Big Brother shouldn’t be listening but he does 24/7

When this kind of information circulates around the world…

Freedom of speech might allow journalists to get away with a lot in America, but the Department of Homeland Security is on the ready to make sure that the government is keeping dibs on who is saying what.

Under the National Operations Center (NOC)’s Media Monitoring Initiative that came out of DHS headquarters in November, Washington has the written permission to retain data on users of social media and online networking platforms.

Specifically, the DHS announced the NCO and its Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPS) can collect personal information from news anchors, journalists, reporters or anyone who may use… “traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s own definition of personal identifiable information, or PII, such data could consist of any intellect… “that permits the identity of an individual to be directly or indirectly inferred, including any information which is linked or linkable to that individual.”… Previously established guidelines within the administration say that data could only be collected under authorization set forth by written code, but the new provisions in the NOC’s write-up means that any reporter, whether someone along the lines of Walter Cronkite or a budding blogger, can be victimized by the agency.

Also included in the roster of those subjected to the spying are government officials, domestic or not, who make public statements, private sector employees that do the same and… “persons known to have been involved in major crimes of Homeland Security interest,”… which to itself opens up the possibilities even wider.

The department says that they will only scour publically-made info available while retaining data, but it doesn’t help but raise suspicion as to why the government is going out of their way to spend time, money and resources on watching over those that helped bring news to the masses.

We shouldn’t be surprised that hackers will aim to expose and embarrass the forces in society who believe they have the right to dictate public debate and keep secret powers and information that many argue should be far more transparent:

Thousands of British email addresses and encrypted passwords, including those of defence, intelligence and police officials as well as politicians and… Nato… advisers, have been revealed on the internet following a security breach by hackers.

Among the huge database of private information exposed by self-styled “hacktivists” are the details of 221 British military officials and 242 Nato staff. Civil servants working at the heart of the UK government – including several in the Cabinet Office as well as advisers to the Joint Intelligence Organisation, which acts as the prime minister’s eyes and ears on sensitive information – have also been… exposed.

The hackers, who are believed to be part of the… Anonymous… group, gained unauthorised access over Christmas to the account information of Stratfor, a consultancy based in Texas that specialises in foreign affairs and security issues. The database had recorded in spreadsheets the user IDs – usually email addresses – and encrypted passwords of about 850,000 individuals who had subscribed to Stratfor’s website.

Some 75,000 paying subscribers also had their credit card numbers and addresses exposed, including 462 UK… accounts.

John Bumgarner, an expert in cyber-security at the… US Cyber Consequences Unit, a research body in Washington, has analysed the Stratfor breach for the Guardian. He has identified within the data posted by the hackers the details of hundreds of UK government officials, some of whom work in sensitive areas.

Many of the email addresses are not routinely made public, and the passwords are all encrypted in code that can quickly be cracked using off-the-shelf software.

Among the leaked email addresses are those of 221 Ministry of Defence officials identified by Bumgarner, including army and air force personnel. Details of a much larger group of… US military… personnel were leaked. The database has some 19,000 email addresses ending in the .mil domain of the US military.

In the US case, Bumgarner has found, 173 individuals deployed in Afghanistan and 170 in Iraq can be identified. Personal data from former vice-president… Dan Quayle and… former secretary of state Henry Kissinger were also released.