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United States

NSA Overwhelmed with Information 204

puppet wrote to us with a CNN article that's currently running. Apparently, the NSA is drowning in information. The agency supposedly has too many targets, too much info and cannot sift through all of it. So, here's to sending out thousands of bogus signals for them to sort through! *grin*
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NSA Overwhelmed with Information

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  • It had to happen eventually... our government is too paranoid for its own good.
  • by WhyteRabbyt ( 85754 ) on Thursday November 25, 1999 @05:41AM (#1505443) Homepage
    ...wouldn't they.

    Just means they need more funding from that nice Mr Clinton person.

    Or are they just letting us know that they're not as scary as we think they are so it's all right, we can just forget about them?

    White Rabbit

  • This was inevitable, unless the NSA somehow managed to get about a decade ahead of the rest of us in information management. There are just too many ways of gathering information.

    As for the problems presented: tapping fibre may be tougher, but once you've tapped it you've huge amounts of information; much more than tapping mere copper would produce.

    Also: the NSA used to have only one country to keep track of? Bullshit. I doubt that China, North korea et al have been left alone except during the last decade.
  • Somehow I suspect this isn't really us. Simple *bomb bomb bomb* *the president will fall* type stuff is unlikely to really even pass algorithmic muster.

    I'm willing to keep pulling for it though... I drop a few phrases here and there in random emails. Maybe I should develop more friends in the Middle East...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 25, 1999 @05:45AM (#1505446)
    If they make a distributed client at NSA, we could help them process all that delicious information. I'd love to get my hands on other people's secrets.
  • I agree, this was inevitable.

    Information volume is growing exponentially - especially on the Internet, where it probably will have left non-online volume behind - and information-gathering power by any single entity is linear. Sooner or later it becomes an impossible task.

    Unless they decentralize completely, and assign this to distributed nodes - a worm in each router, or something like that - which doesn't seem likely anytime soon, either.

  • Maybe they should release a distributed client for it. NoSuchCrackClient2000! I'd run it.
  • Curses! AC stole my joke.
  • by Christopher B. Brown ( 1267 ) <cbbrowne@gmail.com> on Thursday November 25, 1999 @05:53AM (#1505451) Homepage
    This is clear evidence that spook.el [tbtf.com] works...

    terrorist Marxist FSF North Korea security South Africa nuclear DES Semtex KGB FBI Noriega colonel NSA SEAL Team 6 nuclear Ortega PLO supercomputer Treasury terrorist assassination Semtex [Hello to all my fans in domestic surveillance] Serbian fissionable FBI spy arrangements Kennedy Noriega cracking Nazi Ft. Meade Marxist Waco, Texas cryptographic genetic Cocaine jihad

  • by komet ( 36303 ) on Thursday November 25, 1999 @05:53AM (#1505452) Homepage
    Don't believe this! It's misinformation intended to make us complacent, thinking that the NSA will miss our plans to Ussama bin Laden World Trade Center bomb President Clinton American Embassy Iran missile or what ever... they have plenty of capacity and just released this information to trap the smart guys who can see through their plans, cos THEY'RE the really dangerous ones.. oh. oops.
  • by Rob the Roadie ( 2950 ) on Thursday November 25, 1999 @05:54AM (#1505453) Homepage
    The NSA aren't the only people suffering from information overload. What about Jo Public?

    Each day I've got access to around 120 channels of television, 40 radio stations, over 200 trade publications and some 400 hours of music and 230 books that I can choose from each day.

    And then there's the internet. Gig upon gig upon gig of data available for my consumption. Perhaps I should start employing people just to absorb and review information for me each day and email me a digest!
  • by PenguinX ( 18932 ) on Thursday November 25, 1999 @05:55AM (#1505454) Homepage
    Here's the problem with the NSA:

    What do they do? attrition.org [attrition.org] has some interesting ideas, not to mention a few facts. One thing is for certian hey sure spend a lot of money and generate a lot of international bad press.

    Who do they protect? Do they protect the people, or the government? If they protect the government and that's it then they are unethical, immoral, and most importantly illegal. This puts the government in a dictatory position over the people. According to the US Constution we are to have a "representative " and "republican" form of government.

