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'War on Terror' Allies Form Information Consortium 139

Posted by Zonk
from the absolutely-nothing-about-this-sounds-james-bondian dept.
Wowsers writes us with a story from The Guardian about FBI interest in connectivity between its own database resources and those abroad. It's spearheading a program labeled 'Server in the Sky', meant to coordinate the police forces of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to better fight international crime/terrorist groups. The group is calling itself the International Information Consortium. "Britain's National Policing Improvement Agency has been the lead body for the FBI project because it is responsible for IDENT1, the UK database holding 7m sets of fingerprints and other biometric details used by police forces to search for matches from scenes of crimes. Many of the prints are either from a person with no criminal record, or have yet to be matched to a named individual. IDENT1 was built by the computer technology arm of the US defence company Northrop Grumman. In future it is expected to hold palm prints, facial images and video sequences."
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'War on Terror' Allies Form Information Consortium

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  • Server in the Sky? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Honestly. Wtf? Server in the Sky? That cannot be serious.

    I can't think of a name more likely to inspire fear/conspiracy theories. Why not call it the Big Brother Server? Or the Stalin Server? Or the Anal Rapist server?

    'night all - enough scotchx for me :-)
    • by Broken Toys (1198853) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @10:04AM (#22049464)
      Why not call it Skynet and just accept the inevitable?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ajehals (947354)
        That name was already taken [www.mod.uk].
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Ucklak (755284)
        So we have the program "Star Wars" and now we have "Skynet".
        Before you know it, they will want to 'recycle' people when they turn 30 and
        there will probably be a 'Green' company to provide high energy biscuits to people and the company name will be "The Soylent Biscuit Company".

        Has imagination left mankind?

        • BOX
          Do you know how long all this will last? Not thirty years... or thirty thousand years... but thirty thousand years... and you'll be part of it. Ages will roll... Ages. And you'll be here... the two of you... eternally frozen... frozen... beautiful.

          LOGAN
          There must be somebody else up here. I can't believe that he's --

          BOX
          interrupting; his voice tone changing; very lucid)

          Let me sculpt you and I will show you where the others have gone.
      • by fbjon (692006)
        It's probably a reference to GLaDOS. The new motto is, "There's a server in the sky, through which information can .. fly".
    • Oh, just "Nanny State Server" will do.
      People seem relaxed about the bread, circuses, and state-run services.
      Yet when the logical law-enforcement applications of state control come along, up go the hackles, revealing velveteen shackles, while the bureaucratic overlord quietly cackles.
    • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @10:13AM (#22049564)
      Sure, why NOT call it "Server in the Sky"? After all, it's purpose is To Serve Mankind.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      Honestly. Wtf? Server in the Sky? That cannot be serious. I can't think of a name more likely to inspire fear/conspiracy theories. Why not call it the Big Brother Server? Or the Stalin Server? Or the Anal Rapist server?

      I think this [uncyclopedia.org] answers your question.
    • Should be call the "data grid"? Oops, name already taken by another agency. The gain it's too generic a term...

      There is no server in the sky, just a database... Then again I can't imagine IT staff flying around all day.

  • UKUSA Community (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @09:45AM (#22049310)
    The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand make up the "UKUSA Community", which has been sharing information and intelligence in cooperative programs since World War II.

    There are three categories of individuals proposed for this initiative:

    - internationally recognised terrorists and felons
    - major felons and suspected terrorists
    - subjects of terrorist investigations or criminals with international links

    Categorization makes sense, and information sharing between allies for individuals suspected to travel internationally and who may want to actively target Western nations makes sense.

    Every new database or mechanism for tracking or identifying individuals has privacy implications. Those implications must be managed by the laws of each respective nation. But increased information sharing will, by nature, almost always decrease "privacy".

    As a DNI official recently noted, "We have a saying in this business: 'Privacy and security are a zero-sum game.'"

