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17 January 2014


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William R. Cumming

Thanks TTG! What do we know about NSA contracting out?

William R. Cumming

By labeling his effort SIGINT the President again sidestepped any discussion of Constitutional or statutory issues.

This President like many others loves secrecy and thinks he is the last bastion of thoughtful governance.

With over 2/3rds of all federal programs, functions, and activities immune to oversight by Congress or even FOIA requests, IMO we no longer have government of the people, by the people, for the people. Periodic corrupt elections controlled by the STATES and their local governments do not allow accountability for PUBLIC SERVANTS elected or appointed.

The Twisted Genius


Plenty. All the intel agencies have been heavily reliant on contractors in their rapid expansion since 9-11. It's an especially lucrative business at the top. Look at Clapper and McConnell before him. Tim Shorrock has been writing about this for years.



It seems the EU Parliament is getting the same kind of run-a-round from the ECB. Accountability?


Peter C

TTG. I make it a point to read Bruce Schneier every day to keep abreast of the digital goings on with cryptography, cracking, exploits, and general security psychology.

The whole eavesdropping and interception business is a contractors gold mine. Not only is Uncle Sam's check book totally being abused, all the massively expensive software failures are hidden, and the same rouges continue to plunder unabated by being awarded new contracts. A true used car salesman dream, customers keep coming back to buy more crap cars from you over and over.

What I feel is happening and or will happen, the primary job will turn inward to protect their domain from domestic control at all cost.


Colonel Lang,

I have known Bruce Schneier and been an admirer of
his works for many years.On the topic of "security"
what it means and doesn't mean, the extent to which
it can be achieved/not achieved,the technical, legal,
philosophical considerations, the trade-offs etc, he
is the finest mind of his generation and the most
It must have been a rare treat for a Congressional
committee to get accuracy,and clarity on the topic
of NSA.

USMC 1965-1972
FBI 1972-1996


This provision of vast sums to the intelligence community is turning out to be counter productive. My opinion is that budgets should be reduced to the point where decisions on where the true priorities lie have to be made. Cutting down on the empire building would be a plus. If Alexander wants to indulge his inner trekkie, he can go to a Con somewhere.

Charles I

Did anyone notice this nugget from the latest issue of Schneier's Cryptogram, found here: http://www.schneier.com/crypto-gram-1401.html?

Never mind the intelligence community, the war on drugs has you covered.


"For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access,
using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs. . . .

The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported,. . . covers every call that passes through an AT&T switch — not just those made by AT&T customers — and includes calls dating back 26 years, according to Hemisphere training slides bearing the logo of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Some four billion call records are added to the database every day, the slides say; technical specialists say a single call may generate more than one record. Unlike the N.S.A. data, the Hemisphere data includes information on the locations of callers."


It's been clear that the NSA has been withholding information from Congress, and that they have lied to Congress. This past week, they essentially admitted to targeting members of Congress.

The NSA is now expending significant resources to obscure its activities, and to try to assert that they have achieved significant successes. The results are less than compelling. The indiscriminate, widespread acquisition and retention of electronic data is proving to be an expensive, counterproductive distraction, which actively weakens the US.

Obama's announced reforms are hardly equal to the damage done. At this point, the essential issue is how and whether the NSA can be brought under control, and can be made to operate without violating the Constitution.


NSA has become such an uncontrollable behemoth, the only way to rein it in is to dismantle it completely, and its external monitoring and security programs be re-absorbed by DoD, and the portion of The National Security Act of 1947 that created NSA be rescinded.


While I sympathize with the poster, who wishes to "save the NSA from itself" and keep the best parts to fight terrorism, he is living in an Alternate Reality.

The "useful parts" of the NSA, those that provide mass data suitable for blackmail, extortion, libel, fraud and theft of anyone, anywhere, any time, going back for YEARS, are perfect for suppressing political dissent and social activism, not to mention what it does to our allies overseas.

NSA hasn't done anything (and they admit it) to fight terrorism.



