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View Diary: I Doubt the NSA Knows What Data It Has, Where It Came from, Who Has Accessed It and If It Was Stolen (158 comments)

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  •  I don't see how the government could even store (8+ / 0-)

    that much information, much less have it in a searchable form that would do anyone any good.

    This is the government that can't process veteran's benefits for a year, because one agency's computer doesn't talk to another one's.

    The government that has or had air traffic controllers using horribly outdated and dangerous computers because it seemed incapable of upgrading its system in a timely fashion.

    We're supposed to believe that very quickly, this government managed to store all our phone call info? And our web browsing and e-mails? In a form that makes it searchable? So it does them any good?


    Sounds outlandish to me.

    (I'm not arguing the government might try to do this or want to do this or the rightness of it, just the effectiveness of the government's efforts.

    Surely it would be much simpler, more cost-effective, more effective to only get a bit of that info. and only have to deal with a bit of it.)

    Confession time: When I'm not ranting about politics, I write romance novels

    by teresahill on Mon Jul 01, 2013 at 02:50:57 PM PDT

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    •  There's probably a lot of this going on: (19+ / 0-)
      one agency's computer doesn't talk to another one's
      but there's some really good info on the size and scope of the capacity for data housing in Utah (among other places). They can do all this stuff. It's just a matter of "to what degree is it dangerous?"  

      (and if you've ever been in politics, you wouldn't even ask)


      Surely it would be much simpler, more cost-effective, more effective to only get a bit of that info. and only have to deal with a bit of it
      Right, but since Darth Cheney was on top of things, they decided to take the lazy route and just get everything, Constitution be damned. Right?

      Whether they can do anything with the info or not (and they really can)--they aren't supposed to be doing this kind of snooping.

      Let's try not to make excuses for this, please?

      •  Yes, I can imagine Cheney saying, Let's just get (6+ / 0-)

        it all, and the we'll decide what we need.

        Confession time: When I'm not ranting about politics, I write romance novels

        by teresahill on Mon Jul 01, 2013 at 04:15:29 PM PDT

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      •  I'm not trying to excuse them. I'm saying I doubt (0+ / 0-)

        their effectiveness. Not as a compliment or an excuse, just that it sounds like a huge amount of data to get, to store, to be able to search effectively.

        Confession time: When I'm not ranting about politics, I write romance novels

        by teresahill on Mon Jul 01, 2013 at 04:16:46 PM PDT

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        •  Data searching (8+ / 0-)

          is something else that's come a long way in the last decade. There's plenty of software available (search on 'data analytics', that might help).

          "Effectively" is in the eye of the beholder. In this case, if the NSA says it's "effective", then as far as they are concerned, it is.

          In practical application, however, one of the biggest things it would boil down to is some schlub analyst running complex queries from his "workstation", using his "analytical skills" to decide which words you use (and how you use them) makes you a "credible threat". And yes, that can be done. Easily. Regardless of the seeming "mountains" of information, it can.


          •  The idea is not to find targets within the data (6+ / 0-)

            It is to be able to track back a target's activities after the fact.  And really, the prime use of such a system is not anti terrorism, it is control of the populace.
            Speak up, and they search the data for you and your internet browsing history, your search history, phone calls, bank statements, etc area all collected for an instant dossier.

            These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people's money to settle the quarrel. Abraham Lincoln

            by Nailbanger on Mon Jul 01, 2013 at 05:20:25 PM PDT

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          •  The analysts are probably only (0+ / 0-)

            for real time analysis.

            There's plenty of cutting edge software (ok, it's been around for at least 5ish years) that automates the analysis of call data AND content. This software can identify if a credit card number is given (and redact it), it can flag conversations where one of the parties got upset or used a cuss word, it can tell you what language the conversation was in...all they have to do it plug in what they want.

            Can you imagine generals and directors saying NO to such technology?? It's sexy even to non-techies, isn't it?

    •  The searchable format... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lgmcp, elwior, c0wfunk, wu ming, saluda

      Is the key.  It's great that you have a disk full of data - but without any way to categorize it and search on it - it's useless.  Unless some enterprising contractor decides to take a closer look.

      'Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost' - Ronald Reagan, Communist

      by RichM on Mon Jul 01, 2013 at 03:22:25 PM PDT

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    •  NSA has more money than Veterans' Affairs does. (10+ / 0-)

      They have more money that most of all of the agencies combined.  I don't think the claim that they can store all of that data is farfetched at all.  Google stores a tremendous amount of data - we have the technology to do so and for the moment we have the real estate upon which to build the facilities for the servers and data storage systems.

      •  Okay, but do you think the government would be (0+ / 0-)

        as good as Google at storing and being able to use the info?

        I'm just saying I think it's a big mistake to take all that data and store it. It costs more. It takes more time. You have to store it. You have to search so much more.

        It seems like it would make a search in the ocean instead of a search in a pond. Figure out who you need to follow. Get their info. That gives you more suspects. Get their data. Build the pattern that way.

        Confession time: When I'm not ranting about politics, I write romance novels

        by teresahill on Mon Jul 01, 2013 at 04:19:52 PM PDT

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        •  I think that the concept of capturing all (6+ / 0-)

          bits of data is freaking stupid and arguably distracting.

          The US Government had complete dossiers on 18 of the 19 September 11, 2001 hijackers without this spying apparatus being in place.  They had numerous opportunities to stop them - not the least of which was preventing them from being allowed on any transport into the United States, but they let them in.

          But what I am saying is that the technology is there to collect and store it.  There are no obstacles and I honestly do not believe that the government are going to be any more or less successful at managing it than the private sector has been.  Please keep in mind that corporations' data systems are hacked on a pretty regular basis.  That is the nature of the beast.  It is way more difficult to break into a building and comb through filing cabinets than it is to hack a computer system.