    Getting back to the money: Echelon, which Australia supposedly says exsists - the EU and China sure hate the NSA - gee that's most of the world. The United States is gaining a lot of enemies because of the NSA - I wonder why... Essentially constutional rights can be usurped if the NSA says it is to "protect national security" or in laymans terms "usurp the governments power over the people". This is utter bullshit.

    The US Fed. Government is crap in my opinion. They have alienated the states, and local governments. Tied up the busines owner and tax the hell out of the end person. For instance if my friend Mark was to make 2 thousand dollars more a YEAR he would be pushed into such a high tax bracket that he would _literally_ be paying 43 percent of his income to the IRS alone.

    Are we going to let the Government be seperate of the people forever? Career politicians that make deals with commercial lobbists in order to have the funds for their next campaign? Hell everything is so commercialized anymore it's disgusting. The problem here is that the government does not need to make a profit, or spend money on crap programs such as "The study of the flow rate of Catsup" OR the NSA.

    But then again, that's my opinion... what's yours?
  • There are no reasons why a spy agency would come out in the open and say "We can't do our job", unless they really could and had an ulterior motive.

    It's a game of poker, you want to make your opponents think something that isn't true. Getting funding from the government might be a very good reason, and so might making the opponents think this player is about to go bust!

  • I agree with you completely. Where does CNN get their information for a story like this? The NSA is secretive and powerful enough that they could tell Congress to take a walk when Congress wanted to find out what all the money was being spent on. Yet, CNN was able to uncover the dirt? Yeah, right.

    Either CNN is just exploiting the recent attention on Echelon to get more mindshare (IMHO, the more likely case), or Ted Turner had a visit from some MIB who explained how it was in their mutual best interest to run stories downplaying the effectiveness of the NSA and similar organizations

  • Has nobody realised that CETI and other distributed clients in reality are funded by NSA and are used as dataanalyzers.

    All the hype about keys etc is nothing but cosmetics.
  • by The Dodger ( 10689 ) on Thursday November 25, 1999 @06:00AM (#1505458) Homepage

    The British Empire once stretched across the globe and it wasn't until Hong Kong was handed back to the Chinese that the sun finally set on it. The UK used to be the most powerful nation in the world, but it is no longer, and that realisation was a hard one to swallow. It's only recently that the Brits have begun to lose their superiority complex, characterised, for example, by their reluctance to fully participate in the European Union.

    However, they did eventually come to realise that Britain was no longer a global superpower, and the UK is now doing quite well for itself, that-you-very-much. They no longer rely on brute force to achieve what they want. Practically everyone knows the SAS' motto: Who Dares Wins. That typifies the British attitude which resulted in them standing firm against tyrannic regimes such as Nazi Germany and Iraq. Less well know is the Special Boat Squadron, an elite force which draws it's members from the Royal Marines (think of it as the UK equivalent of the SEALs). The SBS motto is: Not by Strength, By Guile. The UK continues to exert immense geopolitical influence by dint of it's diplomatic and intelligence assets, which it utilises in a subtle manner. Lacking the brute strength to effectively bully or intimidate other nations into doing what it wants, the UK uses less obvious, more sneaky methods to achieve it's aims.

    So what has this got to do with the NSA? I hear you cry. Well, I think that the United States of America is going to have to face the same reality as the UK had to - that it no longer has the capability to ake problems disappear by simply throwing resources at them. Just as the Web levelled the playing field in terms of business, allowing companies like Amazon to appear overnight, the sociological, technological and economic developments which have occured since the end of the Cold War are levelling the playing field in a much wider range of areas, from economic to military/intelligence.

    The NSA doesn't need to get stronger. It needs to get smarter. It needs to understand better how to pursue it's aims, within the big picture of the world at the beginning of the 21st century. If it tries to cling on to it's position, using the old methods, it will get swept away. Only by adapting to the New World Order (for want of a better phrase), can it survive and continue to fulfil it's mission.

    Let's face it guys - even though you all bitch about the NSA, Echelon, the CIA, etc., you all know that they do a lot to protect your way of life. There are entire nations for whom 'Death to America!' is a perfectly legitimate political declaration. Fair enough, there are situations where the intelligence community has overstepped it's mark, but do you really think they give a flying f**k about a bunch of Linux-loving, long-haired nerds?

    ..is for Dangerous.

