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NSA Is Building a New Datacenter In San Antonio 119

An anonymous reader writes in with an article from a Texas paper on the NSA's new facility in San Antonio. "America's top spy agency has taken over the former Sony microchip plant and is transforming it into a new data-mining headquarters... where billions of electronic communications will be sifted in the agency's mission to identify terrorist threats. ... [Author James] Bamford writes about how NSA and Microsoft had both been eyeing San Antonio for years because it has the cheapest electricity in Texas, and the state has its own power grid, making it less vulnerable to power outages on the national grid. He notes that it seemed the NSA wanted assurance Microsoft would be here, too, before making a final commitment, due to the advantages of 'having their miners virtually next door to the mother lode of data centers.' The new NSA facility is just a few miles from Microsoft's data center of the same size. Bamford says that under current law, NSA could gain access to Microsoft's stored data without even a warrant, but merely a fiber-optic cable." The article mentions the NRC report concluding that data mining is ineffective as a tactic against terrorism, which we discussed a couple of months back.
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NSA Is Building a New Datacenter In San Antonio

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  • odd place for NSA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 07, 2008 @04:03AM (#26018427)

    Sony wasn't there that long. They got it from AMD. Anway, the NSA has been "moving in" for more than a year. It was almost a fort before, and it certainly is now. They even taken over the public road that ran to its north. I'm on the hill, about a mile northwest of there, and can see and hear it at night. It's also close to the Southwest Research Institute (they did the Columbia wing test that demonstrated the hole could be caused by the foam insulation), which is on the other side of Loop 410. I'm sort of surprised they moved in there, though. Lots of better places farther out. San Antonio used to have five military bases: Fort Sam Houston, Lackland AFB, Kelly AFB, and the smaller Brooks field, and Randolf AFB (nearby). Kelly and Brooks are gone. AT&T used to be headquartered here but most of it moved to Dallas earlier this year (think of room 614a). Mm, maybe that's why AT&T left - NSA was moving in.

  • by stonedcat ( 80201 ) <hikaricore [at] gmail.com> on Sunday December 07, 2008 @04:04AM (#26018435) Homepage

    I'm quite the fan of Linux myself and have been using it for years, but I fail to see how it's going to stop the NSA from spying on internet traffic...

  • Re:SaaS? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @05:44AM (#26018717)

    I wouldn't be too concerned with your business-confidential data leaking into the private sector via some unscrupulous NSA employee (who have a higher bar to employment I would hope, than say a TSA employee).

    "Rogue" agents are not the problem. Sanctioned industrial espionage is the problem.

    In theory they only do it against foreign corporations, but as multinationals become the norm, that line is becoming increasingly less meaningful. The ultimate result of such policies is likely to be spying against the competitors of the currently favored multinationals.

    Here's one article about how Echelon was used for industrial espionage [indianexpress.com] - there are plenty more about the NSA and other agencies that are not Echelon-specific either.

  • More importantly (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:06AM (#26019857)
    Google has REQUIRED the feds to obey the laws. MS actively works with all govs. for example, the case of the chinese author who was jailed because Yahoo was used; Supposedly, China gov actually had used BOTH Yahoo and MS, but choose to put info about yahoo because MS was closer to the gov. MS has ZERO issues about ignoring the constitution or any rights as long as they get theirs.
  • Re:Terrorism? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:52AM (#26020209)

    ...given that there is so much NON American data out there, and this country is reeling from a collapsing economy, it might be more cost effective to spy domestically for foreign threats. Some of the more effective acts of terror were committed by people RIGHT HERE AT HOME, occasionally with foreign financing. No, we're not the center of the universe, and because we are not, it is cheaper for our government to violate our civil rights within our borders in order to increase our perception of "security". Anything bad that happens, well, we can blame on the terror flavor of the week, can't we?

  • by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:58AM (#26020251) Homepage Journal

    During the civil war the slaves developed a method of communication that went unnoticed except by those who knew about it.
    They would sing song in the fields that woudl help to spread the word regarding teh undrground railroad.

    Today common conversation communication can as well be used where there really is not anything to decipher.
    Language and its abstraction work by attaching meaning and only work as well as the argeed upon meaning by those using teh abstraction.
    It doesn't matter what meaning is attached so long as those using it understand what is being communicated

    Everyone has heard of double speak, where what is communicated is meant to be perceived by the public one way but internally the very same words mean the opposite of what the public perceives. and this is just one example.

    There is a saying, "locks as for honest people" meaning here if some dishonest group wanted to communicate without concern for NSA data mining, they could do so easily.

    However, considering the massive amounts of data that is transfered from voice to digital on a daily or hourly basis and what the limits we have in computing power, its simple not possible to data mine for the terrorist threats from terrorists who want to avoid exposure and use such common conversation meaning dishonesty.

    But it is very possible, very probable, and very reliable that such data mining be used to determine the attitudes of mass population mindsets and mindsets of population sections as well as spying on targeted US citizens that might influence such population in a direction counter to the "why determine the populations mindset and changes in it?" The unsuspecting American public is so easily influenced by the media so by knowing the overall attitudes of the American public and using the media to influence American attitudes, you have a feedback loop of CONTROL.

    To properly address terrorist threats is to simply remove the reasons any terrorist group could play off of, that they won't be able to gain a following.