    Keep in mind, though, that this data is data that the respective nations already gather via law enforcement and investigative means. It is in databases that are already maintained. The proposal is to collectively share the information in these databases. Any argument that there might be privacy implications to voluntarily sharing data between allies, or that simply building the infrastructure and capability to do so creates an opportunity for abuse (with the implication that it should therefore not be done) are very weak arguments. The merits or drawbacks of the proposed program itself are what is at issue; not the technology. Arguing that technology shouldn't be used for the purpose is the same as arguing that law enforcement shouldn't be able to use, say, computers, databases, telephones, cameras, or vehicles because they "enhance" their abilities, and "could be abused". So, when arguing for or against this initiative, please concentrate on the actual initiative itself, not the unsurprising fact that long-time allies are cooperating with one another electronically.

    If Northrop Grumman did as well with IDENT1 as it did on Grants.gov [grants.gov] in the early stages, we can expect it to not be very functional. ;-) (General Dynamics now holds the Grants.gov contract.)
    • Re:UKUSA Community (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @10:06AM (#22049492)

      The problem is that the technology can lead to a significant difference in the way the data is used. Just look at Echelon (again, a very similar "data sharing" agreement between the same block of countries).

      Although one could also argue with Echelon that "this is data which was already collected by the respective governments", the fact that a country received data that they were legally prohibited from collecting themselves was the issue. I could imagine a similar situation here, when all countries routinely begin collecting fingerprints from everyone entering their borders (as the USA already does).

      Such data-collection programs can slip through, because the government says "we just collect the data on foreigners!". The fact that they then immediately make this data available to the other countries, and in return immediately receive access to similar data about their own citizens, is never mentioned.

      The technology becomes an issue because it then allows massive trawling through the data. When fingerprint data exchange involved faxing a blurry copy across the Atlantic, abuse is effectively limited _by_the_technology_. When the home-government can instantly search through every fingerprint of every citizen who has ever visited one of the partner countries, it becomes a whole different animal.

    • Re:UKUSA Community (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Umuri (897961) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @10:19AM (#22049642)
      Disclaimer: I do not hold the opinion i express in this post. In fact I hold no opinion on this topic whatsoever because I have not read enough to be informed. This is merely presented, like most of my posts, to be a devils advocate to promote looking at the converse arguments to any given statement.

      You said that
      "Any argument that there might be privacy implications to voluntarily sharing data between allies, or that simply building the infrastructure and capability to do so creates an opportunity for abuse (with the implication that it should therefore not be done) are very weak arguments."

      Let me propose a slight different view for you.
      Most countries have laws protecting their own citizens private rights, but not those that aren't their citizens.
      Now, if more than 2 countries have such a policy, then share information freely, it effectively gives both countries freedom to spy on their own people, without any reprecussions. They just ask their partner country to do it. In most cases they don't even need to ask, it's already in the databases somewhere, due to how vast most foreign policy spying is.

      The privacy implication is that by sharing information, you are allowed to violate laws in your own country by letting countries where its not illegal do it then give you the ill gotten gains.

      • by Petaris (771874)
        You mean sort of like holding suspects in countries where torture, er "enhanced interrogation" is legal so you can claim your not doing anything wrong?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BobMcD (601576)
      Supposing an overseas privateer runs off with this data, whose jurisdiction would attach?

      Any argument that there might be privacy implications to voluntarily sharing data between allies, or that simply building the infrastructure and capability to do so creates an opportunity for abuse (with the implication that it should therefore not be done) are very weak arguments.

      They aren't weak at all. They are quite valid considering the fact that there isn't any such thing as a world government that can intervene when things go wrong. And humans being what they are, things WILL go wrong eventually. This isn't like Texas and Arkansas sharing information, as those belong to the same greater nation. Likewise, there exists a European Union across the pond. If you can't imagine the issues

      • by mpe (36238)
        What would you say, by the way, if we were trading this information with Iran, Russia, China and/or Nigeria? Same difference?

