There's been a lot of discussion, here
and elsewhere, about the dangers that expanded government surveillance pose to civil liberties. The Constitution protects the right to be free of unreasonable searches, which the courts have held includes electronic eavesdropping, and many people, myself included, think that recent proposals for expanded wiretapping threaten that right. But less attention has been paid to the security risks created by expanded eavesdropping programs. Matt Blaze and some other computer security experts have a new article documenting the risks concerning eavesdropping systems that themselves could be compromised,
allowing unauthorized third parties to use government surveillance networks for their own ends. That's what happened in Greece, when someone managed to hack into the Greek surveillance infrastructure and listen in on dozens of senior government officials. Blaze and his co-authors argue that the more information collected by a wiretapping scheme, the greater the damage that will be done if it's ever compromised. The Protect America Act, which Congress passed last August and is due to expire in a few days, authorizes virtually unchecked government interception of communications between Americans and those overseas. The paper warns that the safeguards in the Protect America Act are inadequate to protect Americans from a compromised surveillance network. Congress would do well to listen.