Geert Lovink on Sat, 16 Oct 1999 21:57:02 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Mainstream Media on Hacktivism

>originally posted to the hacktivism list, which now discusses the
blurring distinctions between the underground and the mainstream...<

From: xdaydreamx <>
Subject: the guardian article on J.E.D.

The following article appeared in London's Guardian newspaper online
section today. As mainstream media articles on Echelon and especially
Hacktivism go, it is surprising for its adherence to the facts (as far as
I can tell). Even the mistakes the list has published have been reported
ad verbum. This is certainly an encouragement as far as media portrayal of
online activism goes. No mention of cyberterrorism and so on. In fact it
looks like a very well researched article.

What I find most interesting about this whole affair is the speed with
which what was loosely discussed on this list (an elsewhere as well, I'm
sure) found it's way into the big press. To me it demonstrates that
hacktivism is very effective, at least as long as there are a few
dedicated individuals at work. And there ARE, in this case. Apart from
being _fast_ and _efficient_ (discussion groups, mailing lists and info
sites are turning into governments'/corporations' worst nightmares) 
hacktivism is of course also still a novelty. Journalists are people who
already spend a very large amount of time on the web, researching,
grabbing pictures, making contacts or just cutting and pasting. And news
of the online world is always good for a story. Online activism is
therefore almost like having a direct line to the newsroom. The question
is just, how long will this last? Another question that just occured to me
is what kind of an effect this has on "traditional" activism. In Britain
at least it seems that no activist group can afford not to have a website
anymore. Otherwise they jsut won't be taken seriously.  Journalists as
well as the public want to look up all they can as quickly as possible.
They don't want to phone around, meet people, go to demonstrations that
turn out to be 10 people affairs. Is hacktivism going to kill activism? 


P.S.: Let me stress again how mainstream this newspaper is (ok, it likes
to see itself as a left wing paper) and thus the significance of such a
balanced article. 


>From the "Guardian", 14/10/99:

Is Big Brother watching you? 

Neil McIntosh on the backlash against electronic espionage 

Thursday October 14, 1999 

A group of cyber activists is calling on internet users worldwide to help
them "trip up" a mysterious global spy system managed by the US National
Security Agency, and operated in part by Britain's GCHQ.  An increasing
number of activists and politicians claim to have evidence that the
system, called Echelon, monitors much of the world's email, web traffic,
telephone conversation and other communications in an effort to uncover
terrorists and enemies.

The monitoring system is said to be "routine and indiscriminate", and
triggered by certain keywords in the traffic, like "terrorism", "bomb",
"MI5" and "revolution". The Hacktivism mailing list community has called
on concerned net users to include the trigger words in their
communications on Monday, and so overwhelm the system. 

The event coincides with an attempt by activists to get the US congress to
look into the affair.

After years of claims about the system, there is increasing mainstream
willingness to accept that a global electronic snooping network exists.
The British and US governments refuse to comment on the system. 

The acceptance is largely thanks to charges raised in the European
parliament last year, when it was alleged that the system was used by the
US to get European government and industrial secrets.

Investigative reporter Duncan Campbell was commissioned by the
parliament's Science and Technology Options Assessment Panel (STOA) to
look into the network. In his Interception Capabilities 2000 report, which
was accepted by the committee in May, Campbell said he found "the first
ever documentary evidence of the Echelon system".

He also uncovered an attempt by a secret organisation - the International
Law Enforcement Telecommunications Seminar - to have "back door" wiretap
capabilities built into technology, including popular software packages
and communication systems.

Australia's Defence Signals Directorate,which has been accused of
involvement with Echelon, has admitted that the UK-USA agreement, which is
reported to govern the system, did exist.

Such reports have fueled fears that the system is monitoring all internet
communications - despite suggestions that the technology to cope with such
a huge operation does not exist. Campaigning groups in the US, and some
members of congress, are now calling for public accountability for the US
part of the network. 

Shari Steele, director of legal services for the online rights
organisation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said she had heard that
Echelon monitors "all of our communications"; if so, the governments
involved had gone too far.

"The government does not have the legal right to snoop on law abiding
citizens, even in its pursuit of criminals," she said. "If it exists, and
if it is as pervasive as it appears to be, the government has way
overstepped its bounds in the interests of protecting us citizens."

US congressman Bob Barr is pushing for congress to look into Echelon.
There could be a debate this autumn, says Lisa Dean of the
Washington-based civil liberties group, the Free Congress Foundation.

She said there was disquiet in the US that communications could be open to
prying by the governement. "A growing number of people do believe that
their communications - wireless, email or land phones - are not secure,"
she said.

"The government would say it is the conservatives who believe the 'vast
rightwing conspiracy' as Hillary Clinton has called it, but I think it's
more widespread than that. Conservatives and liberals all believe the same
thing - they all have this concern.

"Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia has taken this very seriously and has
called for hearings in the House Government and Oversight community. To
our knowledge, there will be hearings this fall [autumn]."

D ean says that congress is taking an interest in the capability of this
system. House leader Dick Armey has sent a letter to attorney general
Janet Reno asking what technological capabilities the intelligence
community and law enforcement has.

"She has not answered the letter," says Dean, "and the intelligence
community has effectively told congress to go play in traffic because
they're not giving any information.

"There's a battle - and the big question here is: if hearings are held,
will intelligence testify? It could get rather ugly. But I don't think
congress is going to give up so easily." 

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: