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I've been stunned as I've watched this story unfold. Stunned many so called "liberals" don't seem to have a problem with it. Stunned that Glenn Beck is actually saying things I agree with. But most stunned cause it seems there is a total lack of understanding about this whole story from our media.

First off I will say what I often say here when I talk about technology. I am a huge tech geek. Heck I am the dude that uses the data Facebook and Google gathers to serve you ads for my clients. Yes I am that guy. I also worked with many of the companies I am sure are providing the hardware being used by the NSA. More on that later, but I just wanted to throw that out there.

The first thing I don't understand is this story isn't anything new. This story was reported back in 2006 by Wired when an employee at an AT&T data center (San Francisco), Mark Klein, leaked plans, blueprints, and photos noting that the NSA was splicing every fiber wire running into the place and running it through their computers in a secret room on site. Room 641A.

According to a statement released by Klein's attorney, an NSA agent showed up at the San Francisco switching center in 2002 to interview a management-level technician for a special job. In January 2003, Klein observed a new room being built adjacent to the room housing AT&T's #4ESS switching equipment [.....]

"I learned that the person whom the NSA interviewed for the secret job was the person working to install equipment in this room," Klein wrote. "The regular technician work force was not allowed in the room."

Klein's job eventually included connecting internet circuits to a splitting cabinet that led to the secret room. During the course of that work, he learned from a co-worker that similar cabinets were being installed in other cities, including Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego.

"While doing my job, I learned that fiber optic cables from the secret room were tapping into the Worldnet (AT&T's internet service) circuits by splitting off a portion of the light signal," Klein wrote.

The split circuits included traffic from peering links connecting to other internet backbone providers, meaning that AT&T was also diverting traffic routed from its network to or from other domestic and international providers, according to Klein's statement.

I don't want to get too "geeky" here, but the NSA was taking everything and running it through their switches and computers in that "secret" room. If you have a coaxial cable coming into your house for cable or satellite TV, and you get one of those splitters, plug the line in from outside and spilt it, well that was what they were doing on a scale a few millions times higher.  

Klein was going to be a witness for EFF'S lawsuit, and I think it is safe to say this was when Congress passed immunity for all telecom companies.

So with that background in mind follow me below the fold for a little conversation on where other people are getting this story so wrong.

Google & Facebook Can't Arrest Me

As a media watcher and political junkie I knew this story would go in several directions. The first was to attack the "messenger." Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald. That happened and is happening. I figured the second thing would be people saying, "well Google and Facebook already gather all this information, what is the big deal if the government is looking at and/or gathering it?"

Well as some talking heads I see on MSNBC have started to note Google can't investegate or arrest you. That is no small thing but those talking heads don't connect the dots.

Take Thomas Drake. He was a former NSA employee that, well read for yourself:

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the NSA required new tools to collect intelligence from the growing flood of information pouring out of the new digital networks like the internet. Drake became involved in the internal NSA debate between two of these tools, the Trailblazer Project and the ThinThread project. He became part of the "minority" that favored ThinThread for several reasons, including its theoretical ability to protect privacy while gathering intelligence. Trailblazer, on the other hand, not only violated privacy, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and other laws and regulations, it also required billions of dollars, dwarfing the cost of ThinThread. Drake eventually became "disillusioned, then indignant" regarding the problems he saw at the agency. Circa 2000 NSA head Michael Hayden chose Trailblazer over ThinThread; ThinThread was cancelled and Trailblazer ramped up, eventually employing IBM, SAIC, Boeing, CSC, and others.
He went to the head staffer, a Republican, of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to try and "blow the whistle" on this and couldn't get anywhere. He even filed a report with the DoD Inspector General. He tried to follow the rules. He eventually leaked the information to Jane Mayer and a New Yorker article was written.

I think it is safe to say the government destroyed his career if not his life.

When the government gets pissed off at you they can do more then just put you in jail.  

The "Small World Experiment"

Now just a little sidebar story on why it worries me how the NSA is collecting and using the phone META data from at least Verizon (my provider BTW) if not every other carrier. I bet most folks here have heard of the pop culture game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The concept of that game is actually based on an academic study done in 1967 by psychologist Stanley Milgram.

It was called his "Small World Experiment" and it is actually amazing. Here is what he did:

The six degrees of separation concept originates from Milgram's "small world experiment" in 1967 that tracked chains of acquaintances in the United States. In the experiment, Milgram sent several packages to 160 random people living in Omaha, Nebraska, asking them to forward the package to a friend or acquaintance who they thought would bring the package closer to a set final individual, a stockbroker from Boston, Massachusetts. Each "starter" received instructions to mail a folder via the U.S. Post Office to a recipient, but with some rules. Starters could only mail the folder to someone they actually knew personally on a first-name basis. When doing so, each starter instructed their recipient to mail the folder ahead to one of the latter's first-name acquaintances with the same instructions, with the hope that their acquaintance might by some chance know the target recipient.
Counting the first person he mailed it to, it only took on average six people, or Six Degrees of separation to get the package to the stockbroker. Facebook just did a test like this and found it was now 4.74.

So I am willing to bet I am within six degrees of a terrible criminal if not a terrorist. But I can ASSURE YOU I KNOW NO TERRORIST OR WOULD BE TERRORIST. When you start to look at data in this manner, connecting who a suspected terrorist is talking to and going backwards, down the line a few people, no telling where it will end. It is guilt not by association, but randomness .....

