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NSA Data Mining Much Larger Than Reported 863

silassewell writes to tell us The New York Times is reporting that the "volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged." The NSA gained the cooperation of many American telecommunication companies after 9/11 to access streams of communication, both domestic and international, as a part of a presidentially approved program to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity.
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NSA Data Mining Much Larger Than Reported

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  • by farrellj ( 563 ) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @10:40PM (#14334313) Homepage Journal
    The people over at Ars Technica have a great little article about this whole fiasco concerning the wiretapping of US citizens without a warrent... .html []

    From the article:

    "Now let's take a look a statement of former senator Bob Graham (D-FL), who was one of the few senators to be briefed on the program. From a new Washington Post article:

            "I came out of the room with the full sense that we were dealing with a change in technology but not policy," Graham said, with new opportunities to intercept overseas calls that passed through U.S. switches."


    " This system's [TIA] purpose would be to monitor communications and detect would-be terrorists and plots before they happen... This project is not interested in funding "evolutionary" changes in technology, e.g., bit-step improvements to current data mining and storage techniques. Rather, the amount of data that the directors are anticipating (petabytes!) would require massive leaps in technology (and perhaps also some massive leaps in surveillance laws). According to DARPA, such data collection "increases information coverage by an order of magnitude," and ultimately "requires keeping track of individuals and understanding how they fit into models.""

  • Re:Modern USA (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 24, 2005 @11:07PM (#14334395)
    Talking Point #436778

    If someone complains about something bad conservatives have done, tell them to "move to another country."

    Talking Point #436779

    Claim that Clinton used the NSA for just as many intrusions of the rights of consumers. (not citizens - only Republicans are citizens in your America)

    Talking Point $437880

    Claim that the abuse of NSA is not illegal.

    Good citizen. Know your talking points, good citizen.

  • Yeah, until someone from your religion does something awful linked to your religion. Suddenly, every single word you say will be looked at with the most negative possible interpretation and you too could face a secret warrant for your arrest where nobody can talk about the fact you're even gone. Or, maybe you're a gun nut, or a homosexual, or whatever group is out of favor now. Doesn't really matter. Suddenly your rights don't matter, it's who you know and who they know that count. Everybody says things that could be construed to mean something bad if someone else wants to.

  • by EQ ( 28372 ) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @11:45PM (#14334512) Homepage Journal
    Remember NOT to do what most here are doing: flying off the handle with politically misstated misinformation and wild speculations. Get the facts straight first.

    Do not conflate "US Person" with "US Citizen". Do not become completely confused as to what was intercepted. NO calls that were within the US between US Persons were intercepted without a warrant. Get that fact straight first - what is referred to in the articles online is the world-wide intercept program of the NSA, and that it included some calls that had a terminus in the US as well as in a target of interest area overseas. They are not monitoring your call to the local mosque, nor your aunt Mabel in Canada (unless she happens to work for Al Qaeda).

    The relevant parts of the FISA:

    1) the acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any wire or radio communication sent by or intended to be received by a particular, known United States person who is in the United States, if the contents are acquired by intentionally targeting that United States person, under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes;

    (2) the acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any wire communication to or from a person in the United States, without the consent of any party thereto, if such acquisition occurs in the United States, but does not include the acquisition of those communications of computer trespassers that would be permissible under section 2511 (2)(i) of title 18;

    (3) the intentional acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any radio communication, under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes, and if both the sender and all intended recipients are located within the United States; or

    (4) the installation or use of an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device in the United States for monitoring to acquire information, other than from a wire or radio communication, under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes.

    Lots of legal analysis of htis going on, but this is one of the more cogent pieces I have seen. Read it and you will realize that although it sounds bad in terms of civil rights, its probably legal, and certainly proper if you take the view that preventing antoehr 9/11 is paramount importance.

    If the NSA surveillance program tracks all international communications (or all international communications to al Qaeda hotspots such as Afghanistan), it does not target specific individuals as required by 1801(f)(1). If the communications are intercepted outside the U.S., the NSA program falls outside the definitions in 1801(f)(2) and 1801(f)(4). If the program excludes intentional capture of purely domestic communications, it falls outside the ambit of 1801(f)(3).

    Bottom line: a massive surveillance system that intercepts millions or billions of international calls and e-mails may not constitute electronic survellance as defined by FISA, provided that the interception occurs outside the United States and neither specific individuals nor purely domestic calls are targeted.