        When you consider that there exist "webs of trust" between governments together with all sorts of spying activities it might be better to ask "who arn't they trading this information with". Most people don't even know who their own government trusts.
    • by CmdrGravy (645153)
      I agree that it's not the technology at issue here but the general principles involved in sharing this sort of personal data between countries. The trouble is that its often only the technical solution which is considered without too much thought for the consequences on a personal or political level.

      Putting in the infrastructure to share this information does raise concerns about who will have access to this data and what it will be used for. For example the DNA information the UK police currently collect i
      • by Wowsers (1151731)

        So far as I am aware that information is handled in accordance with the UK rules governing the collection and maintenance of peoples records...

        The UK government has only one rule, to sell your personal data to anyone willing to buy it to make the government a quick buck. Just look at the driver records sold to any any criminal posing as a legit car parking enforcement company, look at the DNA data taken - sold to any company wanting the information (for now mostly life assurance companies), the local voting register - sold to any junk mailing company willing to buy the list with lovely names and addresses, passenger data if you fly - along with

    • As a DNI official recently noted, "We have a saying in this business: 'Privacy and security are a zero-sum game.'"
      That has got to be the biggest dose of horse puckey I've ever seen.

      It's possible to maintain security without tracking everything about ordinary, law-abiding citizens -- which is most of us. It's just not convenient to do so.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by vegiVamp (518171)
      > "UKUSA Community"

      Now why did I read that as Yakuza community ?
    • by Webee (1220224)
      I find most disturbing from this news not the scope of new information amassed in one location but who runs it. In the current system I cannot find peace of mind that it will be used justly and fairly. Everybody denies until guilty, normal i say! If we are to leave the politicians with this tool we should request they fall under the same rule. All searches should be scrutinized not by politicians or analysts but by members of the community, us. And they should be liable to the same searches when needed
    • by drseuk (824707)

      There are three categories of individuals proposed for this initiative:

      - internationally recognised terrorists and felons

      - major felons and suspected terrorists

      - subjects of terrorist investigations or criminals with international links

      If you had added "Little old ladies who park their buggies on double yellow lines and don't pay the congestion charge" I'm cool with the programme.
    • As a DNI official recently noted, "We have a saying in this business: 'Privacy and security are a zero-sum game.'"

      That is some seriously faulty thinking! There are many things that invade privacy that do not increase security. There are also many things that increase security which do not impact privacy. Putting the two together is a marketing campaign to make it seem like this is the choice we are facing: privacy vs. security. In fact, that has absolutely nothing to do with the social questions at hand.

      Repeating the tired strawman of "privacy vs. security" only serves to dominate the social discourse

    • by Artaxs (1002024)
      "The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand."

      I am glad that I am not the only one who saw IDENT1 as just another name for ECHELON [wikipedia.org].

  • Let's let the paranoia party make more decisions please.
  • The problem with these schemes will be false positives, each of which will tie up a couple of staff for a few hours. Fingerprint matching in the real world is not like CSI.
    • The problem with these schemes will be false positives, each of which will tie up a couple of staff for a few hours. Fingerprint matching in the real world is not like CSI.

      Or lockup a couple of innocent people for a few decades. Which seems more likely given that this program is run by the people or brought you (by the admission of the FBI's own inspector general) thousands of illegal misuses of "National Security Letters"

  • Great. Now I can't get the Norman Greenbaum "Spirit in the Sky" out of my head.

    Surely somebody with talent can whip up some War on Terror lyrics for it...
    • The song is already a Jihadi song, you only need to change one word!

      "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman bin Greenbaum:

      When I die and they lay me to rest
      Gonna go to the place that's the best
      When I lay me down to die
      Goin' up to the spirit in the sky
      Goin' up to the spirit in the sky
      That's where I'm gonna go when I die
      When I die and they lay me to rest
      Gonna go to the place that's the best

      Prepare yourself you know it's a must
      Gotta have a friend in Muhammad
      So you know that when you die
      He's gonna recommend you
      To the spi
  • Server in the Sky....or perhaps a "Sky-Net"? Hmmmmm???
  • Doesnt the DPA expressly forbid transferring data to roganisations whose data protection laws are not as least as stringent as the DPA?