  • Keep in mind that the NSA probably has filters to ignore any lists of suspicious word that are immediately followed by a smiley ;-)
  • I guess NSA should make their own distributed project so people can help the government invade their privacy themselves. Power to the people. Somebody should make a fake press release of the above and post it to segfault ;)
  • In that Cray FAQ, that the NSA owns the most Super Computers (near Fort Meade) than anyone else in the world. I for one, can barely comprehend what that many machines could be doing at full capacity (to make them worth their insane cost).

    Maybe, THEY have a "distributed" client, between all of their massive super computers, to review ALL of the data pouring through the internet (every day??) ?

    Scary thought...

    -Dextius Alphaeus
  • The CIA, NSA, and the entire alphabet soup of intelligence agencies ARE for the most part people paid to absorb and review information each day, and to produce digests, handed to people over them who produce more digests, until it either gets to the President or gets dumped in a filing cabinet.

    The skullduggery (asassinations and sabotage) are actually a secondary mission and not that common, especially in these post cold-war days.
  • That's the real reason they didn't pick up on the Indian Missile tests, the Indian communication was littered with smileys, rendering it invisible to the NSA ;-)

    Perhaps with phone tapping, they filter out anything said in a sarcastic tone of voice ... Hmmmm - maybe I can patent that idea ...
  • but do you really think they give a flying f**k about a bunch of Linux-loving, long-haired nerds?

    Well, that's kind of the point, isn't it?

    Interested in XFMail? New XFMail home page [slappy.org].

  • Isn't that the bridge from MARRS' "Pump Up The Volume"?

  • Maybe that's why they want the info about the serial numbers on the P3 :)
  • by Brian Knotts ( 855 ) <bknotts@cascadea ... com minus distro> on Thursday November 25, 1999 @06:12AM (#1505467)
    M-x spook, and other means of inserting suspicious keywords are nice, but imagine how much more material we could make the NSA chase if even half your outgoing mail was PGP encrypted!

    If you don't have GnuPG or PGP, get it now, and start using it!

    Interested in XFMail? New XFMail home page [slappy.org].

  • >Ted Turner had a visit from some MIB

    Or it could have been a MIG (man in gray) who has decided that it suits somebodies political agenda to damage the NSA by implying that they cant do their job properly....

  • The Internet creates mountains of public -- not secret -- data that needs to be analyzed -- a job for which expensive eavesdropping equipment is of no use.

    Perhaps the best way to keep something secret is to make it public?

  • Hahaha, wasn't the NSA playing a big role in restricting export of encryption software? Too bad! By enforcing silly, short-sighted, frog-in-the-well laws limiting the power of encryption software in the US, they've just shot themselves in the foot. Now the US is crippled with respect to encryption, and in the meantime, projects like GnuPG, being developed way beyond the reach of agencies like NSA, are giving everybody else, like the common everyday Joe, access to powerful encryption.

    Let's see how much "intelligence" they can gather, when one day encryption is used by default on the Internet. Billions upon billions of encrypted transmissions across every Internet linkk everyday, 99% of which is irrelevent. Fine, use the most powerful computers and cracking tools and what-not against it, this is the point of diminishing returns. You spend 99% of your processing power to decode useless transmissions like letters the common Joe writes to his wife. If you ask me, this is a dead-end. A really dead end.

    It's about time people start realizing that the age of the Internet necessitates a totally new, different set of rules, and totally new, different ways of doing things. Traditional methods are totally useless in this new medium. Wake up, people! :-)

  • by Sorklin ( 88002 ) on Thursday November 25, 1999 @06:26AM (#1505475)
    So when do we reach critical mass? As technology improves, and the power to encrypt and maintain your own privacy improves to the astronomical level -- i see one of two things happening.

    1. The NSA routes around the problems using the U.S. government. Using new laws forbidding the use of private security and encryption (in the name of something like national security or other constitutional loophole) -- the NSA can then grow and be able to monitor all the informations on the many different channels it now comes around. This is a changing-the-rules to get around the critical mass. May happen. Though our constitution and the nature of the net make it difficult at best (unless we go behind a national firewall like china).

    2. Critical mass is reached with no workable route around and the NSA is rendered fairly innefectual. Realizing they can't monitor every channel and can't limit the channels everyone can use, they start doing their real job and specifically targeting that information they need and find the criminals/terrorists that they need to. They won't be extrememly effective, but will more rely on tips or other info (like the police have to).