And it is my experience, see Drake, that when the government sets its sights on you, there isn't much you can do to stop them.

Can NSA Handle All The Data?

Disclaimer: Everything I am about to mention here is already in the "public" domain. And to be honest I didn't have a security clearance, so much of what happened in my client's headquarters I couldn't even see. Heck the info is about a decade old. But I think this little story might shine some light on this topic.

In another time in my life I was a business/marketing consultant for some of the world's largest telecom and data security firms. I worked for the divisions that sold products to the DoD. It stuns me MSNBC can't seem to find somebody to talk about the technical aspects of this all. I know how this technology works at more than a basic level, and if more folks did what we are learning would freak you out a lot more. I keep hearing people say it is so much information, what can they do with it, well a heck of a lot.

Two of my clients, Lucent and Unisys were bidding on a billion dollar DoD contract. We went to their test facility to see them demo two products.

The Lucent product at the time only had a "code" name. Wavelength. It was a data switch, about the size of a fridge, that used the electromagnetic spectrum to transmit computer data, which is just 1s and 0s. I don't recall the specs, but a General asked what it could do, and the Lucent data guy said handle ALL the phone and data traffic for the city of New York .... if you want to pay tens of millions.

Next up was the Unisys server. It was their ES7000 Enterprise Server (which is like anciet now). About the size of a fridge as well. We never got the exact specs on it as well, cause you can expand the thing out as far as you want. But it was a beast. If you set your laptop computer on your lap you've noticed it can get hot. This thing ran so fast it was cooled with liquid nitrogen.

Now this is what a current data center looks like.


The NSA is building a multi-billion dollar one of these in Utah. More than 100,000 square feet of servers, switches, and gosh know what else. Don't believe me they can handle the flow of info, well how about this:

William Binney, a mathematician who worked at the NSA for almost 40 years and helped automate its worldwide eavesdropping, said Utah's computers could store data at the rate of 20 terabytes – the equivalent of the Library of Congress – per minute. "Technically it's not that complicated. You just need to work out an indexing scheme to order it."
It is really just how much brutal force do they want to use. Row after row, rack after rack of these servers and switches and you can process as much information as you want.

When you hear a reporter, talking head on MSNBC, who doesn't now a fiber cable from CAT5, don't listen to them. They now not what they talk about. And that pisses me off cause I have like ten people on speed dial that could fill them in.

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Comment Preferences

  •  All My Clients Were In The DC Metro Area (20+ / 0-)

    You can throw a rock in any direction and find a data and/or security expert that knows 100 times more than me. I've not seen a single one on MSNBC. And folks really need to have it explained to them what is going on. Not from a political point-of-view, but from a technical point-of-view, cause as somebody that knows enough to get myself in trouble on this topic, it totally freaks me out. Has freaked me out since as 2006!

    •  It's hard to explain (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sb, webranding, northsylvania, CroneWit

      Hell, I can't even manage to explain it to my boyfriend, much less to a city full of strangers while sitting in a cold studio with a bright light in my eyes and no computer to fiddle with.

      I don't know any techies who would willingly do a TV interview of any sort, much less the kind of adversarial grilling they'd be most likely to encounter.

      "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

      by kyril on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 02:05:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Most people don't understand technology (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, DRo

      Take cloud computing. I am dealing with that with someone I'm advising right now. They think is "magically" going to change gthe fundamentals o what they need to worry about as f ar as their IT. I've seen this before. As technology increases, it becomes something that people understand less and less.

      •  And even some IT people should know better (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Worked for a CEO who got a undergrad in computer science and MBA at Stanford and he worked for some large tech companies early in his career.

        When I migrated some of the company's assets to the cloud, he was adamant that he didn't want some of his info going there.  (This was from a guy who often couldn't remember where he had recorded business development data or had significant version control problems. My proposed cloud solution would get rid of that problem. ) I had privacy reasonably controlled with double encryption and some key pass methods.

        I queried why no cloud for him and he said that he wanted to avoid the cloud so that no one could get to his data if there ever was a subpoena for it.  (!)  

        I reminded him that it doesn't matter where the data resides, if you get a subpoena for data, it has to be provided.  

        BTW: You might have the same intuitive hunch that I did: Perhaps he wanted to be able destroy or alter the data if he got a subpoena.  If that was his goal, then he was clueless about forensic data recovery.  But I valued my job at the time and didn't go there.  

  •  Risen and Lichtblau's writings in the NY Times (7+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    webranding, ferment, DRo, kyril, sb, blueoasis, kurt

    about Klein and others were one piece of the puzzle.  The mystery remained where did the data go?

         You at home are connected to a internet service provider Verizon FIOS, Cablevision etc. The ISP's send data "Traffic" over the long distance carriers.

    The "Intelligence community"  has their fingers in the guts of the internet the long distance carriers.

    So one end of the pipe the long distance carriers and we see that the other end of the pipe from the long distance carriers went into the bowels of the systems Snowden and company had access to..

    I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

    by JML9999 on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 12:36:03 PM PDT

    •  Two Quick Things (16+ / 0-)

      The first, NSA just spilting Internet backbone traffic at that AT&T data center is worse then us learning the NSA has a "backdoor" into Google et al IMHO.