    Bush's supporters and opponents can argue about whether that's good or bad, but the law is what it is. This progrram is likely a direct outgrowth of the events of 9/11 that were arranged between overseas enemies of the US and their domestic agents (who were illegally in the US a the time of the attacks). Intercepting those communications is certainly legal, and reasonable (in terms of the 4th amendment prohibitions of warantless searches).

    Remember - get the facts first, not the rumors and

  • by Metasquares ( 555685 ) <> on Saturday December 24, 2005 @11:53PM (#14334544) Homepage
    This is going to make you unhappy, but check this resolution: H.J. RES. 24.

    The resolution itself states its purpose rather succinctly:
    'The twenty-second article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is repealed.'.
  • by runcible ( 306937 ) <runcible@he a d n e> on Sunday December 25, 2005 @12:15AM (#14334619)
    My friends in Costa Rica say it's fast on it's way to becoming the next Columbia...not that I have any data to back that up.

    Uraguay is your best bet...nice beaches and the strongest information economy in South America.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 25, 2005 @12:16AM (#14334620)
    It seems that one of the key missing components in understanding this issue is the technology factor.

    Over the last 20 years, the NSA has basically seen their world turned upside down. 20 years ago, it was fairly easy for them to tap a phone line, track who was doing what, etc. There was not nearly the level and depth of technology that there is today. Old technology systems (telephone, etc) were built in a hierarchical fashion and owned by a single corporation (often government). It was pretty easy to get the access you needed exactly where you wanted it in order to do your job (which would be providing the right intelligence at the right time).

    The technological revolution of the past two decades has been a
    nightmare for the NSA (and other intelligence agencies as well). They just cant keep up. Like any government bureaucracy (especially one that is over 25,000 people strong), turning the NSA ship takes a long time. Modern communications systems are completely distributed in nature (the Internet), and owned by thousands of different entities. Various technologies come and go faster than you can build tools to target them. A terrorist can buy one prepaid cellphone today, use it for a week and then buy a completely different one the next week. Sending emails and other Internet communications is even harder to track. Messages rarely take the same route twice, each hop along the way is owned by someone different, and many communications are encrypted so
    well that the NSA could take months to decrypt a single message.

    Furthermore, since 9/11, a large part of NSA's tasking has changed from targeting foreign nation-states with well defined assets, structures, etc to targeting shadowy terrorists with few connections, little hierarchy, fluid infrastructures, etc. You *cannot begin* to imagine what an enormous challenge this poses in a world of modern technology and communication systems.

    So, what do you do when there is way too much information to process, way to many ways for that information to get from its origin to destination without you seeing it, etc? Well, the NSA realizes that they cannot listen to it all (nor do they want to). What they can do is try and get a small random sampling from thousands of different sources and somehow find ones that might be interesting using sophisticated voice processing software, keyword search, etc. By looking for keywords, certain accents, specific voices, etc they can hopefully try to narrow down the needle in the haystack. It is still an insane job, but by combining intelligent collection targeting with the sifting software they hopefully will snag a few terrorists which they can then monitor more closely in order to build out the social networks of terrorists.

    This is why Bush said that FISA was for long-term monitoring. You
    cannot get FISA warrants for each and every one of these small samples you take when trying to dig a needle out of the haystack. It would just be absurd, and would waste much more time than it was worth. So, you do this random sampling without getting court pre-approval, and then when you find something interesting, you get a FISA warrant to do more in-depth and long-term monitoring.

    Bush understands this because he talks to the intelligence agencies
    every day. He knows that the terrorist threat is very real, and he will be damned before he lets another attack happen on US soil. Critics of the NSA eavesdropping are being overly simplistic in their understanding of how intelligence is gathered in the modern world. Their suggestions are basically equivalent to throwing in the towel on the war against terror because they want to cripple the ability to gather intelligence, and you cannot fight an enemy without intelligence.

    Unfortunately, opening all of this up to the public makes the enemy that much more aware, and thus the task that much harder. It does indeed compromise sources and methods and I hope that whoever leaked the project gets grilled for it.
  • by SenatorOrrinHatch ( 741838 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @12:17AM (#14334626)
    I would not read too much into the word of the President, as he swore before God and country to uphold and defend the constitution of the United States, which he has recently referred to as a

    goddamn piece of paper

  • by laughingcoyote ( 762272 ) <barghesthowl@e x c> on Sunday December 25, 2005 @12:26AM (#14334654) Journal

    I think I'm going to suggest a Slashdot article that I've got a keyboard that scares off terrorists!