    Perhaps these predictions are a bit simplistic. Okay maybe a bit more than a bit. But I believe that the essential point is critical mass will be reached, and they will either 1. change the rules to push back the critical mass, 2. succumb to it and have to operate like any other agency that isn't given root access to the world.

  • I can't believe you are all falling for this obvious red herring. The NSA *wants* you to believe they are overloaded so you will begin to be incautious and start to send your underground mails unencrypted. The arrests will begin soon.

    This in turn is a cover up move intended to draw away media attention from the impending invasion of Europe, to stop Intel from investing in Suse. And who is behind all this do you ask? Microsoft of course!!! They are the only ones who benifit from the P3 markings, which will be used to crack down on piracy of Microsoft Paint. By forcing all to use Pentium 3 and cutting investments in Linux Bill Gates will soon recover all ground lost, and with Eschelon to aid him his world domination plans are soon fulfilled.

    I am so happy I found Slashdot, I get *ALL* my world news I need here.


    ************************************************ ***

  • the NSA doesn't do shit for me, it only invades my privacy. And destroy america should be a perfectly acceptable political statement in the USA too.
    Freedom of speech and all that. first get privacy, freedom of speech will automatically follow..

  • "genetic Cocaine jihad?" Now THERE'S a band name.
  • The timing for last night's Voyager episode was perfect in its parallel to today's NSA story.

    *spoilers below* (but it's only a Voyager episode)

    7of9 makes a machine to download hoards of the ship's records (including all archives) down to her while she sleeps/regenerates.

    Over a series of days, each time she awakes from this, she comes up with more and more elaborate conspiracy theories about the crew and the past 5 years to try to put order to the overwhelming mass of information which comes to her without order.

    She gets irritable and starts pacing a lot (which isn't a bad thing necessarily) and starts telling certain people in secret what her theories are.

    Eventually she has a theory about virtually everybody she knows (even Naomi Wildman).

    The parallel breaks down though since she wasn't paranoid initially but became that way with overwhelming amounts of data to sift. But the NSA started out paranoid before they got overwhelmed.

  • Perhaps with phone tapping, they filter out anything said in a sarcastic tone of voice

    I can just hear the terrorist's now:

    So, I suppose you think the plans are in place?, Huh!"

    Oh,YEAH!, sure they are!

  • Isn't this like drawing the attention of people away from the real issue? They should probably not be collecting this information in the first place! Now, instead of having a bunch of people shouting, "you shouldn't be doing this!", they have a group shouting, "HA! Told you it would never work!", whilst the NSA really can handle the information and just sits back and relaxes, confident in that noone thinks of the real issue any more.
  • by fwr ( 69372 ) on Thursday November 25, 1999 @06:37AM (#1505482)
    Here's a conspiracy theory for you:

    Ever wonder about all those massive fiber cuts that have been going on in the past few months? There was that one in New York, then I think one in Ohio or something. Then wasn't there just one in Florida or something. These massive fiber cuts are the perfect opportunity for the NSA or someone else to tap into them. Gotta wonder about that!

  • I'm surprised someone hasn't tried setting up a ring of automated servers across the country that simply send er, terminologically-enhanced e-mail to one another. This would certainly give the NSA something to sniff about.
  • Okay, I can understand that a lot of people out there have a real problem with the thought that the NSA may be listening to them. I can understand being mad at them for doing this, but do it really matter? No, it doesn't matter that they maybe be recording the conversation you had with your wife last night. It matters if you plan on blowing something up. In other words, if you don't have anything huge to hide, the NSA really doesn't care that much.

    Now, can we get off the NSA fixation?
  • Well I don't know... But if used up all this
    fibers might produce some multiple of all the data
    SETI produces in a given interval of time, and if
    it also is encrypted just forget it.

    I gess, anyway.

    rm *
  • Interesting. Like most readers, I am suspicous of the motives, modus operandi and general existence of the NSA.

    To hear any words coming out about them suffering teacup-in-front-of-a-Firehose syndrome is interesting, if not immediately trustworthy.

    However, given that data gathering and the associated data management is their entire raison d'etre, I've always thought the best way the NSA could serve their country would be to be a bit more open about the tools, techniques and processes they use for this.

    Think about it. We now live in a wired world. I have terrabytes of data at my fingertips - some local, most remote. Managing access to that is a nightmare, and there are no effective tools.

