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NSA CS Man: My Tracking Algorithm Was 'Twisted' By the Government 267

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
decora writes "Crypto-mathematician Bill Binney worked in the Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center at the NSA. There, he worked on NSA's ThinThread program; a way to monitor the flood of internet data from outside the US while protecting the privacy of US citizens. In a new interview with Jane Mayer, he says his program 'got twisted. ... I should apologize to the American people. It's violated everyone's rights. It can be used to eavesdrop on the whole world. ... my people were brought in, and they told me, "Can you believe they're doing this? They're getting billing records on US citizens! They're putting pen registers on everyone in the country!"'"
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NSA CS Man: My Tracking Algorithm Was 'Twisted' By the Government

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  • Re:Oh? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by blair1q (305137) on Monday May 16, 2011 @08:07PM (#36147342) Journal

    I'm shocked that we haven't launched prosecutions of most of the Bush Administration over its mis-handling of everything related to security and the Constitution.

  • Re:Oh? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by khallow (566160) on Monday May 16, 2011 @08:38PM (#36147660)

    I'm shocked that we haven't launched prosecutions of most of the Bush Administration over its mis-handling of everything related to security and the Constitution.

    Just because something is unconstitutional doesn't mean that the perpetrator performed a criminal (and hence, prosecutable act). Plus, I gather Obama doesn't want to establish any traditions that might put himself at risk.

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday May 16, 2011 @09:35PM (#36148140)
    The NSA doesn't recruit people by telling them that they will be spying on Americans. I have met an NSA recruiter, and this is the story they tell you: As a cryptologist at the NSA, you will be working on interesting mathematics, mathematics you won't find in academia or in industry, and your work will help protect American lives. So say you are a 28 year old, you just finished a PhD in math or CS; wouldn't such a job be tempting?

    The people who run the show at the NSA are not idiots. They know how to work with geniuses who might have a moral objection to spying on Americans. They know how to convince people that their work will only be used against foreigners, and how to get those people to put as much effort into their work as possible. If I had to venture a guess, I would say that most NSA mathematicians and computer scientists are aware of how their work is actually being used, except in rare cases where it is reported in the mass media (like the wiretapping scandal).
  • Room 641A (Score:5, Interesting)

    by br00tus (528477) on Monday May 16, 2011 @09:51PM (#36148256)
    I don't think people unfamiliar with telecommunications realize how significant the Room 641A [wikipedia.org] revelation was. Before the so-called Patriot Act took effect, the capability to tap all Americans phone calls and Internet traffic did not exist. Now it does - it is sitting in "points of presence" around the country - before a voice call leaves the LATA, a fiber split happens, where half your call goes to the party your calling, the other half heads to the NSA. This did not exist before 2001-2003. As far as Internet traffic, half of your packets going out and coming in go to the carriers peering point like MAE West, half go the NSA. I'm sure even an all data major carrier Internet transmission across the country splits off to one of these pipes before it goes over the high-speed continental pipeline.

    Who knows about how this stuff works besides people like us and telecom people? Even this technician at AT&T didn't know exactly what was going on. Funny enough, the discovery came about because he wanted to make sure the people working in this room were working according to CWA union rules. The unions - the last remnants of ordinary worker's organization and input into a company, which is now almost totally under the control of the top corporate management and ownership, and apparently, the government and its spy agencies.

    As far as people saying this is to keep Americans safe from foreign terrorists - is that why Nixon had his guys break into Democratic headquarters at the Watergate? Is that why Clinton had the FBI send him various political opponents files, or Sandy Berger was sneaking documents out of the National Archives? Or why Martin Luther King had his rooms bugged by the FBI, when what he wanted was to non-violently work for the right to vote - a right blacks theoretically had under the Constitution? In 2006 a movie called "The Lives of Others" came out, condemning the Stasi in communist East Germany for creating a police state. While American critics feel good about themselves condemning the apparatus of a police state from ancient history, one is growing in the phone companies of America. Before 2001-2003, the US did not have an internal Stasi-like phone system - now it does. There's no reason to be hyperbolic about it, it is just that the government and corporate telecommunications monopolies are attempting to remove a right to privacy and freedom we once had.

Aren't you glad you're not getting all the government you pay for now?

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