Drowning in Haystacks

The NYT and Guardian have similar stories out today describing the sheer breadth of NSA’s spying. The Guardian describes how NSA gleefully embraced change because it presented more opportunities for SIGINT collection.

n one of the leaked ‘State of the Enterprise’ documents from 2007, an NSA staff member says: “The constant change in the world provides fertile ground for discovering new targets, technologies and networks that enable production of Sigint.”

The official happily embraces this: “It’s becoming a cliché that a permanent state of change is the new standard. It is the world we live in – navigating through continuous whitewater.”

It’s an environment in which the NSA thrives, the official says. And adds: “Lucky for us.”

And both present the plight of someone analyzing Lashkar-e-Taiba who couldn’t read the intelligence because it was all Farsi and Arabic.

One N.S.A. officer on the Lashkar-e-Taiba beat let slip that some of his eavesdropping turned out to be largely pointless, perhaps because of the agency’s chronic shortage of skilled linguists. He “ran some queries” to read intercepted communications of certain Lashkar-e-Taiba members, he wrote in the wiki, but added: “Most of it is in Arabic or Farsi, so I can’t make much of it.”

Both, too, present how detailed our intelligence from Afghanistan has been — though the NYT noted, it doesn’t seem to have brought us success.

We are collecting enormous amounts of data, but it’s not clear what good it’s doing us.

Meanwhile, remember this. The intelligence community keeps missing Congress’ mandated deadlines to install insider detection software — including in the Hawaii location from which Snowden took his files. Given Snowden’s success, it’s safe to assume paid assets of foreign governments have gotten some of it as well. The reason we’re not protecting all this intelligence is because we don’t have the bandwidth to run the software.

Collecting all this data — particularly if we can’t even analyze much of it — has costs. One cost is in the tradeoff we’ve made in keeping it secure.

Our haystacks our drowning us.

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
JimWhiteGNV Renovation update: new sofa and loveseat arrived! http://t.co/Zm1DmHf0a6
bmaz @ScottGreenfield @wolmanj @Popehat FWIW, I am fine w/this OTHER than the video. That just never looks good in hindsight. Never. #AudioOnly
bmaz @ScottGreenfield @wolmanj @Popehat And, I am betting, just one JA instead of two and a bailiff.
bmaz @ScottGreenfield @wolmanj @Popehat No, Jay is right. the judge and parties are, as far as I know, in the actual courtroom. Just no reporter
JimWhiteGNV #Gators come in with numbers 1, 3, 14 and 45. Should be a good year... https://t.co/EiciGufiZC
JimWhiteGNV RT @JulieDiCaro: Brennan: Hardy remains unapologetic, yet will be cheered on Sunday. Sigh http://t.co/2PgORmo0gp via @usatoday
bmaz @wolmanj @ScottGreenfield @Popehat Been doing O/A's+trials on audiotape for decades in municipal courts w/o a recorder. It the "video"...
bmaz @ScottGreenfield @Popehat Exactly. And I even had competent hair back then. Still hated it. Total nightmare now.
bmaz @ScottGreenfield @Popehat "Excuse me video camera, can you read that back to me"? How does that work??
bmaz @ScottGreenfield @Popehat I was involved in couple of early Court TV trials. Fucking hated seeing the thing in video. Blergh.
bmaz @ScottGreenfield @Popehat How you boys feel about having your every bullshit O/A be on video in lieu of cold script? http://t.co/GCc7sY5SBD
bmaz @HoltenMark About the LAST thing in the world I want is a public video of every court argument I make. I know how to play to a transcript.
November 2013
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