Terrorists to US: Can You Hear Me Now?
Fellow TPMmuckraker alumnus Justin Rood has an amazing story up at ABC’s Blotter. It turns out that the super-sophisticated NSA apparatus used for domestic surveillance by the Bush administration (call the effort the Terrorist Surveillance Program, or Program X, or what have you) is vulnerable to manipulation by the terrorists themselves . That’s according to a forthcoming article in a cyber-security journal called IEEE Security & Privacy. Justin reports:
The data centers for the classified program are reportedly housed in "secure" rooms within telecommunications hubs around the country, and connect to operations buried within the NSA’s highly classified facilities. But judging by past breaches, the authors conclude this system could be compromised also – from within or outside.
In 2004, hackers cracked a wiretapping function on a Greek national cell phone network. For 10 months, they intercepted conversations by the country’s prime minister and its ministers of defense, foreign affairs and justice, and roughly 100 other officials and parliament members, the authors note. The hackers were never caught.
"Although the NSA has extensive experience in building surveillance systems, that does not mean things cannot go wrong," the authors state. "When you build a system to spy on yourself, you entail an awesome risk."
Just as dangerous is the possibility that an insider could access the system undetected, according to the experts. Poorly-designed surveillance technology used by the FBI relies on a "primitive" system to track people who use the operation to wiretap phone conversations, the authors say, creating what they call a "real risk" of an insider attack.
Don’t worry, though. The competence of the Bush administration is legendary.