    Or does that not count because of the terrorismisticals?
    • That's why the UK government leaked all those sensitive data about half of their subjects a few mounthes ago.
    • by jimicus (737525)
      Doesnt the DPA expressly forbid transferring data to roganisations whose data protection laws are not as least as stringent as the DPA?

      The DPA has a number of getouts:

      - An organisation isn't obliged to give you information you request if doing so might compromise a criminal investigation.
      - An organisation can't send data to countries without similar protections in place without your consent. Note that they are not obliged to have procedures (other than "Fine, you don't have to deal with us if you don't wan
  • War on drugs, war on terror. Come on, let's have a war on crime and a war on war. What's next? War on poverty?
  • Why not Interpol? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mikkeles (698461) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @10:06AM (#22049490)
    Given that this is really crime rather than military intelligence and the like, I wonder why this isn't done through Interpol [wikipedia.org]. It seems especially silly as most (all!?) of the nations that contain the source of the current generation of terrorists are excluded.
    • by techpawn (969834)

      I wonder why this isn't done through Interpol.
      I don't know why a Rock Band [wikipedia.org] would be any more suited for this than any one else...
      Or you mean who Inspector Clouseau and Inspector Zenigata work for?
    • by ildon (413912)
      From Wikipedia:

      In order to maintain as politically neutral a role as possible, Interpol's constitution forbids its involvement in crimes that do not overlap several member countries, or in any political, military, religious, or racial crimes.


      Maybe that's why.
      • by Mikkeles (698461)
        The following sentence is:

        Its work focuses primarily on public safety, terrorism, organized crime, war crimes, illicit drug production, drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, trafficking in human beings, money laundering, child pornography, white-collar crime, computer crime, intellectual property crime and corruption.
        [emphasis mine]
        • by ildon (413912)
          I guess it depends on if you want to focus on "politically sensitive" or "terrorism".
    • by ardent99 (1087547)
      1) Because this really isn't about crime at all, that's just an element added to make it more palatable to the gullible. It is about increasing the ways and means the government has to monitor ordinary citizens at home and abroad. Note that one category of people in the database is "subjects of terrorist investigations." That basically means anyone the government decides to investigate. Interpol's purpose is really to do police work. Note the quote from the article, "if existing systems are connected up
    • by qbzzt (11136)
      It seems especially silly as most (all!?) of the nations that contain the source of the current generation of terrorists are excluded.

      That is precisely the reason. They don't trust that law enforcement in those countries isn't compromised (= has people whose true loyalties are terrorist organizations). We don't know if US and UK intelligence services trust Saudi Arabia. We do know that they don't trust Iran and Syria.

      For the member list see http://www.interpol.int/Public/ICPO/Members/default.asp [interpol.int]
  • by rucs_hack (784150) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @10:07AM (#22049506)
    Seriously, the UK doesn't exactly have the best record on keeping databases safe.

    Not that I care. I'd be willing to bet that 99.9 percent of the contents of any anti terror database is crap kept in there to make it seem important. Or stuff they think is important, but when it comes down to it is worthless.

    Really, if sending huge armies to stampede across the middle east didn't work, how is a database going to help? Are we going to send sql queries at them or something?
  • It's 'anglospheric'. All they have to do is add a few boxes to every Echolon relay station.
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @10:16AM (#22049594) Homepage
    Their last major IT projects were spectacular failures that never went anywhere, and I don't see how this is going to end up much different. This will probably go the way of Virtual Case File, among others.
    • by Goffee71 (628501)
      Since the IDENT1 database is probably composed largely of car stereo thieves, paedos, football hooligans and other miscreants, I don't see much threat to the security of the United States from anyone on the list. Now if it was our immigration list, that's probably full of terrorists* or at least full of hard-working Poles who could knock the FBI up a high-quality condo at a good price. *kidding
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by I8TheWorm (645702) *

      the computer technology arm of the US defence company Northrop Grumman
      What are you talking about?!? I just did a contract for NG a couple of years ago where I wrote a reporting system for a yet unclassed ship in C# using CR! How could the brilliant minds that come up with that architecture for military vessels be associated with failure?