    After all, I'm typing on it right now, and there aren't any in this room. In fact, I've had this one since early 2002-and there have been absolutely no more terrorist attacks.

    "What they're doing is working" on the premise that "No more attacks have occurred" is correlation equalling causation, a logical fallacy. I might've taken it to a slightly more ridiculous extreme, but neither assertion holds up logically.

  • by Jesus 2.0 ( 701858 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @01:00AM (#14334762)
    Yeah, that's a brilliant argument.

    Here's a clue: telecommunications didn't exist when the Bill of Rights was written.

    The founders intentionally designed the document to account for new situations. You cannot possibly be serious in your claim that the general theme of privacy against unwarranted government search does not apply to a specific means of communications that didn't exist when the document is written.
  • by paxmark1 ( 636441 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @01:08AM (#14334792)
    Horse hockey.

    Omaha World Herald was working on a story on wiretapping back in the 1980's. They were blown away by the numbers of wiretaps being done around Omaha and also into Iowa. Mostly based against the pacifists opposed to nuclear weapons.

    I have no doubt that the phone at our soup kitchen back then was tapped. After all, we would go out to the Strategic Nuclear base and cross the line on Hiroshima Day and Feast of the Holy Innocents. Oh yes, people will be getting detained again this Feast of Holy Innocents again and doing six months federal time again.

    No internal Americans - poppycock. Two friends of mine that I have been in the same house with and another friend were indicted by a Federal Terrorism Task Force over plannig some mild civil disobedience less than two years ago. The feds tried to get Drake University (where the meeting was held) to bend over and release things, but a wave of revulsion via Senators Grassley, Harkin, a wave of outrage from over twenty university presidents across the nation and a lot of press got those grand jury subpoenas squashed - but have no doubt that Brian Terrels phone up on the third floor of the American Friends Service Committee in Des Moines Iowa is tapped, Yes, they tapped and bombed the AFSC building in Des Moines back in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Have not doubt that they are doing it again - gotta protect the United States from those dangerous Quakers.

    Trust me, my friend F. Jerry Zawada who just got back into the States from a 4 day fast by fence in Guantanamo in Cuba has a phone that is tapped now. As does Frida Berrigan.

    Trust me, those pacifists at Nukewatch believe that their phone is tapped.

    Why should it be any business of the United States government if I email over to Ciarron OReilly in Ireland. So he and his friends took hammers and blood and did $500,000 damage to a US war bird while it was parked over in Shannon Airfield in Ireland. He has not been found guilty of anything in Ireland (however he did lose his US citizenship back in the 1980's over doing the hammer and blood ploughshares thing in the United States at an air force base).

    No, the facist surveillance of pacifists was known to us pacifists back in the 1980's when many of us were sheltering homeless war veterans back then. And I have no doubt that it continues to my friends in the US now.

    Canada is a really cool place to be.

  • by DrJimbo ( 594231 ) * on Sunday December 25, 2005 @02:00AM (#14334943)
    anon said:
    You can bitch and whine all you want, but I sleep more comfortably at night knowing that our military machine is actively trying to kill everyone who beheads westerners for the glory of their god.
    On the off chance you actually mean what you say, I will respond.

    The execution of westerners in Iraq started only after the USA invaded Iraq for no good reason. Confirmed counts of Iraqi civilian deaths due the invasion range from 27,000 to over 30,000 []. Estimates of the total number of Iraqi civilians killed are over 100,000.

    If foreigners invaded the USA for no good reason and kept the USA under military occupation and killed tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent US civilians, don't you think there would be some reprisals against the invaders?

    I am not saying that the executions in Iraq are justified. All deliberate killing is terrible. But are the executions of westerners any worse than the killing of Iraqi civilians?

    And your answer to all this killing that makes you sleep more comfortably at night is to kill more Iraqis? Thank goodness only a few Iraqis (the ones committing the executions) think like you do and feel more comfortable knowing people are trying to kill Americans.

