Crashing the Wiretapper's Ball

coderman coderman at
Thu Jun 1 08:12:28 PDT 2006

amusing :),71022-1.html
By Thomas Greene| Also by this reporter
02:00 AM Jun, 01, 2006

CRYSTAL CITY, Virginia -- The dingy hotel corridor was populated with
suits, milling about and radiating airs of defensive hostility. They
moved in close-knit groups, rounding a stranger or a rival group
conspicuously, the way cats do. They spoke in whispers. They glanced
nervously over their shoulders as they took calls on their cell
phones, then darted swiftly into alcoves.

They were government officials, telephone company honchos, military
officers, three-letter-agency spooks and cops, all brought together by
salesmen dealing in the modern equipment of surveillance. It was my
job to learn what they were up to.

They'd gathered for the ISS World Conference, a trade show featuring
the latest in mass communications intercept gear, held in the
Washington, D.C., suburb of Crystal City, Virginia. Situated
conveniently between Reagan National Airport and the Pentagon, Crystal
City is an artificial place dominated by conference centers and
hotels, set up to accommodate the endless, and often secret,
intercourse between the U.S. military and its myriad itinerant
contractors, lobbyists, consultants and trainers. They rotate in and
out, civilians using the airport, military personnel taking the subway
from the Pentagon, with Crystal City as the intersection in a
figure-eight circuit of constant activity.

Back in the narrow hotel corridor, vendors manned their booths,
exhibiting the latest gadgets for mass electronic surveillance:
machines capable of scouring the data streams of millions of
subscribers -- industrial-strength kits for packet interception and
analysis, RF interception, and voice and keyword recognition.

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