Britain to Spy on Every Call, Email, and Text
Newsmax.com, October 6, 2008
A top-secret program being developed by British spymasters soon may allow them to snoop on every computer, text message, and phone call in the United Kingdom, according to plans revealed in early October. The Interception Modernization program is part of a $20 billion effort being pushed by the government’s secret eavesdropping agency, according to the Times of London. It would be the largest surveillance system ever created in Britain, and quite possibly any Western democracy.
The British already have a sophisticated closed-circuit TV system that covers large metropolitan areas. The linked system of cameras with a full pan, tilt, zoom, and infrared capability allows continuous surveillance in central business districts. Tens of thousands of other cameras available to the police operate in phone booths, vending machines, buses, trains, taxis, alongside motorways, and inside automatic teller machines.
Now the country’s two major spy services want to carry that capability into mobile phones and computers. The goal is a “live tap” on every electronic communication in Britain. The nation’s spy bosses have told British officials that a system is needed to capture the array of communications between terrorists planning to attack Britain. Draft e-mails, chat-room discussions, and internet browsing on encrypted jihadist websites are the preferred forums for al-Qaida cells to plan their attacks.
In the U.K., telephone and internet companies must give details of calls or Web use to law enforcement agencies if a senior officer certifies that it is needed for an investigation.
Comment: Terrorism continues to escalate throughout the world and will probably continue to worsen. So at first thought, increased measures to police these activities and hopefully reduce terrorists acts, seems positive. On second thought, where will snooping on almost all our activities, in the name of surveillance measures, end? The ethical implications of granting such power to government agencies with little oversight are unending.
Cyberattackers Hit Defense Systems
Los Angeles Times, November 28, 2008
Senior military leaders took the exceptional step of briefing President Bush on a severe and widespread electronic attack on the U.S. Defense Department computers that may have originated in Russia, posing an unusual concern among commanders and potential implications for national security. Defense officials said the attack struck hard at networks within U.S. Central Command, the headquarters that oversees U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and affected computers in combat zones. The attack also penetrated at least one highly protected classified network.
Military computers regularly are beset by hackers, computer viruses, and worms. Defense officials said the most recent attack involves an intrusive piece of malicious software, or “malware,” apparently designed to target military networks. An official stated, “This one was significant – this one got our attention.” The attack illustrates the increasing danger of computer warfare, which defense experts say one day could be used by combatants to undermine a militarily superior adversary.
U.S. Officials have worried about the possibility of cyber attacks, especially those originating in China or Russia, whether sponsored by governments of those countries, or launched by individual computer experts.
Comment: Suspicions of Russian involvement come at an especially delicate time because of fraying U.S.-Russia relations and growing tension over U.S. plans to develop a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. Implications of hacked defense department computer systems also could have a major effect fighting terrorism as the world continues to shrink.
New York Sting Nabs Tax Preparers
The Wall Street Journal, November 26, 2008
New York State tax officials have uncovered evidence of significant fraud among professional tax-return preparers in a statewide sting operation in which undercover agents posed as clients. Officials are startled not only by the unexpectedly large amounts of tax evasion, such as hiding income and inflating deductions, but also by the brazen nature of cheating.
In one case, a preparer told an undercover investigator, “I did not declare your full gross income from your business because you will pay a lot of taxes.” In another case, a tax preparer said he is going to report only $13,188 as taxable income, instead of the $131,884 which was the correct amount. Another preparer, referring to records given to him by the undercover agent, said: “This one and this one, I never saw this. It’s going into the shredder.”
Officials say they found evidence of fraud among about 40% of the 85 professional tax return preparers they visited. If all of the phony returns that were prepared had actually been filed, it would have cost the federal, state and local governments approximately $4 million in taxes. Results of the New York sting operation could bolster congressional efforts to expand regulation of paid preparers, such as requiring certain training and competency standards and imposing stiffer punishment on wrongdoers.
IRS studies show that people tend to be far more honest in reporting their income when that income is subject to tax withholding and when taxpayer reports the income to the IRS.
Comment: Why do “people tend to be far more honest in reporting there income” when they know the IRS has the information? I don’t think it has anything to do with honesty. They calculate the probability of being caught. This is a sad scenario for our taxpayers.
By Roger Eigsti
Institute for Business, Technology, and Ethics