The BBC is the threat

February 15th, 2009

Thanks to a vigilant lurker, we have this gem from BBQ / BBC:

Italy police warn of Skype threat

By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

The police’s use of wiretaps has forced some criminals on to the internet
Criminals in Italy are increasingly making phone calls over the internet in order to avoid getting caught through mobile phone intercepts, police say.

Officers in Milan say organised crime, arms and drugs traffickers, and prostitution rings are turning to Skype in order to frustrate investigators.

The police say Skype’s encryption system is a secret which the company refuses to share with the authorities.
Investigators have become increasingly reliant on wiretaps in recent years.
Customs and tax police in Milan have sounded the alarm.

They overheard a suspected cocaine trafficker telling an accomplice to switch to Skype in order to get details of a 2kg (4.4lb) drug consignment.

Use of wiretaps by prosecutors in Italy has grown exponentially in recent years.

Heated debate
Investigators say intercepts of telephone calls have become an essential tool of the police, who spend millions of dollars each year tracking down crime through wiretaps of landlines and mobile phones.

But the law may be about to change.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing government has drawn up a bill which would restrict police wiretaps to only the most serious crimes.

Much crime reporting in the Italian media is based on leaks of wiretaps and leading politicians, including Mr Berlusconi himself, have found to their embarrassment that details of their private telephone conversations have sometimes been leaked to newspapers.
Under the new law reporting of details of criminal investigations obtained through wiretaps would become illegal until a final verdict has been delivered.

Given the extreme slowness of Italian justice, this would mean that details of cases now before the courts might be reported by the press only in 15 years time.

Not only have Italian journalists been protesting at the new draft bill, but a heated debate is also going on about it within the country’s highest body for the administration of justice – the supreme council of the magistrature, composed of the country’s top judges.

David Wiley is an ignorant, context dodging, fearmongering, BBC propagandizer of the first order. Look at the headlines of some of his bad work:

Pope Promotes Conservative Cleric
Scientist hails birth of ‘rat children’
Vatican Says Aliens Could Exist
Fewer confessions and new sins
Thou Shalt Not Wear Condoms When Going Forward
Vatican braces for Muslim anger
Vatican ‘forgives’ John Lennon
Vatican archive yields Templar secrets
Italian arrest over ‘toxic wheat’
Vatican divorces from Italian law
ho are the Calabrian mafia?
God’s politician : John Paul at the Vatican
Crib mosques anger Italian party
Italy sounds alarm over migrants
Italy approves tax on pornography
Priest ‘ruins Christmas’ for kids

Those headlines sound like something from a tabloid newspaper. Which is perfectly fine, as long as you are not forced to pay for it.

Skype is not a threat to anyone, any more than any other technology is. The vast majority of its users, which number about 16,000,000 at any one time, are quite ordinary people who just want to make phone calls and chat. There is absolutely no reason why the police should be able to listen to Skype calls or any other call for that matter, without a warrant signed by a judge, and if that cannot be done, then the police have to do in person surveillance ‘just like in the old days’. While we are talking about numbers, did you know that Skype has been downloaded over 500,000,000 times?

Back to the subject at hand. This piece of sickening, context free nonsense, propaganda if you will, in favor of police state wiretapping is pure evil. Lets hear from someone with common sense:

Helping the Terrorists

It regularly comes as a surprise to people that our own infrastructure can be used against us. And in the wake of terrorist attacks or plots, there are fear-induced calls to ban, disrupt, or control that infrastructure. According to officials investigating the Mumbai attacks, the terrorists used images from Google Earth to help learn their way around. This isn’t the first time Google Earth has been charged with helping terrorists: in 2007, Google Earth images of British military bases were found in the homes of Iraqi insurgents. Incidents such as these have led many governments to demand that Google remove or blur images of sensitive locations: military bases, nuclear reactors, government buildings, and so on. An Indian court has been asked to ban Google Earth entirely.

This isn’t the only way our information technology helps terrorists. Last year, a U.S. army intelligence report worried that terrorists could plan their attacks using Twitter, and there are unconfirmed reports that the Mumbai terrorists read the Twitter feeds about their attacks to get real-time information they could use. British intelligence is worried that terrorists might use voice over IP services such as Skype to communicate. Terrorists might recruit on Second Life and World of Warcraft. We already know they use websites to spread their message and possibly even to recruit.

Of course, all of this is exacerbated by open-wireless access, which has been repeatedly labeled a terrorist tool and which has been the object of attempted bans.

Mobile phone networks help terrorists, too. The Mumbai terrorists used them to communicate with each other. This has led some cities, including New York and London, to propose turning off mobile phone coverage in the event of a terrorist attack.

Let’s all stop and take a deep breath. By its very nature, communications infrastructure is general. It can be used to plan both legal and illegal activities, and it’s generally impossible to tell which is which. When I send and receive e-mail, it looks exactly the same as a terrorist doing the same thing. To the mobile phone network, a call from one terrorist to another looks exactly the same as a mobile phone call from one victim to another. Any attempt to ban or limit infrastructure affects everybody. If India bans Google Earth, a future terrorist won’t be able to use it to plan; nor will anybody else. Open Wi-Fi networks are useful for many reasons, the large majority of them positive, and closing them down affects all those reasons. Terrorist attacks are very rare, and it is almost always a bad trade-off to deny society the benefits of a communications technology just because the bad guys might use it too.

Communications infrastructure is especially valuable during a terrorist attack. Twitter was the best way for people to get real-time information about the attacks in Mumbai. If the Indian government shut Twitter down — or London blocked mobile phone coverage — during a terrorist attack, the lack of communications for everyone, not just the terrorists, would increase the level of terror and could even increase the body count. Information lessens fear and makes people safer.

None of this is new. Criminals have used telephones and mobile phones since they were invented. Drug smugglers use airplanes and boats, radios and satellite phones. Bank robbers have long used cars and motorcycles as getaway vehicles, and horses before then. I haven’t seen it talked about yet, but the Mumbai terrorists used boats as well. They also wore boots. They ate lunch at restaurants, drank bottled water, and breathed the air. Society survives all of this because the good uses of infrastructure far outweigh the bad uses, even though the good uses are — by and large — small and pedestrian and the bad uses are rare and spectacular. And while terrorism turns society’s very infrastructure against itself, we only harm ourselves by dismantling that infrastructure in response — just as we would if we banned cars because bank robbers used them too.

In addition to the above, on BLOGDIAL we have told you about Asterisk many times. Anyone who does not want their phone calls to be overheard can buy some cheap hardware, download some free software, and the Carrabinieri and their colleagues will not even know that there is a call in progress.

Contrary to what ignorant swine, sensationalist, tabloidist BBC correspondents in Italy, who have obviously been brain damaged by too much sun, beautiful women and fine red wine, this is a good thing.

The state has no right to eavesdrop on your private communications. Period. Thankfully, in this unprecedented time of cheap computing power and free software, anyone anywhere can simply take back their privacy and shut out any potential eavesdropper.

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