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View Full Version : NSA had a program to analyze communication data AND protect privacy


KC Jones
05-18-2006, 08:38 AM
Interesting...

The National Security Agency developed a pilot program in the late 1990s that would have enabled it to gather and analyze massive amounts of communications data without running afoul of privacy laws. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, it shelved the project -- not because it failed to work -- but because of bureaucratic infighting and a sudden White House expansion of the agency's surveillance powers, according to several intelligence officials.

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* Used more sophisticated methods of sorting through massive phone and e-mail data to identify suspect communications.

* Identified U.S. phone numbers and other communications data and encrypted them to ensure caller privacy.

* Employed an automated auditing system to monitor how analysts handled the information, in order to prevent misuse and improve efficiency.

* Analyzed the data to identify relationships between callers and chronicle their contacts. Only when evidence of a potential threat had been developed would analysts be able to request decryption of the records.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nationworld/bal-nsa517,0,5970724.story?page=1&coll=bal-home-headlines

banyon
05-18-2006, 09:17 AM
yes, Echelon.

jAZ
05-18-2006, 10:06 AM
You mean it's not required that we allow them to take away rights just to protect us?

Well then, why do people keep trying to let them?

the Talking Can
05-18-2006, 11:30 AM
hogwash...innocent people have no expectation of privacy in a democracy...anyone who disagrees loves terrorists and laughs when Americans die...

patteeu
05-18-2006, 02:44 PM
You mean it's not required that we allow them to take away rights just to protect us?

Well then, why do people keep trying to let them?

hogwash...innocent people have no expectation of privacy in a democracy...anyone who disagrees loves terrorists and laughs when Americans die...

Why does it not surprise me that you two have no real objections to "warrantless wiretaps" as long as it's not the Bush administration implementation?

jAZ
05-18-2006, 02:53 PM
Why does it not surprise me that you two have no real objections to "warrantless wiretaps" as long as it's not the Bush administration implementation?
First, I have not objected to the data-mining project. I've taken a wait and see approach.

Second, I *much* prefer any solution that *tries* to protect my identity over one that feels it's not necessary to do so.

Third, Echelon was a FISA compliant program (http://thinkprogress.org/2005/12/20/the-echelon-myth/).

patteeu
05-18-2006, 03:07 PM
Attention anyone who felt they were deceived by the administration's arguments for war in Iraq:

This article is a good example of the kind of one-sided story that you would be wise to take with a big grain of salt (unless you want to be complaining that you were misled again if/when the actual facts come out).

1) It's unlikely that the government scrapped a program that was superior in every way over the current program. It may have been superior in some ways, and personal politics could have some bearing, but it's unlikely that there were no tradeoffs to consider. I used to work in the defense industry and at one point, my company was in competition with another group of companies to design a next generation aircraft. I wasn't inside either black program so I don't have inside information, but by all white-world accounts, my company's aircraft had superior performance characteristics, superior payload, and superior stealth characteristics. The other design was cheaper and still met the minimum requirements. We lost, they won.

2) If you are willing to believe the government was interested in protecting the civil liberties of innocent US persons using thinthread without a warrant, I don't think there is any reason to believe that the safeguards today's WH says are in place for the same purpose are any less serious protections. We don't know what the current safeguards are, but that's no reason to assume they don't exist. It's up to our representatives in Congress to make sure that the WH doesn't overstep it's bounds in this area. So far, I haven't heard any of the members of Congress who have been briefed on the program complaining about a lack of protection for Constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties.

patteeu
05-18-2006, 03:15 PM
First, I have not objected to the data-mining project. I've taken a wait and see approach.

Second, I *much* prefer any solution that *tries* to protect my identity over one that feels it's not necessary to do so.

Third, Echelon was a FISA compliant program (http://thinkprogress.org/2005/12/20/the-echelon-myth/).

First, I'm not comparing this program to the "data-mining" project, I'm comparing it to the NSA surveillance program that involves content monitoring.

Second, how do you know what safeguards do and don't exist in the current program?

Third, if your only objection to the current warrantless surveillance program is based on a turf war between Congress and the Executive, then there is no reason to complain about taking rights away. Whether or not surveillance is FISA compliant has nothing to do with the rights of those being monitored. It's a separate argument. Some of those who have been briefed on this program think that FISA should be amended to facilitate the program (thereby resolving the turfwar) but none of them have said it is an infringement on individual rights.

jAZ
05-18-2006, 03:15 PM
1) It's unlikely that the government scrapped a program that was superior in every way over the current program. It may have been superior in some ways, and personal politics could have some bearing, but it's unlikely that there were no tradeoffs to consider.
Your hero Dick Cheney has lead a push to expand the power of the Executive Branch. Many (if not every) change enacted by this administration along these lines have been made with that in mind. Make sure you don't over look the "we want to install our world view while we have the power" aspect to any decision made by this administration.

