It’s no surprise that Friday’s Paris attacks are already being used to push for both more and continued surveillance here in the U.S.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was on Capitol Hill on Tuesday speaking before a House subcommittee, making the case for expanding the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) which compelled telecom companies, Internet providers and some VoIP services to make their networks easier for law enforcement to access. Wheeler would like Congress to consider expanding the scope of the law to include devices such as gaming platforms, which now have capabilities that go beyond mere gaming.
“You read in the press that [the Paris attackers] were using PlayStation 4 games to communicate on,” Wheeler told the subcommittee, “which is outside the scope of anything considered in CALEA, so there’s probably opportunities to update the ‘lawful intercept’ concept.”
The PlayStation is certainly problematic, as Sony’s online service, PlayStation Network, can be used to communicate with others on the platform by text or voice. That being said however, Wheeler refers to a story that’s been debunked and redacted, and there’s no evidence linking the PlayStation to the Paris attacks.
The day after the Paris incidents, Forbes published an article rushed to press by Paul Tassi, claiming the Paris terrorists had coordinated their attack using PlayStation game consoles, and that a console had been found in a raid on an attacker’s apartment. It turned out that there were a couple of problems with Tassi’s story. His claim that the terrorists had used PlayStations was based on a general statement about terrorists made by Belgian federal home affairs minister Jan Jambon three days before the attack, and no gaming consoles were found in searches of the attackers apartments — at least, not that the French police are talking about.
“This was actually a mistake that I’ve had to edit and correct,” Tassi told Jason Schreier with the website Kotaku on Monday. “I misread the minister’s statement, because even though he was specifically saying that PS4 was being used by ISIS to communicate, there is no public list of…what was found in the specific recent raids. I’ve edited the post to reflect that, and it was more meant to be about discussing why or how groups like ISIS can use consoles.”
Although Forbes has published a correction to the article, the original story got traction in the press, bringing speculation by CNN, Fox News, NBC’s Today and others.
Meanwhile, evidently because the NSA’s program of mass collection of phone metadata did such a great job stopping the Paris attacks, Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton said Tuesday that he intends to introduce a bill to delay ending the collection of phone records to Jan. 31, 2017. Under the USA Freedom Act enacted in June, the NSA’s controversial collection practices are scheduled to end on November 28.
Cotton’s bill, which he’s calling the Liberty Through Strength Act, is thought to have little chance of passing, and would also make permanent two provisions of the Patriot Act: “lone wolf” and “roving wiretap.” The first of these permits the NSA to obtain warrants for the electronic monitoring of non-US citizens without providing evidence of any connection to a terrorist organization and the later gives the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court permission to issue a warrant without naming the person being tracked and without specifying the devices or communication methods to be monitored.
Undoubtedly, we’ll soon be hearing renewed pleas from law enforcement for requiring back doors to be included in all mobile devices. Stay tuned…
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