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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JimWhiteGNV RT @ArifCRafiq: Guys in the back look scared. https://t.co/s80kVDeuiA
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emptywheel @ryanjreilly Current income. How much did not prosecuting banks pay off for him?
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emptywheel @bsonenstein Had to explain how our treatment of blacks has long been an ideological black eye to adult American last week. She had no idea.
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emptywheel RT @MicahZenko: State Dept on Yemeni civilians killed by US-backed Saudi airstrikes: "That’s really for the Saudi Govt to speak to." http:/…
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emptywheel @ZaidJilani He's been in the same field for over a decade. @gzornick
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emptywheel RT @ZackPohl: Nike to pay college lots of money so players will wear their clothes while playing for free.
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emptywheel @gzornick And his old job was...?
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emptywheel @Johngcole No one has really even started, being busy with Cosby reporting. So the world is your sub.
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emptywheel @we_are_toast Not just abt non-voters: also abt gerry-mandering and ALEC $$. @ThePlumLineGS @GottaLaff
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emptywheel RT @empiricalerror: Cyber Wars Episode I: The Phantom Memo https://t.co/JHrmNIssnU Signed July 2nd, finally surfaces July 7th. #OPM #eQIP
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emptywheel Feels like lesson should instead be swing states outside of South adopting southern strategies to deny voter access. https://t.co/3w0VXPvYUr
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emptywheel @ShawnMusgrave But the CIA is happy to launder info to them anyway. (Still owe you that ref, huh?)
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