    Why aren't the NSA making their work public on this? Don't you 'merkins, as tax payers, have a right to that information? Wouldn't that make you undisputed world-leaders in information management if you did?

    Sod privacy, ignore conspiracy.. Fight for your rights to dominate the IT field. Get commercial interests involved (hey, if they don't buckle under to the almightly dollar, why would they stick to the law?).

    henley, who is in a get-em-any-way-you-can mood today.

  • by trims ( 10010 ) on Thursday November 25, 1999 @06:50AM (#1505487) Homepage

    When people look at the leaked numbers supposing to approximate the budget of NSA (last I saw, the estimate was in the $20billion range) and the number of people (maybe 30,000 or so), everyone seems to assume that they're all codebreaking wizards. This is stupid - it's like assuming that the CIA is full of James Bond people. What people seem to forget is what the money actually goes to, and you'll see why the NSA is having problems keeping up with it's mission:

    • Huge chunks of the budget go to the development, manufacture, and maintenance of reconisance satellites. While the NRO shares responsibility for operational use and control of many of these satellites, these puppies cost as much as $2billion a pop to MAKE. With the increasing demand by the US Armed Services for realtime battlefield data, the NSA has had to increase the number of satellites it orbits. Last time I looked, we had something like 8 KH-11 (and followon) low-orbit visual sats, at least two dozen radio-intercept sats, at least that many radar sats, and maybe a dozen other types. Figuring that each one costs on the order of $1billion to develop/make/launch/maintain, and you use it for about a decade before it's gone, around $8 billion each year goes to simply running the satelite section of the NSA.
    • Vast numbers of NSA employees are working as liasons with other Federal Agencies. CIA, DIA, FBI, DOJ (oh, yeah, them too), and the various Armed Services Intelligence sections all have substantial "NSA" people working with them. This has gotten alot "worse" (from the NSA prospective), since virtually none of the other organizations has the kind of experience the NSA has, and have been calling on the NSA more and more for assistance. Most of the FBI knowledge about hacking, cracking, and sigint has been from the NSA. And they're getting tapped for help from people that 10 years ago they never would have dreamed of being require to talk to: FAA, DOT, FEMA, and even the Dept of Agriculture.
    • In the last decade, with the rise of the Internet, the NSA has started to run field operations, something they never had to do before on any real scale. Alot of this is in conjunction with the FBI and law enforcement, but there's involvement with FEMA and even things like the DOE and NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission). Alot of these teams are doing security auditing (ala "Sneakers"), but even more are simply helping the department in question set up proper defences and auditing proceedures. Never underestimate the cost (in dollars, people, and beauracracy) of running a real field operations branch.

    With all these extra "duties" that people seem to forget about, I doubt that the NSA spends more than $1b on actual codebreaking each year. And, from the people I know that are involved in some of this, I've gleanned something that I think is significant: While I believe that the NSA retains probably a 10-year lead in the mathematics of cryptography, they have now less than 2 years lead in actual hardware Moore's Law has been very hard on the NSA. While they used to be able to count on having not only unheard-of advances in crypto knowledge but much, much faster and more advanced computers, they now no longer have the significantly advanced machinery. Being perhaps only a single interation ahead, rather than 4 or 5, cuts their advantage down by an order of magnitude.

    So, you get an organization that faces an explosion of new requirements, heavier demands in it's old field(s), and a decrease in technological advantage over it's opponents, and well, Things Are Not Going Well At The NSA.

    Mind you, they're still very sharp, and what they put their mind and resources to, I'm pretty sure will happen; the problem is now, that in order to focus on a problem, they end up neglecting other areas.

    Fun, Fun, Fun!


    Disclaimer: I do not work for the NSA (or, at least, I can't say so...)

  • I seriously don't understand what people have a problem with this for. In the current state of the worlds military powers, things are the most undefined that they ever were. (Wow, did that make sense? I think its still too early...) The government is rightly concerned about being a target for a terrorist attack. The other countries that we are not so friendly with would not resort to a full on attack. That would be ludicrous. The new undefined fields of battle are urban areas, and terrorism is the tactic of choice. We (the defense industry) listen to all kinds of briefings stating this over and over. The NSA has a job of trying to protect the government and the citizens of this country. They don't read everything they get.