          In fact, I think that the risk of data being stolen from the government may well start to take center stage as the issue that inspires both private citizens and business entities to call for an end to the practice of data mining and collecting tomes of data by the US Government - it also seems like the likely scenario under which elected officials would begin to shy away from their support of the practice.  

          A Presidential candidate who wants to dig into Pfizer's internal communications with the security apparatus might find him or herself without that all important campaign money if that company or its competitors started to think that the government was risking their trade secrets - or worse giving Chinese or Taiwanese competitors free access.

          Aside from the Constitutional and important principles of innocent until proven guilty that this spying apparatus threatens, they have the potential to inadvertently destroy corporate secrecy that is stock and trade in competing nationally and internationally.

          The question that has troubled me all along about the government data collection has been why the government hasn't simply mandated that the companies keep their data archived for "x" number of years in case they need it.  That would keep the government harmless of accidentally losing the data; and it would silo the data so that it would not be "one stop shopping" for data hackers.  That is crazy, imo.

    •  Getting and storing the information would be no (4+ / 0-)

      problem at all. All you need is enough storage and a big enough pipe running to that storage. The NSA could easily do that despite what a lot of people want to say. Storage scales easily. Sorting it wouldn't have to be that hard either. The internet is basically a giant sorting mechanism, everything they need is there already. And given the number of people who have access to this info it breaks down to about 3-600 people in the country per person working for the NSA. Watching the activity of that many people with the help of sorting software wouldn't be terribly difficult. I'd bet they could use a sorting algorithm similar to what facebook uses.

      If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

      by AoT on Mon Jul 01, 2013 at 04:39:48 PM PDT

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    •  DId you compare the VA Budget to the NSA budget? (0+ / 0-)

      kinda sorta did.

      .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Mon Jul 01, 2013 at 05:37:40 PM PDT

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      •  I was saying the government's been ineffective (0+ / 0-)

        in handling lots of data on computers and having the most up-to-date stuff before.

        Confession time: When I'm not ranting about politics, I write romance novels

        by teresahill on Mon Jul 01, 2013 at 06:29:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Gov. or contractor? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          A Contractor with a big assed dollar contract.

          .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

          by Roger Fox on Mon Jul 01, 2013 at 06:45:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Just because the VA (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          3goldens, middleagedhousewife

          isn't competent enough to do data collection and analysis doesn't mean the NSA also isn't.  Besides, the vast majority of the information that the NSA collects can be sorted and cataloged by computers.  I doubt aunt Martha's cookie recipe is tripping over any key-words that would cause it to need further analysis.  The VA on the other hand has to not only collect the data but each file actually has to have a person review it, more than once.  Could they automate some of that, yes.  But for now they don't.  

          Now, as to whether or not the NSA is effective at sorting and cataloging that data is still a pending question, but technically speaking capture and storage of the data is easy.  Your telecom company is doing much of the ground work for them so they can bill you.

    •  The Intelligence budget "Continues to balloon..." (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LeftOverAmerica, 3goldens

      hardly anyone in Congress has a good handle on intelligence spending.

      ...Intelligence programs span 16 federal agencies. Most of the budget figures are classified, except for a top-line number for the National Intelligence Program that doesn’t include many military-intelligence programs..

      With some of that money, the NSA is building the Country's Biggest Spy Center:

      ...a $1.5 billion... project that will feature up to 1 million square feet of facilities....

      Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013...

      But “this is more than just a data center...”  It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes...

      For the NSA, overflowing with tens of billions of dollars in post-9/11 budget awards, the cryptanalysis breakthrough came at a time of explosive growth, in size as well as in power...

      (Why the NSA put a data center in Utah)

      And, NSA Building $860 Million "High Capacity" Data Center in Maryland..

      As its current data collection makes headlines, the National Security Agency is continuing to expand its data storage and processing capabilities. The agency recently broke ground on an $860 million data center at Fort Meade, Maryland that will span more than 600,000 square feet, including 70,000 square feet of technical space...
      More about the new data centers:  NSA's New Data Center And Supercomputer Aim To Crack World's Strongest Encryption.
      Using what will likely be the world’s fastest supercomputer and the world’s largest data storage and analysis facility, the NSA plans to comb unimaginably voluminous troves of messages for patterns they could use to crack AES and weaker encryption schemes...
      New NSA data centers will store decades’ worth of electronic communication..

      While other, less secretive government agencies suffer cutbacks, the intelligence community, especially the NSA seems to be expanding--building new facilities, and hiring new employees.  

    •  It's all about priorities.... where there is the (0+ / 0-)

      will, there is the money.

      Storage wise.... not a problem in the slightest.  Here's a couple of diaries on the subject of data storage.

    •  The data doesn't need to be sorted (0+ / 0-)

      Sorting it putting data in order in memory.  All they have to do is enter the data into a database and all the information to do this is contained within the data.

      Take e-mail for example.  The account sending and account(s) receiving is included in the data of the e-mail.  You just have to read and store those values along with the content of the e-mail and you can search for all e-mail sent and received by an account.

      Sorting the database would make searches faster but with the amount of data that they are collecting vs the amount that they are interested in they probably don't.

      Doing some basic analysis of all the e-mails would also likely be easy.  They probably detect and flag encryption.  They also probably have an algorithm to look through the content of the e-mail to find keywords and flag the e-mail according to what is found.

      "It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said." "The War Prayer" by Mark Twain

      by Quanta on Mon Jul 01, 2013 at 07:14:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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