      Now this is a rumor. Let me say that again, a rumor, but one I heard so often from people that should know I believe it is a fact. All the telecom hardware makers and security firms give our government a backdoor into their equipment/software.

      When Yahoo! and Google all said they didn't know the NSA was monitor them, that was my first thought. It was a wink, wink between the two that NSA could hack their hardware/security and the corporations just not asking any questions so if it became public they could say they knew nothing about it.

      The worse nightmare the security community has/had was Checkpoint or Cisco making a product they couldn't hack. And if they wanted billions and billions in DoD contracts, well they better offer it.

      Think of Research In Motion who makes the Blackberry. It is a banned product in Qatar and Saudi Arabia now cause their email encription is such that those nations can't break it.

      They openly told RIM to give them a backdoor or they would ban the product. RIM said go pound dirt, so they just banned the Blackberry.

      I can't believe the same isn't happening here ....

      •  Not a rumor not a bug but a feature (10+ / 0-)

        Commercial datacenter Ethernet equipment vs stuff for the home have a feature marketed for "Diagnostic" purposed.

        Port mirroring
        From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
        Jump to: navigation, search

        Port mirroring is used on a network switch to send a copy of network packets seen on one switch port (or an entire VLAN) to a network monitoring connection on another switch port. This is commonly used for network appliances that require monitoring of network traffic, such as an intrusion detection system, passive probe or real user monitoring (RUM) technology that is used to support application performance management (APM). Port mirroring on a Cisco Systems switch is generally referred to as Switched Port ANalyzer (SPAN) or Remote Switched Port ANalyzer (RSPAN); some other vendors have other names for it, such as Roving Analysis Port (RAP) on 3Com switches.

        Network engineers or administrators use port mirroring to analyze and debug data or diagnose errors on a network. It helps the administrator keep a close eye on network performance and will alert them when problems occur. It can be used to mirror either inbound or outbound traffic (or both) on single or multiple interfaces


        I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

        by JML9999 on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 12:49:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Interesting. My Brother Is A High-end Cisco (6+ / 0-)

          guy. Doesn't no government work, just commercial. I will have to ask him about this. I did my work with these firms mostly before 9/11. The other rumor going on was our government was using this ability to spy on other nations and even foreign corporations. Clearly I think after 9/11 that focus turned inward.

          •  Frankly, what's more dangerous at this point (4+ / 0-)

            foreign terrorists or domestic insurrection?
            The only reason the trigger hasn't gone off is that people, myself included, would really like to go back to 1990s prosperity, 1990s trust in technology and 1990s ignorance. Unfortunately, ain't gonna happen.

            You..ought to be out raising hell. This is the fighting age. Put on your fighting clothes. -Mother Jones

            by northsylvania on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 03:11:14 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I Understand Every Word You Quoted (6+ / 0-)

          but getting to the limit of my technical knowledge.

          Talked with my brother about this for a long time a few weeks ago. They shit canned this guy, junior but amazing at this job. My brother who is a senior level person couldn't figure out why. But he walked in the office one day and everything was locked down.

          He then told me something that made me pause. All their network protocols and log-in information had been changed overnight.

          I started to ask some open-ended questions.

          I was a little stunned to find they could just drop in and view any and all network activity on their clients networks. Just like, or very close to what Snowden said.

          I was like WTF. He was like agreed. But they are too lazy or cheap to hire folks to do the work for them. They pay and trust us.

          Again I was like WTF. He does work for some fairly well know, billion dollar companies, and I could believe this. But I bet a very common practice.

          •  It's standard operating procedure in Corp USA (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            nchristine, kyril, CroneWit

            for both the  Help desk and "Operations Center" to have access to the applications running on the computers in the computer rooms in the Data Centers. Operations centers are the mission control of the computer room.

            It is common practice for operator or the more senior Operator-Technician(Op-tech)  to be required to use/exercise the application functions on a periodic basis. This is generally referred to as a "health check". Help desks are granted access in order to "walk" the user through a function of a application.

            I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

            by JML9999 on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 01:11:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Internally. I Totally Understand (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JML9999, kyril

              makes sense. But I was surprised externally. I mentioned I did a ton of work for Unisys, for over a decade and maybe my favorite client of all time. Really "cool" folks to work with.

              I got my friend a job through them. He doesn't work there anymore so I will mention some details, but he ran the help desks at the ATF, onsite, as a Unisys contractor. Another example of a contractor, like Snowden, coming into work for an agency where you think they'd hire their own.

        •  Companies also use this to do near real time (6+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JML9999, webranding, kyril, DRo, Wee Mama, kurt

          backups of all data transactions.  One place I worked basically did this, one stream of data went into 'processing' and will eventually catch up in overnight processing.  But, one stream would go to one database and be backed up within microseconds to a second server for data warehousing.

      •  Given that Huawei (4+ / 0-)

        The Chinese telecom equipment manufacturer, is in the middle of swallowing the entire global market for switches and routers whole, I guess it will be Beijing, rather than Washington, listening in.

        "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

        by bink on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 02:56:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  it's very much like global warming, (13+ / 0-)

    in that most people don't have any sense at all of the magnitude of what is happening, or what it means.  Their "worst case" comparisons are to J Edgar Hoover, when they should be thinking "The Matrix".  Or "the Borg".

    Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

    by Deward Hastings on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 12:54:34 PM PDT

    •  Yeah. Side But Fun Story (9+ / 0-)

      One of my former clients made the software that flies satellites. Yes you have to fly them. They had a demo center that was a huge 360 degree room in all glass with stadium seating around it. Something like 50 Silicon Graphics workstations networked.

      They would explain they'd run a "real world" simulation for potential client. I will admit seeing it I almost got physically aroused as a tech nerd (well no not really .....).

      I was always told any COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) products a Fortune 50 company could buy the DoD was buying stuff 5+ years better. Heck they paid for the R&D, which these companies loved.

      I shutter to think what the NSA has.

      •  "what the NSA has" (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nchristine, kyril, DRo, blueoasis

        I would suspect that the facility in Utah could not be dismantled like a typical datacenter. They wouldn't want anybody to get their hands on the tech so it couldn't be sold at government auction. We probably couldn't sell the building lest somebody see how top secret facilities are built.

        It will probably be cheaper to call in a bombing mission and obliterate it equipment and all. Heh your tax dollars at work.

        I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

        by JML9999 on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 01:17:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  For many, comparisons will be to WWII (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, DRo

      movies about British Secret Services, with sweater-clad ladies working in the background.  With maybe some 1950s-60s imagery thrown in.  But for most the mental imagery will be of individual workers perusing papers and making notes by hand or on typewriters.

  •  The six degrees of separation is (11+ / 0-)

    what disturbs me - guilt by association when you aren't associated - and while they think they can do plenty with all of that data - my belief is that most of what they think they are finding out is going to be misinterpreted in part because of the amount of data - their ability to assess reality vs. what a cyber trail will show of only part of a person's life is highly questionable.

    Not to be mean to you about what you do for a living placing ads, but if the ads that come up for me are any indication of how badly a person's digital footprint can be interpreted, then I think we are in really, super big trouble.  

    If Google erroneously thinks I'm a potential customer for Christian Singles as they seem to lately, that's fine - and it makes me laugh.  But if the government starts coming to wrong-headed conclusions about me, that is very concerning.

    Finally, you have a typo.  The new data center in Utah is reported to be a million SQF - you're missing a zero in your diary.

    •  Happy You Clued In On Six Degrees (7+ / 0-)

      super important IMHO.

      Nope I am a targeted marketing guy. I place very, very specific ads based off either/both location and search terms. It would be so easy for me not to do this and make more money in the short term, but most of my clients sell very specific products.

      I'd prefer to only serve an ad to somebody that really wants to buy what they sell. Not "cast a wider net and hope." I have a client where I only serve like 150 ads a month. I could tweak his keywords he buys just a little and he could serve 10,000. But none of those folks would buy from him.

      About 18-20 of that 150 do buy.

      But I am "old school" with online marketing. I had a client call me the other day and said he bought 150,000 email addresses. I was like WTF. I asked if they were double opt-in. He said he didn't know what that was.

      I told him I won't help him. I refuse to market in that manner. He said you are losing my future business. I said fine. I don't SPAM.

      •  I know a ton of people. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nchristine, webranding, kyril, CroneWit, kurt

        I am not one to hang out with people who plot to overthrow governments including and especially those who work for our government, but I've definitely come across some of those US government people through people that I know on a first name basis.  As far as the rest of the wide world goes, it is impossible not to think that through the many, many people that I know in this world, I'm not tangentially linked to people that I'd rather never know personally or know about.

        Tangential being the operative word, obviously.  I'm lucky,I guess because as far as I know I am not actually related to anyone who would fit the terrorist profile, but then again there is a man that has been researching a part of my family's genealogy for years who through DNA testing volunteers from our family has traced our origins back to Central Asia - lol - and we are predominantly a red headed and fair people, Baptists (not me, but most in that family) and Southern - the Central Asia goes back thousands of years, but... - lol  

        On some level, the theories being used to justify this dragnet style of spying are really more akin to notions of the guilt of original sin than they are a rational and reasonable approach to national security.

        •  My Family Events. Almost Everybody (8+ / 0-)

          either has or had a security clearance. My dad did. My brother's wife does. His wives parents did. My brother is under review now for one. Oh the list goes on and on.

          But Six Degrees! I don't buy remotely into the whole Muslims are terrorist thing. But my best friend. Muslim. He might love this country more then I do. His parents came here from Pakistan. Not remotely anybody to fear. Two high school teachers. Math and science.

          But I wonder, if you track back my calls from him, his parents, and then a few levels more what you might find.

          You can't think this is a logical way to connect the dots. You just can't.

          •  What I was trying to convey about (6+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kyril, DRo, webranding, CroneWit, Wee Mama, kurt

            staying away from people who work in that field is that I don't want any part in it, even tangentially.  Having said that my Dad worked on the House "secrets" committee or whatever it was called in the 60s.  He won't say what he did or what he learned during that time even now.  The general gist that I've gotten from him is that it is better to stay well away from all of it and based on his demeanor when it ever comes up, I trust his advice.  But really it is impossible to be a product of DC and not know people who are involved in that world.  

