"We risk becoming the best informed society that has ever died of ignorance"
- Rubén Blades

"You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it"
- Art Buchwald

"It's getting exciting now, two and one-half. Think of everything we've accomplished, man. Out these windows, we will view the collapse of financial history. One step closer to economic equilibrium"
- Tyler Durden

"It is your corrupt we claim. It is your evil that will be sought by us. With every breath, we shall hunt them down."
- Boondock Saints

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Government Bites The Hand That Feeds

This week the Fed's are voting on enabling the US Military to make arrests and retain citizens against their will in lock-up.  Now the police are working to hide their actions over police scanners so that their "investors" (taxpayers) cannot monitor performance in real-time.  All of this is being done under the guise that criminals are using these services to evade the rule of law (*ahem, congressional trading, lobbying departments, political nepotism, DOE and Climate Change E-mails 2.0) therefore the law-abiding citizen must be punished in the name of safety.  Orwell's world is alive and well.  Perhaps our resources would be better allocated regulating government instead of having government regulate us.  This is not a surprise given the recent upheaval worldwide as government squeeze more wealth out of it citizens to cover its stupid decisions.

Climate 2.0 Email Stating DOE Desire To Cover-Up Conflicting Old Data

"If criminals knew that police were about to enter a house to arrest the criminals because of intercepted communications, you end up with a shootout, dead police officers and dead criminals".  The definition of a criminal is broad; "a popular term for anyone who has committed a crime, whether convicted of the offense or not".  Therefore to skirt the legal definition, just make the citizens one collective threat.

And the second article from the Associated Press will reiterate the move that law-enforcement is putting on.  Remember that "you don't want a good crisis to go to waste" so don't take ANYTHING at face value, democracy demands a thoroughly educated public that analyzes the choices so as to weed out the inevitable horrific ones.  These agencies are using our tax dollars to utilize technology to hide their actions from us while giving themselves the right to detain us, for any reason, without due process, because we are now a threat. 

Smart phones can make law enforcement a little uneasy. The smarter the phone, police say, the more tools criminals have at their fingertips to elude authorities.

To combat software that allows anyone with a smart phone to listen to police radio messages, police departments nationwide are implementing or considering the implementation of encryption technology that would prevent criminals — as well as the public at large — from monitoring their activity.

The West Chester Police Department is the only police agency in Chester County that has digital encryption technology. The department has had its encryption capability for several years but only activated the technology this
year. Encryption popped up in recent years as police departments, including West Chester's, upgraded from analog systems to digital.

The department activates the technology as-needed — about 5 percent of the time — to protect the identity of victims or to keep operations, like a narcotics raid, under wraps, according to West Chester Police Chief Scott Bohn.

Bohn said his department uses encryption to ensure public safety, officer safety, operational security and operation integrity. At the same time, it is used sparingly partly because if the department used encryption all of the time, neighboring police departments without encryption would not hear their radio traffic and would be unaware if borough police needed their assistance immediately.

"The safety of our officers and their ability to apprehend criminals has to be one of our priorities," Bohn said. "At the same time, I certainly understand that an informed public is a good thing, and I think that is where we need to find a balance."

Bohn said his department finds the balance between safety and the public's right to be informed by using encryption on a limited basis and being open with the public about criminal activity or other emergencies that occur in the borough and East Bradford, which his department also serves.

Tom Hogan, who will take office as the county's new district attorney in January, said encryption is a necessary tool.

"This issue shows the constant technology battle between law enforcement and criminals. Criminals adapt to new technology faster than a 14-year-old with a smart phone," Hogan said. "Law enforcement needs to work constantly not just to defeat the technology of criminals, but to turn the technology against criminals."

Hogan said departments must be able to communicate securely and immediately to combat crime.

"If criminals knew that police were about to enter a house to arrest the criminals because of intercepted communications, you end up with a shootout, dead police officers and dead criminals," Hogan said.

At the same time, Hogan said, the public should still have access to nonsensitive, typical radio traffic. He agreed with West Chester's approach — using encryption only when absolutely necessary.

