant URLs you may find ***

NorthStar is an Internet Newsletter provided by the Internet Users Consortium,
a fiercely independent Grass Roots organization founded by Martin Thompson and Kenneth Koldys, Jr, to inform and coordinate Internet Users concerning political and government actions against the complete self-actualization of the Internet and our Constitutional Rights in Cyberspace.

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Rethink what activism means - Isnt it just participation?

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