            A few have given me lectures about what I don't know that I've found quite troubling for two reasons - one is that I feel pretty strongly that they should not be talking about what they know (dad having taken his oath incredibly seriously); and the second reason is that they generally say things along the lines of "if you knew how scary and evil everybody really is you would never question what the security apparatus is doing to protect you."

            Which seems incredibly laughable when it comes out that 150 million Verizon customers are being spied upon.  If we really had that many people who were a threat in a country of just over 300 million people, I think we'd be having a completely different daily life experience here in this country.

            Furthermore, how in the world do they know that the spy agencies are even telling them true stories?  An industry that is based on lying and manipulation as a means towards getting people to do things they want them to do is not exactly a trustworthy source of factual information, in my opinion.

          •  And remember that definitions of 'terrorists' (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            DRo, kurt

            is being expanded to include environmentalists (of various stripes) as well as 'peaceful protest' groups.

      •  You need to clue in Facebook. (0+ / 0-)

        My ad bar frequently has ads for booth discount funerals and heavy metal threads. Come to think of it, I had not considered being cremated in a mess of rivets, leather and grommets, but it does have a certain caché.

        You..ought to be out raising hell. This is the fighting age. Put on your fighting clothes. -Mother Jones

        by northsylvania on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 03:25:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, the Six Degrees (now 4.74 degrees) (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DRo, Sylv, kurt

        caught my attention too.  And it raised a kind of backward-math hypothetical in my mind.

        Today, Google and Facebook released some numbers about the number of requests they have received last year.  One of them mentioned the number 10,000.  Another diary here now links to a list of keywords released by Homeland Security in response to an FOIA request.

        So, a story problem:  If NSA surveillance/analysis resulted in 10,000 Americans whose keyword use resulted in those names being turned over to the FBI, how many individuals/workplaces/hometowns/neighborhoods (thus how many additional people and social networks) would be disrupted by FBI inquiries on each one of the targeted people?  And (bonus question) how many of the 4.74-6 people within the Six Degree range of any one of the original targets would also become a person of interest after their internet records were analyzed?

        Not expecting answers.

    •  A couple of friends and I were talking last night (5+ / 0-)

      about all this stuff.  We all agree that there is massive abuse of the 4th amendment going on.  All three of us are IT people.  One does server stuff, with databases and coding mixed in with it all.  One does unix based stuff with databases and coding mixed in.  I'm pretty much the luddite of the group in that I don't really bother with hardware stuff, I get the basic principles, but... I'm the programmer.  I can go through code and find out how and why it's doing what it's doing.  I also play with the data on the databases.  Syncsort is your friend for flat files and sql for databases.

      We're reasonably certain that the NSA has a whole lot more than what's been leaked so far.  D and I have worked for enough companies to know that system security is only as strong as the idiot in charge.  Systems and network guys can talk blue in the face about the need to lock shit down, but the bean counters and management just think we're blowing smoke and want new 'toys' to play with, so they invariably don't want to spend what is necessary to secure their systems.  Security is all over the place, even within companies.

      Because of what we've personally seen, and have done, not only can NSA get real time data, but we're reasonably confident that they've requested as much as they can physically get their hands on.  When I was working for MCI, it was a federal requirement to keep certain data files backed up for 7 years and have a back up off site for disaster recovery.  With the fact that data storage devices are dirt cheap these days, I'm willing to bet that companies are keeping more themselves.

      But, I will also say that unless the NSA has some type of key for any of the files and/or databases, the data is mainly so much data.  One of the things we think that they've done is to start building a key database that can be used as foreign keys to other databases.  The 'master' file would probably contain, DoB, SS#, city of birth, current address, current phone numbers, current employer, credit card numbers, and organization membership numbers (at the very least).  With any combination of those data points they can find you anywhere on the 'net.  It goes way beyond J Edger Hoover.  He'd be whimpering at the possibilities of what he could have done back then with today's tech.

      •  I'd be surprised if they could not do (6+ / 0-)

        any of the things that you are talking about.

        My point, however, what more focused on what they read into that data and what the think they know about people based on the data they have collected.  

        Marketers who are highly motivated to get it right by virtue of the fact that they stand to gain profit by building a reputation for delivering messaging to customers who buy and will buy the products and services they are helping to sell get a lot wrong seem to get it very wrong very often at least with respect to me.  I receive some really weird spam; laughable direct mail and see comical Google ads all of the time.  Although, something in my digital profile seems to draw those ads.

        So, with respect to the government collecting and judging all of this data about people, I think it is very reasonable to believe that they are coming to erroneous conclusions more often than not.

        It is still bugging me that the Boston brothers plans were not thwarted by this program.  The Russians identified one needle in the haystack as being a potential threat and yet they never picked up on what those two were doing even with this massive database and spy network?  That's weird to me unless one is open to the possibility that they came to erroneous conclusions about them, too.

        •  True, it is highly probable that their matrix for (4+ / 0-)

          search isn't close to being accurate and I think that's because a whole bunch of us on the 'net don't adhere to most of the 'social norms' (ie facebook), especially in specialty forums.

          I don't see many ads as I've put in an ad blocker, set up the pop-up blocker, and routinely delete cookies, cashe, and history files.  What ads do show up, I generally ignore.