"As with most law enforcement issues, it is a matter of striking the appropriate balance between the need for confidentiality and the need for public transparency," he said. "There is no one-size-fits-all solution."

Police departments around the U.S. are working to shield their radio communications from the public as cheap, user-friendly technology has made it easy for anyone to use handheld devices to keep tabs on officers responding to crimes.

The practice of encryption has grown more common from Florida to New York and west to California, with law-enforcement officials saying they want to keep criminals from using officers' internal chatter to evade them. But journalists and neighborhood watchdogs say open communications ensure that the public receives information that can be vital to their safety as quickly as possible.

D.C. police moved to join the trend this fall after what Chief Cathy Lanier said were several incidents involving criminals and smartphones. Carjackers operating on Capitol Hill were believed to have been listening to emergency communications because they were only captured once police stopped broadcasting over the radio, she said.

"Whereas listeners used to be tied to stationary scanners, new technology has allowed people -- and especially criminals -- to listen to police communications on a smartphone from anywhere," Lanier testified at a D.C. Council committee hearing this month. "When a potential criminal can evade capture and learn, 'There's an app for that,' it's time to change our practices."

The transition has put police departments at odds with the news media, who say their newsgathering is impeded when they can't use scanners to monitor developing crimes and disasters. Journalists and scanner hobbyists argue that police departments already have the capability to communicate securely and should be able to adjust to the times without reverting to full encryption. And they say alert scanner listeners have even helped police solve crimes.

"If the police need to share sensitive information among themselves, they know how to do it," Phil Metlin, news director of WTTG-TV, in Washington, said at the council hearing. "Special encrypted channels have been around for a long time; so have cellphones."

It's impossible to quantify the scope of the problem or to determine if the threat from scanners is as legitimate as police maintain -- or merely a speculative fear. It's certainly not a new concern -- after all, hobbyists have for years used scanners to track the activities of their local police department from their kitchen tables.

David Schoenberger, a stay-at-home dad from Fredericksburg, Va., and scanner hobbyist, said he understands Lanier's concerns -- to a point.

"I think they do need to encrypt the sensitive talk groups, like the vice and narcotics, but I disagree strongly with encrypting the routine dispatch and patrol talk groups. I don't think that's right," he said. "I think the public has a right to monitor them and find out what's going on around them. They pay the salaries and everything."

There's no doubt that it's increasingly easy to listen in on police radios.

One iPhone app, Scanner 911, offers on its website the chance to "listen in while police, fire and EMS crews work day & night." Apple's iTunes' store advertises several similar apps.

Though iPhones don't directly pick up police signals, users can listen to nearly real-time audio from police dispatch channels through streaming services, said Matthew Blaze, director of the Distributed Systems Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania and a researcher of security and privacy in computing and communications systems.

The shift to encryption has occurred as departments replace old-fashioned analog radios with digital equipment that sends the voice signal over the air as a stream of bits and then reconstructs it into high-quality audio. Encrypted communication is generally only heard by listeners with an encryption key. Others might hear silence or garbled talk, depending on the receiver's technology.
The cost of encryption varies.

The Nassau County, N.Y., Police Department is in the final stages of a roughly $50 million emergency communications upgrade that includes encryption and interoperability with other law-enforcement agencies in the region, Inspector Edmund Horace said. Once the old system is taken down, Horace said, "you would not be able to discern what's being said on the air unless you had the proper equipment."

Still, full encryption is cumbersome, difficult to manage and relatively rare, especially among big-city police departments who'd naturally have a harder time keeping track of who has access to the encryption key, Blaze said.

The more individuals or neighboring police agencies with access, the greater the risk that the secrecy of the system could be compromised and the harder it becomes to ensure that everyone who needs access has it, Blaze said.

Relatively few local police departments are actually encrypted, Blaze said, though some cities have modern radio systems for dispatch that are difficult to monitor on inexpensive equipment.

However, the systems can be intercepted with higher-end scanners.