    The World Trade Center was attacked on two different dates. The NSA had to know it was a target and why.
    It was because of the effects of the trillion dollar bet [pbs.org] in south East Asia. Even Ted Turner publicly said 9/11 was an act of desperation and he'd know because his CNN News did a story on the effects as did also ABC. Follow the Money is the reality here.

    This was avoidable but caused by greed. And on the other hand there is What The World Wants [unesco.org] that shows that we do have the manpower, knowledge and not only the natural resources but the finances to remove reasons for terrorists to gain a following. And even more important, the question of: Why is this not being done?

    Given the death and torture imposed upon innocent people during the Spanish inquisition and the fact Galileo was exonerated so very very late (1992 where it only really was to serve the church not this innocent but long dead person) and the fact that Indonesia by CIA records is 88% Muslim, its clear that religion is an excuse both ways. An excuse to use by the bad, be the bad being believers or non-believers. But 9/11 was about money, wrongful World Stock Market manipulations backed by political controlled military, hence the Pentagon and probable White house targets. It was about money not religion, regardless of what you call such evil dishonesty as happened in the stock market.

    But if you wanted to get a very accurate view of the general population attitudes for such a media feedback loop of CONTROL , then what the NSA is doing with data mining will clearly work.

  • by sleigher ( 961421 ) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @11:02AM (#26020293)
    I agree, but let's not forget the system he had in place before the election and how that helped him. The first question I had after he was elected was what will he do with this massive communication system he has built? Seems he intends to keep using it, which I think is a step in the right direction.
  • by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Sunday December 07, 2008 @11:07AM (#26020343)

    ...they would do good to read at least this portion of a speech by Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell [dni.gov] at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government just last week.

    I find it interesting that the linked "article" is actually an opinion piece from an "alternative newsweekly". It makes a lot of assumptions and unwarranted logical leaps; long on paranoia and short on facts. In any event, here's bit of history, with the important parts in bold. I doubt many people will be interested in what the leaders in the Intelligence Community actually have to say for themselves, their missions, and the law.

    What is intelligence? If I asked this audience, what is it? You probably would struggle a little bit. I saw a movie, I read a book, I know a little bit about it. But let me sort of break it down into parts for you and then I want to talk about the community and how it's vital that we have such a community and why it's such a challenge for the American people.

    First of all, when you collect intelligence, there are esoteric parts of it that basically comes down to taking a photograph - take a photograph of military equipment or geography, or people, or something, but you capture something that you want to examine later on. People communicate and you can listen to that communication, intercept it, process it, know when it turned on, when it turned off, and you can get lots of information from it. Or you can recruit a spy. A spy is someone who will share information that's secret, that's privileged inside a government or an organization that will share it with you. Those are the basic building blocks of intelligence. There's other little esoteric pieces, as I mentioned.

    So when you look at us as a nation, we have an organization that takes pictures from space, from airplanes. They use that to make maps. They use it to make foundation for the geographic tracking of the world. They look for weapons systems. They look for mobilization. They're always looking for information from the context of the photographs. We have an organization. It's called the NGA, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. We have another one called the National Security Agency, the one I was privileged to lead. I will use an example that's historical: World War II.

    In World War II, the great secret was that we were listening to and reading German high command communications from very early in the war. That was a strategic advantage that we enjoyed for the entire war. Now, think about that for a second. We are reading code to know what their orders are to the German field commanders. Often, we were reading it and understanding it before the German commanders could break it and decrypt it.

    How do you now handle that information? Does the American public have a right to know? Now, think about the context. You're in global conflict, you're reading the communications of the enemy, and if it's compromised they'll change the rotors and their encryption system is gone. And I've just introduced you now to the issue of sharing information and protection of sources and methods.

    The primary responsibility that I have was that the new Director of National Intelligence is to cause these agencies - the three I've just mentioned - to share information across boundaries and at the same time protect sources and methods. If we have this very vital source of information that's allowing to either understand or intercept or have an appreciation for an issue that's vital to the country, do we want that to appear on the front page of the newspaper? So that's the dilemma we're always attempting to balance.

    Now, let me give you a little more context. If you look at the history of intelligence, we're not very prepared for anything that's ever happened. It's because Americans don't like spies. Think about our Constitution, the framing of the Constitution, the framework of the time. It's expensive. If you think about spies in

  • by fangorious ( 1024903 ) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @09:18PM (#26026085)

    That's an impressive response. Almost half your response is a straw man though, as I never made any statements about foreign surveillance. I never objected to foreign surveillance, just domestic surveillance which doesn't meet warrant requirements. So basically our only disagreement is where that requirement begins.

    I don't care whether Mr. Klein knows the workings of the NSA equipment or not. And neither should you. As testified, all communication is being routed through the equipment. Refute that. Don't tell me about political agenda and then point out the party affiliation of co-sponsors of the bill you support.

    You say it's impossible to determine which communication is foreign and which is domestic without analyzing the envelope. Did it ever occur to you that the companies delivering the data to the NSA can already do this? How else would they know to bill a phone call at an international rate? Those companies can route foreign communications however the NSA legally directs them to. Then they can scan the domestic communications for points of interest given by the NSA and deliver those that match. How about that? I solved your Catch-22 without any axe grinding.

    The Constitution requires specificity, the intelligence agencies can't implement a dragnet without violating that requirement. Private companies can as long as their customers are aware, as their customers choose if they want to be customers.

When you make your mark in the world, watch out for guys with erasers. -- The Wall Street Journal