        •  Regarding Boston brothers: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Since the FBI already knew about both Tsarnaev brothers, had received warnings from the Russians, and had interviewed family members well before any bombs went off, I do not believe that data mining limitations had anything to do with the FBI "missing" something about them.  

          This is the kind of situation that has human intervention written all over it.  Either someone decided not to notice something deliberately, or the roles of the brothers in the attack are not as have been described to us.

        •  unfortunately, the combo revelations of this (0+ / 0-)

          program as well as Russian Security actually us to watch this guy looks really really bad imo.

          I'm not much of a conspiracy kind of guy just because I understand human nature and if three people know something, one will intentionally or inadvertently let the "cat" out of the bag .... so to speak anyway.

          Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
          I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
          Emiliano Zapata

          by buddabelly on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 05:31:12 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Let Me Get Interactive Geeky With You (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      inclusiveheart, kyril, CroneWit, kurt
      Not to be mean to you about what you do for a living placing ads, but if the ads that come up for me are any indication of how badly a person's digital footprint can be interpreted, then I think we are in really, super big trouble.
      I make 85% of my living doing web sites. Only a little on keywords or online ads. The reason is a lack of understanding by my clients. I worked at ad agencies before there was an Internet.

      Advertising was about reach and frequency. Reach is how many potential people, well I reach. You might get a daily newspaper, you are counted in the reach, but you are on vacation and don't read that paper. I didn't "reach" you.

      Frequency is how often I deliver that message to you. A daily newspaper, well daily. The higher my frequency the better chance you see my ad. Seven ads in a week better than one.

      The Internet has flipped this 24/7.

      For me it is more important to deliver a few taloried ads, then a lot. Lets say I have a client that sells an eco-friendly manner to get rid of beetles only in the south (I don't have that client BTW).

      If I buy every Google search for "garden" and "bugs" I'd spend thousands of thousands of dollars. If I target the ad to just the south zip codes. The name of the bug and eco terms I might only get a fraction of a percent of ads. But they, well they might want to really buy what my client sells.

      Now I know you read that and think, yeah that makes total sense. Often my clients can't wrap their minds around it. They are used to the "old" method. Buy an ad and get it in front of as many folks as possible and hope, hope, hope.

      Not how I roll.

      •  Yes. I understand. (5+ / 0-)

        I'm a marketer.

        What I was talking about more generally are the claims that the government's databases are only tracking patterns and drawing conclusions from those.

        What they should be doing is something more akin to how you define your target because it is way smarter.

        Btw, part of my misspent youth in my first job was calculating "impressions".  I remember the UK Ad Age had a great front page photo of a TV on in a dark room with a couple on the couch starting to have sex with each other.  The caption read something like, "Can we really count these people as viewers?"

        It is actually apropos to what I'm saying about what the government might think they know about people based on this pattern thing - or even in some cases based on a specific  person's movements.

        •  LOL. The Recepition Area In The Last (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          inclusiveheart, kyril

          ad agency I worked at had this huge poster. Like 20 feet by 20 feet. It said:

          Bob thought his ad was so good it only had to run once.
          That was a total dig at our clients. We were very good at our jobs and in your face. The NSA might need to hire you or me. They don't really seem how to target people.
    •  Six degrees from what, potentially? (5+ / 0-)

      Okay, just saying. it's everything. Every keystroke, every phone conversation, ever. Everything that's not face to face. And it's stored indefinitely.
      Extrapolate that out, and doesn't it forever change the meaning of warrants?
      Not NSA warrants, but warrants for arrest. For example, with that level of information retention, years after the fact, let's say with a garden variety crime, you've got a situation where the usual timeline of a warrant with probable cause is turned inside out, because in total information land, they can gather incriminating 'evidence' first, and match it to something later. With this capability, you can forget about that trite "since I've got nothing to hide" rationality, as essentially, everyone is already under suspicion.

      •  That Is My Point (7+ / 0-)

        That study showed you can go from "Six Degrees" to anybody in the US. Facebook did it in 4.74 for the entire world.

        I am 110% sure you and I are 4.5-6.0 degrees from almost everybody in the world.

        I can so easily see somebody, even a liberal, go on MSNBC and say "webranding" talked to somebody that talked to somebody, that emailed this person, that posted on his Facebook page a terrorist threat. How could "webranding" know this person?

        •  I strongly suspect (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nchristine, inclusiveheart

          that they also underestimate the variety of methods people communicate.  Those with motive to conceal can do so and perhaps right under the eyes of those watching and not get the signal.

          Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

          by DRo on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 02:28:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes and people doing bad things (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            DRo, kurt

            are not totally stupid about the risks of communication technology revealing whatever stupidity they have in mind.  It is doubtful that they write an email or make a call detailing in plain language exactly what they are planning to do.

            They've probably got codes and stuff.  Weather conversations or talk about doing laundry - whatever.  I wonder if the text I sent to someone about Katy Perry recently is powering its way through the database and can now only hope and pray that bad guys aren't using her name as part of their code so as not to be wrongly associated with people like that - lol!

            •  Interesting article (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              To watch our intelligence apparatus grow in the wake of 9/11, one might conclude that our adversaries converse mainly in the English language. After all, most of our intelligence agents know no other languages
              Also interesting
              CHRISTOPHER PYLE: Well, yes. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures, only binds the government, doesn’t bind corporations. That’s a serious problem.

              Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

              by DRo on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 02:10:16 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Google thinks I'm a a male in my early 20s (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      which couldn't be further from the truth. It pays to have non-conforming interests.

  •  Even non-geeks like me reading Wired now (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gulfgal98, worldlotus, DRo, kurt

    and other sources like Business Insider and the Hong Kong newspaper (the one Snowden spoke with last weekend -- their coverage today about a rally outside the US consulate was very moving.)

    Yes, I think we all remember the 2006 outrage over the Klein disclosures.  But the government-enabling MSM has been able to keep other whistleblowers out of the spotlight, as Kossite Jessaly Raddick often reminds us.

    I guess my point, webranding, is that people like you, technogeeks who have been kept abreast of the development of the technologies and govt/industry partnerships that support the NSA programs by your intersts and your professional reading, naturally tend to see these NSA revelations a 'common knowledge'.  The rest of us are having to play catch-up -- and to learn a new language while we're doing it.  so please be patient, and please use your professional knowledge to inform us so we can understand infrastructure that is transparent to you but opaque to us.

    (Okay, I'll go read the rest of the article now.)

  •  capturing and storing is one aspect (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CroneWit, worldlotus, kurt

    and I can wrap my feeble mind around how this is possible, but WTF do you do with it? That's where I get lost. What hueristics are being applied to yield anything that might remotely be deemed useful? Why do we hear of these umpteen "foiled plots" all of a sudden, and not when they were "foiled"? This is where the real 'splainin is needed, IMO.

    •  database keys.... One can write a query based (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CroneWit, worldlotus, tegrat, kurt

      upon key fields and tie multiple databases together to get a picture of a person.  Your email address is one such key data point.  Verizon has email service with their accounts, as a courtesy(?!?!?!).  That email address will tie it to your phone records.  Your phone number is stored on your medical records.  They now have access to your medical records.  Your email may be tied to your bank account.  If you do on-line pay, they've got a line to your bank account and everyone you've paid on-line.

      All you need is a single data point and start doing queries, and joining multiple databases together, (which is done in the way the query is written) against that and expand from there.  The person writing the query would need to know what the column names and definitions are for the databases though.  But, then the feds can name a column whatever they want and it can be pretty easy to determine what type of data (hex, numeric, alpha, alpha/numeric, comp-3, comp-6) and its length is with reasonable analysis.

      •  so basically we are just admitting that all that (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DRo, kurt

        info is waiting to be exploited once they want something on a particular individual. My question is, of what use is the info in pointing towards a particular individual? How does it do that? What are the filters/rules/etc? These are the questions that need to be answered, IMO, because it is almost without question that any answer has no lawfully supported purpose behind it.

        •  asdf (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DRo, tegrat, kurt

          "that all that info is waiting to be exploited once they want something on a particular individual."

          I think that's basically what they have - everyone's business in one place waiting for a warrant to 'allow' them to search the databases.  I'm sure that there's a whole lot more to what they can do.  I'm just not insane enough, diabolical, nosey enough to go snooping other people's dirt.

          'My question is, of what use is the info in pointing towards a particular individual? How does it do that? What are the filters/rules/etc?'

          Say you hear on the street x is behaving in a suspicious manner, one can search on this individual to check to see what they've been up to, which possibly lead to probable cause (after the fact of snooping), so go get the warrant to validate the search already done, but now you can query data associated by degrees of separation related to the first person....  Yeah, it's rather thin theory.  Rules, what rules?!?!?!  We don't know, it's secret....

  •  in a world where (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DRo, jamess, CroneWit, worldlotus, kurt

    many people never did learned how to set the time on their vcrs or can't figure out how to silence their phones-and all that technology has moved on, it's no wonder to me at all that many people have no clue about this whole business. I have often marveled-so to speak- at the fact that people have a device- a computer- in their homes that is such sophisticated technology way beyond their understanding and they totally accept it. I suspect the average person is most worried about having their banking/credit/identity info stolen and misused. We have all had it drilled into us for years that we need to protect our computers from online trouble, whether that means malware, virus or whatever. Nobody wants their ability to use their computer messed up by those things, like the frustrations of dropped calls on their phone. Being inconvenienced is the biggest problem. Computers are way more sophisticated that the average person who has one. On a practical level they can do much more that the ordinary person has time or smarts to figure out.
    Sometimes this can all seem like trying to wrap you mind around the universe. How can we put any of the toothpaste back in the tube? Especially with a congress that can't/won't even talk to each other.

    all the above said at the risk of sounding like an unconcerned total rube :/

    btw thanks for the diary webranding.

    ..."For beauty," I replied. "And I for truth,-the two are one; We brethren are"... E. Dickinson

    by peagreen on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 02:56:42 PM PDT

    •  I've yet to meet a person who (7+ / 0-)

      could identify and know even the major functions of all the software on their system. And despite all the concern about spyware and the efforts to avoid it and the steps to identify the folks we allow to download to our systems, I know of no way that an average person could be certain any download had code that was pure and could not have an embedded threat.  We are told to not open email ftom someone we don't know but that is a laugh ( I suppose, at least people know what email is).

      Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

      by DRo on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 03:09:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's for sure!! I'm a programmer and when I (7+ / 0-)

        open up the pc task manager, there's so much crap running and I don't know what much of it is doing for sure.