      disclaimer: I needed the money
  • The U.S. government has often used its "cooperation" with the governments of other countries to corrupt those governments. See, for example, Coups Arranged or Backed by the USA [krysstal.com]. Most or all of that corruption happened for profit, such as kickbacks of U.S. government foreign aid. When the governments of Israel or Pakistan buy weapons from U.S. manufacturers using money from "foreign aid", that is embezzlement of taxpayer money.

    The Cooperative Research History Commons [cooperativeresearch.org] is very valuable for those wanting to do their own research.

    The poorly edited but very interesting free movie Zeitgeist [zeitgeistmovie.com] explains in three parts that 1) People who believe in myths are easily manipulated. 2) It is common that people are manipulated through fear. 3) The U.S. monetary system is controlled for the profit of a few individuals. (Also see The Creature from Jekyll Island [amazon.com], an excellent but not perfect book about financial corruption.)

    The U.S. government has killed directly or indirectly caused the death of an estimated 11,000,000 people since the end of the Second World war, partly by invading or bombing 25 countries.
    • by FudRucker (866063)
      if anyone can keep an open mind long enough to watch this movie in its entirety they could gain some insight about the big picture http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/ [zeitgeistmovie.com]
    • This is what it looks like from the ground when a B52 carpet bombs

      http://www.militaryfix.com/videos/b-52-carpet-bombing/ [militaryfix.com]

      Then again, the only people that got carpet bombed recently were the Taliban and the Iraqi Republican guard, so it's not like they were innocent victims or even hapless conscripts. They were true believers who volunteered to fight for an evil regime. Not sure where you get your 11m figure from BTW, presumably one of those websites that includes all the people the Iraqi insurgents killed in
  • by curmudgeon99 (1040054) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @10:19AM (#22049648)
    What the hell has happened to our government? Have they forgotten that they exist to serve us, not to use us. This is another example of how we need to stop our government from intruding so deeply into the privacy of its citizens. What are we fighting for--if we surrender our freedoms in the name of fighting that amorphous all-purpose villain, terrorism?
    • If the founding fathers were alive today, they would be either in Gitmo or being rendered in an alkali tank somewhere in a 'secured nondescript building'. We are fighting for the oligarkhij. Political freedom was a necessary (tolerated) evil until the security infrastructure be perfected. From the way that people's rights are being ignored, I say that said infrastructure is 'comfortably close to perfection'.

      So, bend your head down to the work and produce, .

      Downmodding proves veracity beyond question.
    • Maybe Americans should stop voting in the same crap politicians, by continuing to reelect these same people the voters are signaling that they approve the job the politicians are doing whether it's really good, or just plain awful. If people don't show these politicians that they hate the job their are doing by firing them, then they deserve to get what is coming to them and I shouldn't even say that because there are people who vote for someone else and still get stuck with these people.
  • yeah this is great until some 'low-level clerk' decides it's a good idea to mail the entire database on CDs in response to an agencies request.
    where the data is that widely dispersed the security is only as strong as it's weakest link (goodbye!) so let's hope lessons are learned by recent events and agencies implement a good clear and concise security methodology to protect the data.
    Well, that's assuming it ever takes place.
  • Just remember... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jtheletter (686279) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @10:27AM (#22049724)
    It's not illegal for the US to spy on British citizens, and vice versa. This is a potential conduit for getting around pesky little details like domestic wiretapping laws.