    They look for certain words. Whats wrong with this? Those that aren't doing anything wrong wont be messed with. Only those that have a reason to be afraid need to be. I just think its completely irresponsible to try to flood the system. It puts you on a list you probably don't want to be on. If they see a message like "That party was the bomb," or any other harmless message, they don't even blink twice. Poeple need to be aware of the overall picture of what is going on. This whole up in arms about privacy being invaded is lame. Unless you give _them_ a reason to invade your privacy, it wont be. Think about it...

  • Of course the PRESIDENT NSA is loaded with information. They take any and every BOMB piece of dirt on someone and store it away in WASHINGTON filing systems just to sit there and wait for it to be reviewed. While it's stored in BILL CLINTON their systems, the NSA is collecting more and more TERRORISTS information on top of the stuff they already have.

    *Cough*Cough* ECHELON *Cough*Cough* Evil *Cough*

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • you all know that they do a lot to protect your way of life.

    When did my way of life rely on complicity in the assasination of democratically elected heads of state (Allende, Lumumba, et al.) ? American foreign policy throughout the entire 20th century has been inept and blundering, where brutish attempts to over-rule populations in the interests of US business (pre-war, how about Panama or the Phillipines) has frequently back-fired (Ho Chi Minh was originally trained by the USA as a nationalist resistance fighter against the Japanese)in a way that reflects badly on America and often far worse on other "Western" nations (As a Brit, I'm only just now re-establishing diplomatic relations with Libya, no thanks to an ineffectual US bombing raid).

    Uncle Sam clearly wants to be the World's Policeman. Unfortunately he's more of the pig-bellied donut-swilling redneck with a fondness for beating up Rodney King, than the firm-jawed Harrison Ford hero that the US would like us to believe.

    Just for the record, the CIA aren't killing on my behalf.

  • For all we know, the SETI distributed find-the-aliens project could have a little "rider" in it to help out our friends at No Such Agency. I mean, that program just cranks out numbers and the response isn't "found the key!" it's "Nope, no aliens found yet." Uh... ok... Guess I better keep running this until we do.

    In fact, who knows what the hell any of the non-open source distributed programs are doing?

    Wait a second... Who knows what ANY non open source program is REALLY doing?

  • So, jam echelon day worked after all :-)

  • > They look for certain words. Whats wrong with
    > this? Those that aren't doing anything wrong
    > wont be messed with

    Gee, that's a familiar phrase ... The police stopped and questioned you? Well, if you haven't committed a crime, you have no cause for concern. They've taken your son in for questioning? I didn't realize some of your family was criminal. You haven't seen your sister in weeks? What do you suppose she had done, that would make her want to hide?

    Don't forget that legal activities such as opposing nuclear weapons, war ( VietNam ), oppressive gevernments such as China and East Timor are or have been regular suppressed violently around the world, including Canada nad the US.
  • OK, now let's play "pile on the man with the ball."

    I'm going to start using PGP for every inocuous message sent my technology friends. (e.g. How was that sandwich yesterday? Mmmm mmm.)

    At last I will have the warm fuzzies of *looking* like I'm up to no good.

  • by bug ( 8519 )
    Actually, because good string-searching algorithms are sub-linear in efficiency, providing goobeldy gook from ciphertext would do no good whatsoever. Any decent algo would recognize it as worthless to it very quickly and then move on. It is extremely unlikely that echelon keeps ciphertext for cracking except for perhaps some individual targets.

    It would be better to either provide strings that will probably match their rules, or ones that will come close to matching. For instance, "xerrorist xomb xartel xuclear xspionage" would probably put a strain on a Boyer-Moore string-searching algorithm (and without actually flagging your communications, so you'd still stay clean!).
    Unfortunately, I would rather doubt that we could so much as put a dent into an echelon-like system without MASSIVE participation. In any case, do we really WANT to try to subvert the folks who play a large roll in protecting us from legitimate threats? This problem needs to be addressed with legislation, not with self-destructive subversive acts.
  • I think that the real problem with the NSA's collection is that there is so much available information, you have to have a focus.

    The NSA exists solely to give the US Government advanced warning of military actions around the world and to give our troops the best chances for success at beating on other countries. Have you ever thought about how the Director of the NSA is a military officer?