    Here is a radical idea. The USA has undisputed military dominance over the rest of the world. We spend way more, we have way more nukes, we are better at killing than any other country on Earth. This means we are in a better position to stop killing. So let's just stop killing. Today, or more fitting (depending on your timezone), tomorrow.

    Let's pull out of the countries we are occupying as quickly as we can without being foolish about it. Let's remove our military bases from the Middle East. Let's divert some of our military budget (say 10% for starters) to helping provide basic necessities to the poorer parts of the world. While we're at it, let's stop torturing people and stop jailing people indefinitely without charge or recourse to the court system.

    If people getting killed is the problem then killing people is not the solution. Killing people is never the solution.

  • by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @02:06AM (#14334964) Homepage
    The modification to make your telephone into a bugging device is actually quite trivial.

    Was quite trivial. It's not 1975 anymore, though, and all our phones aren't model 500 or 2500 Western Electrics. Nowadays, just about everyone has a cheap electronic phone made of inexpensive parts glued inside a plastic case. The [NSA/FBI/CIA] can't just send a guy in disguised as the telephone repair man to couple the carbon mic circuit to the live pair with a resistor like they used to. Not to say they have no way to listen to you, just thought you might want to update your paranoia to something more modern, like laser modulation audio bugging, rather than continuing to use one that's been pretty much abandoned for 20 years.

  • by lysergic.acid ( 845423 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @02:18AM (#14335012) Homepage

    And what about Thomas White who, prior to his appointment to Bush's cabinet as Secretary of Army, was a senior chairman at Enron and also happened to sell 200,000 shares of Enron stock for $12 million just before the company's collapse? Or Robert Zoellick--Bush's Deputy Secretary of state--who was previously a paid consultant on the Enron advisory board? Or Karl Rove--Bush's chief political advisor, who had significant stock in Enron, and helped get republican strategist Ralph Reed a consulting contract with Enron during Bush's first presidential campaign? Or John Ashcroft--who wasn't allowed to participate in the criminal investigation of the Enron scandle because of a "possible conflict of interest," and had also received more than $57,000 from Enron? Or Lawrence Lindsey, the current chief economic advisor of the whitehouse, who happens to be a former director on Enron's board? Oh, and let's not forget about the $1.75 million that Enron and Kenneth Lay gave to the G.O.P. during the 2000 campaign.

    So is Bush going after corporate accounting fraud by giving those responsible cabinet positions and letting them make national policies? There's definitely corruption within the democratic party as well, but if you think Republicans are any better, you must have been living under a rock for the last 50 years. And what mess did Bush clean up after Clinton? You mean like that $200 billion surplus at the end of the Clinton administration that Bush turned into a $8 trillion deficit while cutting back on education, employment services, health, housing, law enforcement, and other programs that might actually improve our society?

    Yea, thanks for all the dead arabs and U.S. soldiers Dubya, and thanks for trampling on the Constitution. The war on terrorism is going great. We're sure to win this thing any day now...

  • by Reality Master 201 ( 578873 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @03:05AM (#14335121) Journal
    Ok, look, if you're gonna quote the law, give us a link to it:

    from FISA []

    Subchapter 1 (Electronic Surveillance) has the relevant passages of the law.

    Though perhaps you didn't want to give us the link to that, because if you had, someone would have gone and read the law and seen that you're full of shit.

    1. Your point about "not conflating a US person with a US citizen" is non sequitir and meaningless. A US citizen is a US person under the statute, as is a resident alien (a person granted a green card), among others:

      Section 1801 []
      (i) "United States person" means a citizen of the United States, an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence (as defined in section 1101 (a)(20) of title 8), an unincorporated association a substantial number of members of which are citizens of the United States or aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence, or a corporation which is incorporated in the United States, but does not include a corporation or an association which is a foreign power, as defined in subsection (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this section.