    IFF [sic] they keep to their mandate of tracking only international criminal suspects, then this is a good thing and merely links DBs that already exist. It's the potential expansion of sharing all data for any reason that may be cause for worry.
    • by rainsford (803085)
      This "fact" has been repeated in almost every slashdot discussion on this topic, but it's not even remotely true. While it is legal for the US to spy on British citizens and for the Brits to spy on US citizens, we need to be careful about how we're defining "legal". In this case, it's the laws of the respective countries that allow spying on foreigners...British law does not prohibit spying on Americans, and US law doesn't prohibit spying on Brits. But American intelligence agencies don't operate under B
      • by bloobloo (957543)
        Ah, but if the foreign intelligence service decided to give info without a request, then it would be legal. By agreeing to share info in general terms, and not specifically mentioning which case, then there isn't the proximity required for it to be illegal evidence gathering. And of course there is no way that law enforcement / intelligence types from different countries would discuss off the record what they want looked at, is there...
      • You seem to be putting a lot of faith in these agencies to work within the explicit dictates of law, but we've already seen many instances where this is not the case. I wish it were easy enough to simply state, as you did, that it is illegal for the NSA to do an end-run around the law by asking the British Intelligence to investigate for them and let the issue be settled. Unfortunately, reality proves otherwise. It is similarly illegal for the NSA to ask AT&T to wiretap all internet communications going
    • by sh33333p (1186531)
      It's called 'mission creep', and it happens all the time. This won't be any different. This will be used for general law enforcement, probably starting with sex offenders, and eventually it will be used for drug enforcement. The usual arguments will be made about this being a GOOD THING(TM), and cliches like "if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear" will be merrily tossed around. Resistance will then be pathetically sheepish, just like it has been to every other egregious misstep of thi
  • The people who fought the "war on drugs" were obviously on drugs, since their remedies caused the very behavior they were allegedly fighting against: teenaged drug use, gangs, violence, etc just like alcohol prohibition.

    So what are the "warriers" fighting the "war on terror" on? Terror?

    War on terror: "Be afraid. Be very afraid!"
    • by ildon (413912)
      We could say "The War on the Use of Violent Terrorism" but it doesn't sound as cool and is a pain to type.
  • And here I'd thought Bush was still pissed off at Canada for not joining his war in Iraq. I guess with Harper begging to be next in line to kiss his arse, things are looking rosier again.

    Write your MP [parl.gc.ca] and express your views.
    • by toofast (20646)
      Canada participates in the "War on Terror" via a contribution in Afghanistan. The Iraq debacle is a whole other story.
    • by RyatNrrd (662756)
      So is New Zealand, evidently. Strange. I guess our free trade deal is in the mail.
  • by lysse (516445) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @11:12AM (#22050248)
    Anyone trotting out the "if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear" line should be forced to use toilets with security cameras installed in the cubicles. (Unless they already are, and it's Stockholm Syndrome speaking.)
  • Sorry world, but your generalization so called "terrorism" is a creation.

    I am curious world, what do you generally term a grouping of people that insinuate and threaten based on speculation? Further, maim and kill based on that speculation? I know the human shield of buzzword "american" has been tossed around a bit.

    What o wordie could you use there??

    BTW, what ever happened to North Korea? They have publicly claimed nuclear weapon capacity. Saddam publicly claimed non capacity. Guess North Korea has not g
  • that, is, nevermind the philosophical arguments about why privacy should be upheld, or shouldn't: it is simply getting impossible to enforce. much like copyright as a philosophical notion mihg tbe pristine, in the real world it is turning impossible to police and uphold

    regardless of how you feel about privacy or copyright, the point is simply that the notions are unenforceable in today's world

    and not just from the government, but from your own fellow citizens. forget big brother, little brother destroys you
  • It is just a way for governments to easily manipulate people (everyone wants to win a war and will more easily give up their freedoms to do so). Terrorism is a complex social problem that has been around since the dawn of man and has no easy answers. Stop using the term "war on terror"
  • And I suppose they'll refer to it as Skynet for short? Someone from Fox suggest the name, perhaps?
  • If you look at the way the various governments around the world have reduced the civil liberties of their own citizens then it should be obvous to all thats its not a 'war on terror' its a 'war of terror'

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