June 17, 2016
Maybe it’s something in the water at the National Security Agency, but for some reason, officials there just can’t seem to get enough of spying on us by continually expanding their surveillance dragnet.
As reported by The New American, the agency is now looking into possibly stealing data from Internet-connected biomedical devices like pacemakers, according to the NSA’s deputy director, Richard Ledgett.
“We’re looking at it sort of theoretically from a research point of view right now,” Ledgett told the attendees of the 2016 Defense One Tech Summit, held June 10 in Washington, D.C. Defense One is a defense/national security oriented news and information website.
The deputy director referred to the devices as just “another tool in the toolbox” of electronic surveillance, agreeing with a comment that the data that could be collected from pacemakers and other devices would be akin to a “signals intelligence bonanza.”
“As my job is to penetrate other people’s networks, complexity is my friend,” he told the conference. “The first time you update the software, you introduce vulnerabilities, or variables rather. It’s a good place to be in a penetration point of view.”
The ‘Internet of things’ is turning out to be a huge privacy issue
Penetrating networks is spy-speak for essentially violating rights that are supposed to be protected by the Fourth Amendment, which (supposedly) guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures … .” The amendment also requires government to get search warrants issued only “upon probable cause” from a court of law, which describes “the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The NSA would likely get cute and argue that hey, signals from a pacemaker aren’t “papers” or “houses,” so they aren’t covered by the Fourth Amendment. But they certainly are “effects,” and no one could reasonably argue that stealing data from a device (without a warrant) is not an invasion of privacy, given that the data was not being sent to NSA for analysis voluntarily.
Are you starting to see why this “Internet of things” isn’t all it is cracked up to be?
That said, according to The New American, Ledgett is not the only one who is anxious to begin collecting data from biomed devices and other Internet-connected devices and appliances:
At a Senate hearing in February, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that Internet-connected devices of all sorts could help with “identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials.”
In a letter to electronic privacy champion Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Clapper actually identified, in passing, some devices that could be hacked by the NSA and other federal agencies so that they could gain access to private data. Those items included “a refrigerator, a washing machine, or a child’s toy.”
No more value of liberty?
The fact that top officials with U.S. intelligence agencies are so blatant about their desire to scoop up as much personal data on American citizens as possible ought to be alarming to many in Congress, but at least publicly there has not been much push-back. Many of these intelligence briefings are held in secret; there are portions held in public, but eventually the House and Senate intelligence committees most generally launch closed-door sessions so that they can discuss classified materials.
They apparently also discuss new and innovative ways to destroy constitutional protections.
Very influential states’ rights advocate and jurist, St. George Tucker, wrote regarding the importance of the checks included in the Fourth Amendment: “The constitutional sanction here given to the same doctrine, and the test which it affords for trying the legality of any warrant by which a man may be deprived of his liberty, or disturbed in the enjoyment of his property, can not be too highly valued by a free people.”
In the Information Age, however, “free people” seem to have forgotten what value is inherent in liberty.