    2. The section of the law you quote is only the definitions section. Specifically, you're quoting what the definition of Electronic Surveilance is. Nothing in what you quote actually discusses the LEGALITY of tapping activities in the US or the warrants required therefore. You missed section 1802 of FISA. This section is about "Electronic surveillance authorization without court order; certification by Attorney General; reports to Congressional committees; transmittal under seal; duties and compensation of communication common carrier; applications; jurisdiction of court." That section has the following to say about electronic surveilance and when warrants are needed:

      from Section 1802 []
      (1) Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year if the Attorney General certifies in writing under oath that--
      (A) the electronic surveillance is solely directed at--
      (i) the acquisition of the contents of communications transmitted by means of communications used exclusively between or among foreign powers, as defined in section 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; or
      (ii) the acquisition of technical intelligence, other than the spoken communications of individuals, from property or premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign power, as defined in section 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title;
      (B) there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party;and

      (C) the proposed minimization procedures with respect to such surveillance meet the definition of minimization procedures under section 1801 (h) of this title; and

      if the Attorney General reports such minimization procedures and any changes thereto to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence at least thirty days prior to their effective date, unless the Attorney General determines immediate action is required and notifies the committees immediately of such minimization procedures and the reason for their becoming effective immediately.

      Unless the communications take place completely under means controlled by a foriegn power (i.e., not involving US communications carriers), they are potentially subject to FISA judicial oversight requirements. If any party involved in said communication is a US person in the statute, a court order is required. This does not just apply to communications

  • by himagain ( 552602 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @03:56AM (#14335240)
    No. Is trivial.

    You clearly have little understanding of modern telecomm networks. It is now much easier to tap a phone than it used to be. The authorities don't even need to leave the office, let alone gain entry to your home. All it takes now is a (computer activated) switch to be thrown at the exchange. This may require the cooperation of the exchange operator, but this is a beaurocratic restriction, not a technical one.

    Incidentally, the same modern network technology also means that tracing calls is now virtually instant, much to the chagrin of lazy Hollywood scriptwriters.

    Merry Christmas
  • by NMerriam ( 15122 ) <> on Sunday December 25, 2005 @04:49AM (#14335325) Homepage
    No, you're talking about tapping a phone, which is not what the original post was about. The message you're replying to was talking about using a phone as a bug -- something that used to be quite simple, and now is pretty much impossible. The difference is pretty significant, since most criminals realize someone could be listening when they're talking on the phone -- but most of them didn't realize someone could be listening after they hung up!
  • by moof1138 ( 215921 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @06:08AM (#14335435)
    This isn't about partisan politics, the critics of this spying have a very firm basis in law and fact. For God's sake, the NSA's own site says that spying on Americans without a warrant in unconstitutional: []

    It doesn't get more clear cut than that.
  • by igb ( 28052 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @06:38AM (#14335468)
    He resigned, late in his second term. As a two-term president, he couldn't stand for election again. Any crimes he committed, which he never admitted to, were pardoned by his hand-picked, unelected vice president (his elected VP having resigned in disgrace). He served no jail time, paid no fines, made a fortune as a speaker and general purpose pundit, and later came to be seen as a great statesman over China. Indeed, how many US presidents get operas written about them (Assassins aside)?

    From here over the Atlantic, Nixon looks like a prime example of the US naivity over politicians. He was a crook. His first VP was a crook. Many of his staff were crooks. He did a deal to get a hand-picked VP on the understanding that a pardon would be forthcoming were it to be needed. He waged a secret and illegal war, he engaged in hideous illegality internally and he lied, lied, lied to you.

    And the US people let him go into affluent, unpunished retirement. His funeral was well-attended by politicians, who presumably saws nothing wrong with his actions.

    Why would Bush be frightened of Nixon's fate? The USA rewarded Nixon handsomely.


  • Re:CLINTONIAN SEX (Score:3, Informative)

    by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <> on Sunday December 25, 2005 @06:43AM (#14335475)
    Actually HE DIDNT LIE IN COURT. When asked if he had had sexual relations, he asked the judge to define sexual relations. The judges definition excluded nonpenetrative sex, so Clinton could quite merrily reply in court under oath that he didnt have sexual relations. Its a huge play on words, but thats what lawyers and courts revolve around and in this case it fell in the defendants favour.
  • Re: Modern USA (Score:3, Informative)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) * on Sunday December 25, 2005 @11:15AM (#14335961)
    > Ah yes, an accident...where they kept changing their story as to why they went in in the first place, where they went in with tanks, machine guns, and all sorts of other military style equipment

    Rush probably didn't tell you that they used the armored vehicle to knock holes in the walls for the insertion of a non-lethal gas after a long seige.

    > to raid a people doing things for things they were legally entitled to do.

    You mean like shooting a federal marshal in the process of serving a properly signed warrant?

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.