"mass data suitable for blackmail, extortion, libel, fraud and theft of anyone, anywhere, any time, going back for YEARS, are perfect for suppressing political dissent and social activism, not to mention what it does to our allies overseas." Firstly - you don't actually know that the meta data has been used for any of that. Secondly - foreign leaders should be targets. you cannot know what they are doing by simply asking them. they lie. it is part of their job description. pl

Norbert M Salamon

Syrian National Coalition agrees to go to Geneva II


William R. Cumming

Thanks TTG for the great links!

The Twisted Genius

Demeter and PL,

I thought it was preposterous that Obama singled out foreign leaders for protection from NSA collection while continuing to justify mass collection of US person data. It should have been the other way around. PL, you're right, foreign leaders should be targets. They should be priority targets. The only question should be risk vs. gain. It's up to their governments to try to stop us... if they can.

The Twisted Genius

Charles I,

Schneier's essay on "How the NSA is Threatening National Security" is well argued and devoid of histrionics. I heartedly recommend it. Thanks for the link.

As for the DEA, AT&T and the Hemisphere Project, I don't have a problem with it. It seems to be driven by ongoing criminal investigations and court orders/subpeonas. This just represents a hazard of engaging in criminal activity. It's the same hazard of conducting clan intel ops. Remember how the Italians convicted 23 CIA officers for the kidnapping of Osama Mustafa Hassan in 2003? It's the same thing.


I've always assumed all my electronic communications were subject to collection and scrutiny and I think anyone who assumes otherwise is kidding themselves, no matter what Congress or the President or any other world leader says.

Even Forty years ago when I had to discuss considerably sensitive matters with my ex intelligence Father, he always wanted to do it outdoors face to face (never on any telephone) in a reasonably secure area where eavesdropping was unlikely to be easily arranged. Such was his understanding of electronic capabilities even then.

No, I'm not paranoid and neither was Dad. Bugging stuff is pretty easy.

r whitman

This is a bit off topic but can
you imagine the kind of novel George Orwell would write about this subject

Peter C

A big question beyond the interception of both foreign and domestic intel is the A 76ing of federal programs. Every few years contracts will change, people will be shuffled, cross contamination will take place. Also, whatever happened to compartmentalization and need to know, morphing into mashing up and making so much available to clerks.

This conversation is not taking place, the mechanisms of privatization on National Security, especially signals interception.

In addition to privatization of cyber, it appears humit is an A76 type target. The use of Cyber, space thingy is technically difficult, but is solved making those methods popular over real humit. Takes both. With our frenimies, enemies, and general need to know what is going on cyber capabilities front page news, what was relatively easy to intercept will become more difficult as people adapt to the need to not put anything in digital form, but go back to paper and face to face to keep the most sensitive aspects of their intentions hidden, thus the need for better humit moving forward. Will the IBM selectric make a comeback??


peter C

"Will the IBM selectric make a comeback??" the emanations from such an instrument can easily be read at a distance. pl

Charles I

Schneier's a great mind I have enjoyed for both the intel/security coverage as well as his endlessly amusing and disturbing accounts of high tech meets clever, sometimes antisocial humans.

IMHO I don't think the wholesale collection and decades decades long maintenance of 4 billion hits day qualifies as targeted investigation upon reasonable grounds, subpoenas or not.

I note here my bias- my notorious aversion to the war on drugs on personal, political and practical grounds and legal grounds. Legally, I don't see how the sovereign right to self abuse by intoxication can justify the entire edifice on any rational ground, other than we now by prohibition have created a cash/violence/politics nexus so threatening and opportune that it must perforce be manipulated and confronted whatever the gross domestic absurdities and contradictions at enormous cost.

Charles I

According to something I encountered in Counterpane some encryption can now be cracked merely by listening to the noise generated by a cpu as it works on it.


PL, Tempest reads the background RF emanated by unshelled computers as well.


sometimes walking around outside isn't even safe. You might like my story, "Unter Vier Augen." It's available in that list over on the right under Basilisk.

robt willmann

And computer monitors and display screens, and printers, and cables attaching them.

A friend flew over North Vietnam during the war scooping up conversations from walkie talkies on the ground, counting and differentiating trucks by gathering the electrical "signals" coming from a running engine, and other such things.

An interesting movie is "The Conversation" (1974), one of Francis Coppola's early films, about a private surveillance man (played by Gene Hackman) who is given the job of capturing a conversation that takes place outside between two people walking in a fairly busy plaza.


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