Mondays should start our weeks off with pleasant news. But mostly, they don’t.
Instead there’s a litany of bad news from the prior weekend: stats on who’s shooting whom, what’s failed, which celebrity is going into rehab, or - in the spirit of fall- whose favorite college football team tanked.
This is a work week with an anniversary that most of us would prefer didn’t exist.
Wednesday marks the 19th anniversary of 9/11, this generation’s equivalent of an older one’s memory of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Everyone old enough to have a memory of that 09/11/01 remembers vividly where they were, what they were doing, and with mom when they heard, saw or learned the news of the attacks on the United States.
So it seems somehow appropriate to point out a report that came out late last Friday.
On Friday, Forbes published an exclusive, reporting the government’s request that a judge compel Apple and Google hand over names, IP addresses and other information on ten thousand users of American Technology Network (ATN)’s Obsidian 4 phone app.
In the report, Forbes’ Thomas Brewster says the reasoning is the desire to get more info on Obsidian 4’s users- because ICE is concerned that over “possible” breaches of export regulations. According to the documents, investigators are looking for a quick way to determine where the app is in use- and where hardware may have been shipped.
Seems Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has repeatedly intercepted shipments of ATN’s night vision scopes. They’re subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR ). But despite that requirement, shipments have been intercepted headed for Canada, the Netherlands and Hong Kong - places where the necessary licenses hadn’t been acquired.
According to Forbes, the government order says:
“This pattern of unlawful, attempted exports of this rifle scope in combination with the manner in which the ATN Obsidian 4 application is paired with this scope manufactured by Company A supports the conclusion that the information requested herein will assist the government in identifying networks engaged in the unlawful export of this rifle scope through identifying end users located in countries to which export of this item is restricted.”
It’s been reported online by the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium -but not confirmed- that ATN scopes have been used by the Taliban.
It’s important to note that ATN, the manufacturer of the scopes in question - and the Obsidian 4 app, which allows scope users to take photos, stream video and otherwise control the devices, has neither been accused nor charged with any wrongdoing.
That’s the reason for concern.
If there’s no evidence of wrongdoing by the company, and no clear connection between their products and terrorists, the whole idea of going after the names, telephone numbers and IP addresses of the estimated 10,000 or so Obsidian 4 downloaders, the government could be doing nothing more than conducting a fishing expedition.
The last thing any of us wants is more surveillance of our private affairs. The security measures enacted after 9/11 may have made us feel safer, but they’ve also made our lives and personal affairs considerably less private.
And ATN, in a statement released to American Military News, says it will not be turning over user information to the DOJ “unless required by law.”
“ATN has not been contacted by the Department of Justice, Apple or Google,” the statement said, continuing to say ATN “will protect its customers and their identifying data to the absolute extent possible under U.S. law. And, it will not provide any information regarding the identity of our customers to any third party unless specifically required by law.”
No idea what happens on this one at this time, but we’ll keep you posted.