The Rationale for NSA’s Bottomless Pit of Data: Hackers

In his must-read report on the bottomless data pit containing the NSA is building in Utah, James Bamford described the public explanations NSA Deputy Director Chris Inglis made when he broke ground on the facility.

[NSA deputy director Chris Inglis] arrived in Bluffdale at the site of the future data center, a flat, unpaved runway on a little-used part of Camp Williams, a National Guard training site. There, in a white tent set up for the occasion, Inglis joined Harvey Davis, the agency’s associate director for installations and logistics, and Utah senator Orrin Hatch, along with a few generals and politicians in a surreal ceremony. Standing in an odd wooden sandbox and holding gold-painted shovels, they made awkward jabs at the sand and thus officially broke ground on what the local media had simply dubbed “the spy center.” Hoping for some details on what was about to be built, reporters turned to one of the invited guests, Lane Beattie of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. Did he have any idea of the purpose behind the new facility in his backyard? “Absolutely not,” he said with a self-conscious half laugh. “Nor do I want them spying on me.”

For his part, Inglis simply engaged in a bit of double-talk, emphasizing the least threatening aspect of the center: “It’s a state-of-the-art facility designed to support the intelligence community in its mission to, in turn, enable and protect the nation’s cybersecurity.” While cybersecurity will certainly be among the areas focused on in Bluffdale, what is collected, how it’s collected, and what is done with the material are far more important issues. Battling hackers makes for a nice cover—it’s easy to explain, and who could be against it? [my emphasis]

Inglis used hackers as cover for a spying facility that would collect and decrypt “all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter’.” That is, Inglis used the threat of hackers to cover up for the fact that the government was spying on everyone.

Mind you, this was back in January 2011–before Anonymous threatened to take the Toobz down at a time when a key Anonymous hacker was being run by the FBI. Indeed, Inglis used hackers as his excuse for collecting massive amounts of data on everyone in the thick of the WikiLeaks excitement.

Nevertheless, Bamford describes Inglis publicly misleading about the centrality of hackers in the purpose of the bottomless pit when in fact the purpose is far broader. Particularly given the FBI’s recently exposed role running hackers, Inglis’ “double-talk” raises real questions about all the fear-mongering about hackers.

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz @VinceWarren Doesn't look like the GJ to me, looks like the cops. And they don't look covered by weak MO GJ law. Still disgusting though.
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bmaz @armandodkos Right. But are her policies that bad (I honestly don't know answer) or is it just.....her?
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bmaz @matthewacole @ggreenwald Agree completely. But also curious how Margaret Court always left out of these discussions of the greatest.
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bmaz @DLind The Apple store. They are geniuses.
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bmaz @fordm You would have to be a pretty big dick not to make that kind of deal with client. I don't know anybody who wouldn't make some deal.
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bmaz @ScottGreenfield Exactly. And its only real secrecy protections are oriented to the jurors, not others attendant thereto. Pretty lame.
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bmaz @BradMossEsq @BuzzFeed Nevertheless, it would have never occurred without climate supplied by the leaks. Leaks are the yeast of democracy!
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bmaz @ScottGreenfield Maybe I missed it, but I found little of the usual state equivalent of Rule 6. Most focused only on GJurors themselves.
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bmaz @ScottGreenfield Only by Google, but I looked for MO GJ secrecy law and found shockingly weak and little.
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bmaz @BradMossEsq @BuzzFeed Of course none of this would be occurring without the Snowden leaks, so they should be praised and people thankful!
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bmaz @JonathanTurley Yeah, the forensic report really does NOT say that at all and the Post-Dispatch should retract its story.
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bmaz @davidrook Yes, that is true. Likely just not possible.
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