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May 12, 2006

More On The Data-Mining Iceberg Politics  Rights, Law

Greg Palast, writing for BuzzFlash, on the revelations that major telco and other corporations are assisting NSA/CIA/FBI/DHS in their surveillance of Americans, focuses on one of those companies, CheckPoint, Inc.:

[T]he snooping into your phone bill is just the snout of the pig of a strange, lucrative link-up between the Administration's Homeland Security spy network and private companies operating beyond the reach of the laws meant to protect us from our government. You can call it the privatization of the FBI — though it is better described as the creation of a private KGB.

The leader in the field of what is called "data mining," is a company, formed , called, "ChoicePoint, Inc," which has sucked up over a billion dollars in national security contracts.

Worried about Dick Cheney listening in Sunday on your call to Mom? That ain't nothing. You should be more concerned that they are linking this info to your medical records, your bill purchases and your entire personal profile including, not incidentally, your voting registration. Five years ago, I discovered that ChoicePoint had already gathered 16 billion data files on Americans — and I know they've expanded their ops at an explosive rate.

They are paid to keep an eye on you — because the FBI can't. For the government to collect this stuff is against the law unless you're suspected of a crime. (The law in question is the Constitution.) But ChoicePoint can collect if for "commercial" purchases — and under the Bush Administration's suspect reading of the Patriot Act — our domestic spying apparatchiks can then BUY the info from ChoicePoint.

Who ARE these guys selling George Bush a piece of you?

ChoicePoint's board has more Republicans than a Palm Beach country club. It was funded, and its board stocked, by such Republican sugar daddies as billionaires Bernie Marcus and Ken Langone — even after Langone was charged by the Securities Exchange Commission with abuse of inside information.

I first ran across these guys in 2000 in Florida when our Guardian/BBC team discovered the list of 94,000 "felons" that Katherine Harris had ordered removed from Florida's voter rolls before the election. Virtually every voter purged was innocent of any crime except, in most cases, Voting While Black. Who came up with this electoral hit list that gave Bush the White House? ChoicePoint, Inc.

And worse, they KNEW the racially-tainted list of felons was bogus. And when we caught them, they lied about it. [...]

And now ChoicePoint and George Bush want your blood. Forget your phone bill. ChoicePoint, a sickened executive of the company told us in confidence, "hope[s] to build a database of DNA samples from every person in the United States...linked to all the other information held by CP [ChoicePoint]" from medical to voting records.

And ChoicePoint lied about that too. The company publicly denied they gave DNA to the Feds — but then told our investigator, pretending to seek work, that ChoicePoint was "the number one" provider of DNA info to the FBI.

"And that scares the hell out of me," said the executive (who has since left the company), because ChoicePoint gets it WRONG so often. We are not contracting out our Homeland Security to James Bond here. It's more like Austin Powers, Inc. Besides the 97% error rate in finding Florida "felons," Illinois State Police fired the company after discovering ChoicePoint had produced test "results" on rape case evidence...that didn't exist. And ChoicePoint just got hit with the largest fine in Federal Trade Commission history for letting identity thieves purchase 145,000 credit card records.

But it won't stop, despite Republican senators shedding big crocodile tears about "surveillance" of innocent Americans. That's because FEAR is a lucrative business — not just for ChoicePoint, but for firms such as Syntech, Sybase and Lockheed-Martin — each of which has provided lucrative posts or profits to connected Republicans including former Total Information Awareness chief John Poindexter (Syntech), Marvin Bush (Sybase) and Lynn Cheney (Lockheed-Martin).

But how can they get Americans to give up our personal files, our phone logs, our DNA and our rights? Easy. Fear sells better than sex — and they want you to be afraid. Back to today's New York Times, page 28: "Wider Use of DNA Lists is Urged in Fighting Crime." And who is providing the technology? It comes, says the Times, from the work done on using DNA fragments to identity victims of the September 11 attack. And who did that job (for $12 million, no bid)? ChoicePoint, Inc. Which is NOT mentioned by the Times. [Emphasis added]

As I noted last night, reports that they've assembled the largest database in the world imply that it's a whole lot more than phone records. Phone companies, after all, already have databases of phone records. This has to be much, much more. I think Palast's right, they're tying everything together: your phone records, your medical records, your credit card payments and bank statements, your Internet use, your political affiliations — who knows what else.

Posted by Jonathan at May 12, 2006 05:43 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Comments

Ewwgh. I feel kind of sick.

Posted by: ivieee at May 13, 2006 01:50 AM

"who knows what else"

Like he said - your DNA as well...

Once everyone has RFID based id cards and carrying them is mandatory (and enough terrorist activity will eventually guarantee that) the state (or whichever corporations have cornered the market in gathering the information) will be able to track people's activity at a very fine grained level.

Down here the government is taking a dual pronged approach to implementing universal RFID - via our "Medicare" cards, which anyone who gets any sort of government assistance has (basically everyone given our mostly free healthcare system) and our passports...

One thing I'm curious about is if phone companies currently track the movements of mobile phones (they know where they are at any point in time of course - the question is - do they store this data for a while and is it fed into the intelligence services). This would provide a partial solution to the tracking "problem" already.

Posted by: Big Gav at May 13, 2006 07:31 AM

Why? should we believe that they are not surveiling content as well? Why?

Posted by: ivieee at May 13, 2006 11:23 AM

Exactly, ivieee. They have the technical capability to scan all calls (they already do it overseas). The only thing stopping them would be a desire to obey the law or a fear of political and legal consequences. This administration has neither.

Posted by: Jonathan at May 13, 2006 12:45 PM

If the "why" was directed at me, I certainly wasn't suggesting surveilling content can't (and isn't) happening - I'd suspect the opposite already in fact.

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/04/att_assisting_n.html
http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,70619-0.html?tw=rss.index
http://www.boingboing.net/2006/04/17/msft_yhoo_to_build_d.html
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/04/nsa_warrantless.html

To me the surveillence gap seemed to be tracking where people are at all times, not tracking their communications (which is pretty easy - basically just a storage and processing problem).

Posted by: Big Gav at May 13, 2006 07:35 PM