Bill Totten's Weblog

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Red Fishhook

by Rosa Miriam Elizalde (September 04 2007)

It's not science fiction. It's not paranoia. The information comes now from one of the most recognized publications regarding cutting edge computer technology, the American magazine Wired. The Federal Bureau of Investigations has quietly built a complex system of surveillance that, with only the press of a button, you can instantaneously listen to phonecalls from almost any private communications device, even if it is thousands of miles away. In other words, an FBI agent in New York, for example, can monitor all the conversations and e-mail that somebody sends from the city of Wasilla, Alaska.

The system of security, called DCS-net (Digital Collection System Network), is tied into phone intercepcion offices of the US government, with connections located in internet service providers, land line telephone servers and cellphone companies.

"It is", Wired reports, "the most intricate network in the telecommunication field for monitoring suspects. One of its variants, DCS-3000, is known as the 'red fishhook', This type of surveillance picks up information from all numbers dialed from the same telephone."

DCS has other variants: one known as "digital storm", which captures and gathers the content of telephone calls and text messages, and a third that is used specifically for "tracking spies and terrorists".

What Wired doesn't say is that this is as old as the history of the electronic espionage, conceived by the American military ever since they got news of the first transistor. The first tools of Americans' electronic interception go back to the Vietnam war. In 1967, the communications expert William Hamilton, of the then ultra-secreta National Security Agency (NSA), invented a Vietnamese-English dictionary of terms and a means of filtering messages from the Popular Army.

Since then the ears of the Pentagon have been sharpened to the point of having the capacity to do the undescribable. They have benefited from the revolution in electronic communications, satellites and microcircuits that have changed the face of espionage: using quicker and more secure codes and better images coming over more and more efficient computers. Sensors allowed the separation of thousands of conversations; the analysis of the photographic spectrum can distinguish between millions of points to find only those that one is interested in; microchips have made it possible to hear a wisper meters away; and the infrared lenses allow us to see in the dark.

In fact, the DCS of the FBI, that has just appeared in the American information spectrum, is no more than a more modern -and sinister - variant of Carnivore, used for years by the US government to monitor communications over the Internet. It existed in 2000, when a web service provider refused to install it and triggered a wave of protests by civil liberty groups.

Carnivore was the third generation of the systems of FBI espionage networks. The first one was called Etherpeek, a system that the American government now sells to ≪friendly≫ countries to perform the dirty work and share this with US intelligence services. There was a second generation system, Omnivore, and later DragonWare, that had three parts: Carnivore - to pick up information, Packeteer - that converted the information captured into coherent text, and Coolminer - that analyzed all of this.

In October of 2006, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization made up of lawyers and civil rights advocates, spoke out against the existence of DCS-3000, but no one paid them the least bit of attention. It was necessary to very thoroughly track the issue to find out about it. In the name of the war against terrorism, the FBI refused to initially release confidential documents concerning this tool, although it was later forced to do so in accord with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Now Wired, a publication absolutely free of any suspicion of leftist bias, has collected more evidence that the control of new technologies is an initiative supporting the American strategy for dominance, about which there still doesn't exist enough information by movements that oppose this hegemomic drive. The "red fishhook" is the most recent sign that United States moving along a forced march to establish global surveillance.

And the color of the fishhook is no pure coincidence.

Bill Totten


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