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This Doesn’t Help The Environment — Why Now?
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This Doesn’t Help The Environment

Bovine excrement increases greenhouse gases and exacerbates global climate change, so I really wish these people would stop.

DNI “Mike” McConnell spent a quarter century in military intelligence and served as DirNSA [Director of the National Security Agency] so he took the same course I did on the Fourth Amendment do’s and don’t’s. I couldn’t believe what I read in the earlier article, so I found the original piece.

In the El Paso Times article, Transcript: Debate on the foreign intelligence surveillance act, he makes the following response:

It takes about 200 man hours to do one telephone number. Think about it from the judges standpoint. Well, is this foreign intelligence? Well how do you know it’s foreign intelligence? Well what does Abdul calling Mohammed mean, and how do I interpret that? So, it’s a very complex process, so now, I’ve got people speaking Urdu and Farsi and, you know, whatever, Arabic, pull them off the line have them go through this process to justify what it is they know and why and so on. And now you’ve got to write it all up and it goes through the signature process, take it through (the Justice Department), and take it down to the FISA court. So all that process is about 200 man hours for one number. We’re going backwards, we couldn’t keep up.

Excuse me, but you have to establish that it is external to the United States, which the telephone number will do all by itself, and a short note describing the tenor of communications, i.e. planning, training, recruitment, operations, all of which should be on a summary sheet of any transcript or report generated. As any former DirNSA knows, there is a standard form that provides this information. All the judge needs is to know is that it is foreign traffic with intelligence value. It sounds like you may have too many layers of management [the signature process], your line people are slacking off, and/or the Justice Department isn’t providing a reasonable level of cooperation if this takes two hundred hours.


1 hipparchia { 08.25.07 at 1:36 am }

… so now, I’ve got people speaking Urdu and Farsi and, you know, whatever, Arabic, …
oh dear. they are their own babelfish, sounds like.

i liked this, from the very next paragraph:
Q: How many calls? Thousands?
A: Don’t want to go there. Just think, lots. Too many.

too many? as in, they want to listen in on everybody else in the whole world? just in case?

he goes on:
Now the second part of the issue was under the president’s program, the terrorist surveillance program, the private sector had assisted us.
[sorry, couldn’t resist]

and on:
Because if you’re going to get access you’ve got to have a partner and they were being sued. Now if you play out the suits at the value they’re claimed, it would bankrupt these companies. So my position was we have to provide liability protection to these private sector entities.
hmmm, the government wants to protect corporations that conspire with the government in unlimited spying. given this administration’s propensity for flouting all the laws, we don’t need it suborning all the businesses too.

yeah, that signature process caught my eye too, but i’m thinking the process improvement that’s needed here isn’t in the getting of warrants, it’s the deciding which targets to focus on.

2 Bryan { 08.25.07 at 3:22 pm }

The program is too big, with too much data. They are data mining, not conducting surveillance, and that’s what takes so long.

I noticed the order of languages Urdu [Pakistan], Farsi [Iran], then Arabic. Of course he may not know the difference between Farsi and Dari, the Afghan version, but first of all the fact that the communications are in a foreign language would probably indicate to a judge that this was foreign intelligence making the warrant request easier to obtain.

Actually, if you get a warrant the private sector entities have total immunity and are required to provide access, plus you don’t have to ask Congress for anything. It’s one of the benefits of obeying the law.

3 hipparchia { 08.25.07 at 7:01 pm }

i noticed that too, arabic being added to the list almost as an afterthought. which brings up a question or three: do we want to spy on all of iran [and possibly pakistan] because it really is a threat, because it’s not really a threat but we [erroneously] think it is, or because we just want it to be perceived as a threat so that we can justify an invasion?

of course they’re mining data. both data mining and data storage have become faster, easier, cheaper, and more sophisticated. but to do data mining, you need data. the slow, difficult, expensive part is still collecting the data and getting it into the digital pipeline somewhere.

telephony isn’t my area of expertise, but i’ll hazard some guesses here. wiretapping used to be difficult enough that its use could only be justified for surveillance of very likely targets. wiretapping has now become easy enough that collecting huge numbers of conversations now and wading through them later is feasible, or soon will be. the slowest and most difficult part of wiretapping is now, or soon will be, getting around the legal hurdles.

obeying the law, what a quaint concept.

4 Bryan { 08.25.07 at 7:32 pm }

The to/from information is a separate channel in telephony and is used for Caller ID. This is totally apart from the actual conversation. They probably started by hoovering up that and then running it against known telephone numbers to get more connections.

The problem is that things quickly expand beyond the capability to do any actual analysis.

In a real investigation you track things down and eliminate the extraneous to concentrate on what’s important. These people don’t seem to be doing anything other than collecting data.

The main restriction on this type of work is the number of linguists, and they have not been training enough people to fill the minimum requirements of the two wars they have going on, much less to do any reasonable level of intelligence analysis.