10 July, 2008

Dangerous, Arrogant Children Playing Spy Games

This Salon article, written by Jon B. Eisenberg, is a truly extraordinary glimpse inside the inane attempts of the Bush Regime to keep their warrantless wiretapping program secure.

Allow me to sum up.

Mr. Eisenberg and his fellow attorneys are representing one of the victims of Bush's illegal surveillance program, the charity Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation Inc. They know the foundation was a target of that surveillance because they've got a Document:

Our proof is a top-secret classified document, which the government accidentally gave to Al-Haramain's lawyers in August of 2004. We call it "the Document." It appeared in a stack of unclassified materials that the lawyers had requested from OFAC. Six weeks later, after the government realized its blunder, FBI agents personally visited each of the lawyers and made them return their copies of the Document. But the agents made no effort to retrieve copies that the lawyers had given to two members of Al-Haramain's board of directors, who lived outside the United States.

Take a moment to appreciate this. The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control not only fucked up and included a top-secret document with unclassified stuff, a document that proves beyond doubt that this wiretapping took place and is severely illegal, but also didn't retrieve said highly sensitive document back from all parties who have it. Apparently, they'll go to any lengths to protect classified information that's slipped out - except travelling overseas. That would just be too difficult.

And where are our much-hyped enemies? Overseas. Come the fuck on.

Then they tried to sic the FBI on the judge, who had a copy. The judge said, "Bugger off." The agents ran away. You'd think that if a tremendously sensitive document was being held in a non-secure location by a recalcitrant judge, it would take more than a simple "go 'way" to get them to go.

The attorneys next had to file a secret brief showing standing, describing the Document from memory. The government threw a hissy fit, demanding they be given access to the attorneys' laptops so they could wipe all traces of the secret brief with its secret Document details clean. The attorneys said "Bugger off." The government whined. For months. Laptops remained stubbornly unwiped.

More hijinks ensure, including the attorneys having to write a secret rebuttal to a secret government brief that they weren't allowed to see. To add insanity to the inanity, they had to write that secret rebuttal in the belly of the beast - the offices of the DOJ's San Francisco office, under the supervision of a DOJ lackey. All materials resulting from the drafting session were to be shredded, including, apparently, the banana peel from Mr. Eisenberg's lunch. After all, the clever bastard might have encoded government secrets in the peel using teeth marks and just been waiting to dig that puppy out of the trash later, right?

And then, at last, comes the day of doom for the laptops on which the original secret brief showing standing had been written. The DOJ lackey arranges to meet Eisenberg in the courthouse. She brings an "expert" to destroy the super-secret info.

He has no tools with him to do so. He's reduced to bashing the hard drive to death with a table leg. Not only that, he gives the bits back to Eisenberg

As for the other laptops, one remains unmolested to this day: the attorney who owns it told the DOJ to fuck off, and off they fucked.

I'll leave you to go read the rest of the fuckery at your leisure. And then contemplate the sobering thought: these extraordinary fuckwits are in charge of keeping America safe.

It's a good thing our Senate's given them all that warrantless wiretapping power, innit? They'll handle it oh so responsibly.


Unknown said...

I have seen similar things in labs I worked in. There is a "secret sauce" necessary for us to do our job. The recipe is kept by the tech who was there the longest.

The technician got really angry when we asked for the recipe. After all, any paper we published is going to have the recipe. Also, we needed to evaluate if this is what we really needed to be using. She did not give us the recipe.

Why? It's about power. The one who controls the secrets controls the power. It does not matter if it's their job or they need it to be secret. If some tech gets a secret, they are going to hold on to it because it's job security.

Of course, we just figured out our own secret sauce by looking up old papers and moved on. So the secret was a waste off time.

I feel like secrets are always a waste of time in the end. Whatever you are trying to hide it will come out one day or another.

The whole "security through obscurity" mantra has been proven to not work by computer experts as well. This is because if there is even a tiny leak then the whole system goes to shit. Secrecy is very fragile, and it puts people on edge, and makes them feel insecure.

This is not how I want to feel.

Nicole said...

Nearly unrelated to your post, and yet I'll leave this comment anyway because I heart William Goldman.

"Allow me to sum up" made me think the following:

"Allow me to esplain. No. Too much to esplain. Allow me to sum up. Buttercup is marry Humperdink in little under half an hour...."

Oh, books! How you've corrupted me!

george.w said...

Y'know, it isn't that hard to copy a whole hard drive to another hard drive. And it leaves no trace on the source drive either.

Sure, I'd have brought them the original drive with the super-secrets in it. Let 'em bash it with a table leg. Framed the results and put 'em on my office wall.

"We just smiled and waved goodbye... sittin' on that sack of seeds..."