        •  I know. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nchristine, worldlotus

          I was an old mainframe person. Obsolete now because the PC people can get a system up and running today over a weekend that would have spanned years and needed thousands of man years back in the old days.  

          I strongly suspect that the bulk of the data captured by the front-ends of today is immediately translated (data names not needed) and ends up on mainframes, the programming done somewhere like India by a programmer that has no clue what data they are moving.  (Move x here to Y there and save).

          Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

          by DRo on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 03:29:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  There is still a demand for mainframers.... That's (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            the area I primarily work.  For shear number crunching and data manipulation, a decent mainframe can run circles around servers.  But, yeah, to a certain extent the field has changed to programmer/analysts deciding what needs to be changed with a warm body that can type in India/China/Pakistan/wherever typing in the changes and coming up with a clean compile - but that doesn't mean the software 'works'!

            The project I'm currently working on.... I've done around 40 hours of analysis/design/learning and 7 to code and get a clean compile (with messing around a bit in there too).  I'll be doing at least 40 hours worth of testing to make sure the stuff is processing correctly.

  •  "Stunned that Glenn Beck is actually saying... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...things I agree with."

    Maybe you need to think about that a lot deeper.

    Non futuis apud Boston

    by kenlac on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 03:04:34 PM PDT

  •  thanks webranding (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    northsylvania, CroneWit

    for that very effective dot-wrangling.

    ya gotta love that public domain.

    Maybe reporters should make better use of it.

  •  PS (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    your first link has one too many spaces in it.

  •  Your perspective & info are so important (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DRo, nchristine, ukit, worldlotus, kurt

    As I said in my early comment, I've been playing catch-up and trying to learn enough about the technology/infrastructure to understand what it is capable of.  Luckily for me, one of the first articles I came across was by James Bamford, in Wired March 2012:

    It describes the Utah data center and the size of the plant, its projected electricity costs for operations and cooling in themselves are just mind-boggling.  He gives a lot of geeky detail about the capabilities of the hardware and software, too.  My takeaway (besides realizing I had a lot of jargon to learn) was (1) that this place was just freaking HUGE  and had enormous speed, enormous storage, and enormous analytical power; and (2) that this in only ONE OF SEVERAL such plants.

    I've been reading from so many sources that I can't keep them all straight in my head, but another one that impressed me with the capabilities of the NSA systems was from Salon --

    I quoted from that in another diary:

    One of NSA’s most important contractors may be Narus, a subsidiary of Boeing that makes a key telecommunications software that allows government agencies and corporations to monitor huge amounts of data flowing over fiber-optic cables. According to Bill Binney, one of four NSA whistle-blowers who’ve been warning about NSA’s immense powers, one Narus device can analyze 1,250,000 1,000-character emails every second. That comes to over 100 billion emails a day.

    “Narus is the one thing that makes it all possible,” Binney told me over the weekend, of the Verizon surveillance program unveiled by the Guardian. “They probably pick up 60 to 80 percent of the data going over the [U.S.] network.” The Narus technology, he added, “reconstructs everything on the line and then passes it off to NSA for storage” and later analysis. That includes everything, he said, including email, cellphone calls, and voice over Internet protocol calls such as those made on Skype.

    People who say 'how could they possibly read every email, listen to every phone call' may not be stupid, or establishment tools.  Most people who scoff at the NSA revelations as 'impossible' just have not been exposed to the concept of technology that can make it possible for one company (among many) to capture  '60-80% of the data going over the US network, and to 'analyze ONE AND A QUARTER MILLION 1000-CHARACTER EMAILS PER SECOND' for a total of OVER ONE HUNDRED BILLION EMAILS PER DAY'.

    I think when people first hear of the volume of traffic being captured, analyzed, and stored, they get a mental image of people in cubicles actually reading or listening to emails, tweets, call, Facebook posts.  Of course this seems impossible; it is impossible.

    The public needs much more information to really grasp the fact that yes, NSA does have the capability to meaningfully track everything that happens online.  A lot of that information is already available in places like Wired and Business Insider and PCNet -- and in the minds and experience of people like you.  Please continue to help us understand it.

  •  It amazes me that the mainstream media hasn't (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DRo, beverlywoods, kurt

    made the connection between the AT&T Mark Klein story and the PRISM leak. Sure it's been reported here and there, but when MSNBC or CNN pundits discuss the issue, it's like this earlier disclosure never happened.

    If the NSA felt they had the authority to directly wiretap all of AT&T's web traffic, why would they settle for an FTP dropbox mode of exchange with Google and Facebook?

    Also, an interesting coincidence (or maybe not): the kind of technology Klein uncovered at AT&T (produced by a Boeing subsidiary, Narus) fits the codename "PRISM" perfectly.

    Here is a diagram from Narus' website showing how the technology works:

    •  I don't understand the (0+ / 0-)

      discussion and debate on whether there is FTP dropbox or not.  Could that just be a black box concept that actually means little? Please explain and help me out here. To me a drop-box only emplies keyed access and does not mean it is not real time. (No doubt even a request for data would be keyed.) What am I missing that people are so concerned about?

      Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

      by DRo on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 04:10:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have a question... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Is there any sign (such as, "click click" LOL) you could hear or otherwise that you are being listened to or being monitored?

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