As just one example, the Bush administration got a bunch of positive press recently for wanting to increase fuel standards for vehicles. The devil in the details that was white washed over, was that what Bush actually called for was for Congress to grant him the *power* to set the standards himself. The press spun that as "increasing the standards", but the actual request was simply a request to expand his powers.

jAZ
05-18-2006, 03:21 PM
First, I'm not comparing this program to the "data-mining" project, I'm comparing it to the NSA surveillance program that involves content monitoring.
Then it seems you wish to compare apples (warranted, FISA compliant data mining) to oranges (warrantless, content monitoring wiretaps). That's a non issue.
Second, how do you know what safeguards do and don't exist in the current program?
The details reported so far are of a program that monitors all phone numbers. No metion of similar identity protections. Also reported (here) is a similar program was scrapped that did involve identity protection. We are forced to draw conclusions when we have incomplete information like this. That's one of the down sides of running one of the most secret administrations in history. I'm always open to new facts changing my views.
Third, if your only objection to the current warrantless surveillance program is based on a turf war between Congress and the Executive, then there is no reason to complain about taking rights away.
I'm unaware of anyone suggesting that was the only objection.

Some of those who have been briefed on this program think that FISA should be amended to facilitate the program (thereby resolving the turfwar) but none of them have said it is an infringement on individual rights.
I've said similar things myself.

Taco John
05-18-2006, 03:31 PM
This sounds like cheating on your wife, but insiting that everything is above board because you used a condom...

patteeu
05-18-2006, 03:53 PM
Then it seems you wish to compare apples (warranted, FISA compliant data mining) to oranges (warrantless, content monitoring wiretaps). That's a non issue.

You need to read the article more carefully.

The agency opted instead to adopt only one component of the program, which produced a far less capable and rigorous program. It remains the backbone of the NSA's warrantless surveillance efforts, tracking domestic and overseas communications from a vast databank of information, and monitoring selected calls.

There is no monitoring of selected calls without a warrant reported in the data mining program. OTOH, that's precisely what's been reported about the NSA Surveillance program.

patteeu
05-18-2006, 03:58 PM
The details reported so far are of a program that monitors all phone numbers. No metion of similar identity protections. Also reported (here) is a similar program was scrapped that did involve identity protection. We are forced to draw conclusions when we have incomplete information like this. That's one of the down sides of running one of the most secret administrations in history. I'm always open to new facts changing my views.

Since you are comparing thinthread with the wrong program, it's understandable that you headed down the wrong track with this answer. President Bush has given assurances that procedures developed by the Justice Department protect individuals from abuse of the NSA surveillance program. No details about these safeguards have been provided. Without knowing the details, we can't compare them to what is reported in this article about thinthread. That's exactly what I meant when I said this article only provides one side of the story. If you accept that one-sided story uncritically, you will be in a position to feel misled when both sides come out. That's why people complain about the case made for war in Iraq. They expected a competitive truth when what they should have realized they were hearing was one side of the story.

patteeu
05-18-2006, 04:02 PM
I'm unaware of anyone suggesting that was the only objection.

My objection to your first post in this thread was your implication that rights are being taken away. Responding to my objection with a reference to the turf war aspect of this controversy is off-topic. Your reference to Eschelon being FISA compliant doesn't have anything to do with individual rights, it is only relevant to the turf war portion of the debate.

patteeu
05-18-2006, 04:04 PM
I've said similar things myself.

Then you must agree that there are no rights being violated. Congress doesn't have the authority to pass a law that violates constitutionally guaranteed individual rights any more than the President has the authority to do so without the cover of legislation.

jAZ
05-18-2006, 04:08 PM
Then you must agree that there are no rights being violated. Congress doesn't have the authority to pass a law that violates constitutionally guaranteed individual rights any more than the President has the authority to do so without the cover of legislation.
1) "Constitutionally guaranteed individual rights" does not equal "rights".
2) To be clear, which program are you asking about?

jAZ
05-18-2006, 04:11 PM
President Bush has given assurances...
... of a lot of things. We have no reason to trust his word. None. Facts are what matters at this point given his track record of distortion, lies and parsing to mislead.

patteeu
05-18-2006, 04:16 PM
1) "Constitutionally guaranteed individual rights" does not equal "rights".
2) To be clear, which program are you asking about?

1) What other rights are there? The constitution presumably guarantees all inalienable rights whether explicitly enumerated or not. Can you give me an example of a "right" that isnt' a "constitutionally guaranteed individual right?"

2) I'm talking about the NSA Surveillance program, i.e. the one exposed by James Risen of the NYTimes (as opposed to what you've called the data-mining project, i.e. the one discussed in USA Today recently).

patteeu
05-18-2006, 04:19 PM
... of a lot of things. We have no reason to trust his word. None. Facts are what matters at this point given his track record of distortion, lies and parsing to mislead.

But yet you are perfectly willing to believe without skepticism the claims of an unnamed source (who, if reported accurately, is violating the law by leaking classified information)?

The point wasn't that you have to take Bush's word for it. The point was that you've only heard one side of the story because the administration hasn't seen fit to publicly describe the safeguards that they claim are in place. Due to the sensitive nature of such things, that's the type of thing we need to rely on the check of Congressional oversight to insure.

the Talking Can
05-18-2006, 05:34 PM
can a mod please put a picture of Tony Snow in patteeu's avatar?

patteeu
05-18-2006, 06:06 PM
First, I have not objected to the data-mining project. I've taken a wait and see approach.

Instead of simply focusing on the fact that you were comparing the thinthread program with the wrong current NSA program, I should have also commended you for taking a wait and see approach on the data-mining project. We should all take a wait and see approach more often. I'm a big fan of that.

patteeu
05-18-2006, 06:08 PM
can a mod please put a picture of Tony Snow in patteeu's avatar?

ROFL