- In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attack, the
FBI has stumbled on the largest espionage ring ever discovered inside the
United States. The U.S. Justice Department is now holding nearly 100 Israeli
citizens with direct ties to foreign military, criminal and intelligence
- The spy ring reportedly includes employees of two Israeli-owned
companies that currently perform almost all the official wiretaps for U.S.
local, state and federal law enforcement.
- The U.S. law enforcement wiretaps, authorized by the
Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), appear to have
been breached by organized crime units working inside Israel and the Israeli
intelligence service, Mossad.
- Both Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director
Robert Mueller were warned on Oct. 18 in a hand-delivered letter from local,
state and federal law enforcement officials. The warning stated, "Law
enforcement's current electronic surveillance capabilities are less effective
today than they were at the time CALEA was enacted."
- The spy ring enabled criminals to use reverse wiretaps
against U.S. intelligence and law enforcement operations. The illegal
monitoring may have resulted in the deaths of several informants and reportedly
spoiled planned anti-drug raids on crime syndicates.
- Global Spy and Crime Network
- The penetration of the U.S. wiretap system has led to
a giant spy hunt across the globe by American intelligence agencies. U.S.
intelligence officials now suspect the spy ring shared and sold information
to other nations.
- "Why do you think Putin so nonchalantly and with
such great fanfare announced the shutdown of the Lourdes listening post
in Cuba?" noted Douglas Brown, president of Multilingual Data Solutions
Inc. and program director at the Nathan Hale Institute.
- "Besides the PR benefit right before his visit here,
the Russians don't need it anymore. They've scraped together a cheaper,
more effective monitoring system. Is the Israeli company an element of
that system? I don't know," stated Brown.
- "With all the whining and crying about Echelon and
Carnivore, critics, domestic and foreign, of U.S. electronic eavesdropping
vastly overestimate our abilities to process and disseminate the stuff,"
- "The critics also underestimated the incompetence
and total ineptness of the people running our intelligence and law enforcement
services during the Clinton-Gore years. One guy uses his home computer
for storing top secret documents; another high-tech guru guy can't figure
out how to save and retrieve his e-mail, and the guy in charge of everything
is having phone sex over an open line with one of his employees,"
- "On the other hand, the Europeans, including the
Russians, have been much more focused on the nuts and bolts of practical
systems to process the information they scoop up. The stories linking
German intelligence and the L scandal got very little play here but were
widely noted in the European software community," said Brown.
- "Except for a few Germans and an occasional Pole,
nobody can match the Russians in designing and developing algorithms.
We may have some of the world's greatest programmers, but the Russians
and Europeans do a better job of matching up linguists and area experts
with their programmers," noted Brown.
- The discovery of a major spy ring inside the United States
is straining the already tense relations with Israel. Although, Israel
denied any involvement with the penetration of the U.S. wiretap system,
the CIA and FBI are investigating the direct government ties to the former
Israeli military and intelligence officials now being held by the Justice
- Israeli Company Provides U.S. Wiretaps
- One company reported to be under investigation is Comverse
Infosys, a subsidiary of an Israeli-run private telecommunications firm.
Comverse provides almost all the wiretapping equipment and software for
U.S. law enforcement.
- Custom computers and software made by Comverse are tied
into the U.S. phone network in order to intercept, record and store wiretapped
calls, and at the same time transmit them to investigators.
- The penetration of Comverse reportedly allowed criminals
to wiretap law enforcement communications in reverse and foil authorized
wiretaps with advance warning. One major drug bust operation planned by
the Los Angeles police was foiled by what now appear to be reverse wiretaps
placed on law enforcement phones by the criminal spy ring.
- Flawed laws Led to Compromise
- Several U.S. privacy and security advocates contend the
fault actually lies in the CALEA legislation passed by Congress that allowed
the spy ring to operate so effectively. Lisa Dean, vice president for
technology policy at Free Congress Foundation, delivered a scathing critique
of the breach of the U.S. law enforcement wiretap system.
- "We are exercising our 'I told you so' rights on
this," said Dean.
- "From the beginning, both the political right and
left warned Congress and the FBI that they were making a huge mistake by
implementing CALEA. That it would jeopardize the security of private communications,
whether it's between a mother and her son or between government officials.
The statement just issued by law enforcement agencies has confirmed our
worst fears," concluded Dean.
- "How many more 9/11s do we have to suffer?"
asked Brad Jansen, deputy director for technology policy at the Free Congress
- "The CALEA form of massive surveillance is a poor
substitute for real law enforcement and intelligence work. It is an after-the-fact
method of crime fighting. It is not designed to prevent crime. Massive
wiretapping does not equal security. Instead, we have elected to jeopardize
our national security in exchange for poor law enforcement," said
- "For example, FINCEN monitoring of all money transactions
did not detect al-Qaeda, nor did it find Mohamed Atta before he boarded
his last flight. It was an ATM receipt left in his rental car that led
the FBI to the bin Laden bank accounts," noted Jansen.
- U.S. National Security Compromised
- "The CALEA approach is the same approach law enforcement
has been pushing for a number of years. It's the same approach that was
used to push Carnivore, Magic Lantern, FINCEN and even the failed Clipper
project. This approach leads to a compromise in national security and in
personal security for the American public," said Jansen.
- "In addition, there is always government abuse of
these kinds of systems," stated Jansen. "Law enforcement on
all levels does a very poor job in policing itself. We need to hold our
police and government officials to the highest standards."
- "This also hurts the U.S. economy when the whole
world knows that our communication systems are not secure. We cannot compete
with inferior products when other countries are exporting secure software
and hardware. New Zealand, India and Chili already offer security products
that actually provide real security," stated Jansen.
- "The current mentality of law enforcement is what
failed to protect us from 9/11. CALEA wiretaps will not protect us from
terror attacks in the future. The system does not provide better intelligence
information. It actually leads to less security and more crime. We get
the worst of both worlds," concluded Jansen.
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