    However, the NSA is controlled by the President. He is the Commander-in-Chief of the military (even if they won't admit it) He gives the direction to the NSA as far as where his priorities are. For example, his priorities (and therefore the nation's priorities) are most likely A) Protect the US troops in the former Yugoslavia from the Yugoslavians B) Protect the US Troops overseas from terrorism C) Identify and overwatch programs to develop or proliferate Weapons of Mass Destruction D) Get Ken Starr (not really, I don't think DIRNSA or the NSC would allow that). Beyond that, it's anybody's guess. Thing is, the President drives intelligence collection, and if he doesn't know what his foreign policy is, how the hell can the National Intelligence community?

    The heart of the matter is that since most of the operations that our soldiers (or airmen, sailors, or jarheads, can you tell that I'm a part-time infantryman and military historian) are on deal with peacekeeping, the intelligence effort has changed from collecting on fixed military locations, with military activity that is fairly predictable and routine, to Small Groups of Pissed-off People (SGOPP's). These SGOPPs sometimes don't even have communications devices to look for. This includes insurgent guerillas (or freedom fighters, if you prefer) that only surface when they conduct raids.

    However, if you are a fan of the government, or if you treasure the *relative* freedoms that we have, all is not lost. There are other intelligence organizations out there that have better capabilities when it comes to SGOPPs, such as the NRO, CNN, and CIA. Intelligence collection is a concerted effort between different agencies to either confirm or reject theories about what's happening.

    By-the-by, I am not some neo-fascist, right-wing conservative. I live in Eugene, OR, and I love hippies, Saturday Market, and treesitters. Most of the time, I argue the "Other Side" just to get out an opposing view. I believe that you become what you hate. If you hate war, you create an army to protect youself. If you hate being spied on by the NSA, you in turn spy on the NSA.

    Well, that's my $0.02.

  • With your privacy going to the drain thanks to the NSA, your right to knowledge too thanks to the DMCA, your democracy allowing a certain form of corruption called lobbying... shouldn't it be time that Americans stop to be proud that they have still (mostly) the same constitution and change it to give more control back to the peoples?

    America: Land of Freedom, my ass, I prefer to stay in Europe.
  • by Andy Social ( 19242 ) on Thursday November 25, 1999 @07:17AM (#1505502) Homepage
    The following are my opinions, not my employer's.

    We exist to protect the United States of America, not any particular government. I happen to think (as an intelligent, skeptical, and cynical person) that we USUALLY do a good job of that. Have you any idea how much of a threat North Korea is? I do. Alas, the requirement to keep secrets from our "enemies" (defined by politicians, since we are merely instruments of policy, not policy-makers), requires that we keep secrets from our own citizens. For that matter, it requires that we keep secrets between individuals and organizations within the intel community itself.

    Now, on to my personal opinions. We, as a country, have WAY too much federal government. Look at the original intent of the Constitution, and compare it to the monstrosity we have today. Notice that before 1860, the United States were a plural, and since then, the United States is a singular. Notice the subtle, yet significant, shift in our perceptions as a result of that change. I personally don't believe that we have any reason to spend as much as we do and send our military to as many places as we do. However, as I said before, I am an instrument of policy, not a policy-maker. So, yes sir no sir and away I go.

    As far as Echelon and such goes, since it's not my department, nobody will even tell me if it really exists, and I'm working for the NSA. BUT, it seems to be technically possible, and the AU and NZ governments are up in arms about their roles, so it seems to be true. NOW, think for a minute about all the IMPORTANT information that this program should be looking for. (BTW, I think snooping on a public international network is lower than dogshit, but it's not my call) With all the info that the NSA is actually looking for, your personal conversations (esp. the encrypted ones) are pretty safe. The Dictionary system appears to use keyword searches and originating country searches combined. So, unless you're sending messages to China, containing words about nuclear weapons and such, I'd not be remotely concerned.

    All that said, read Puzzle Palace for info on the origins of the NSA. Most people on this site have pretty good knowledge of the issues, but since the No Such Agency is so secretive, there is an awful lot of misinformation floating around about it.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The CNN report has all the signs of a puff piece. The two congressmen cited obviously are grinding a funding axe, and I'm sure if you followed the trail you'd find a press release was the inspiration to this story. This means of course that we'll be hearing a lot in the next few months about how badly NSA needs more money, a better legislative environment, blah-blah.

  • I dont think the NSA is not aware of every possible sorting algorithm that ever existed. On the other hand, CNN has never had too little DISinformation to manipulate our perception on such things.

    Without music, life would be an error.
  • by fwad ( 94117 )
    If you don't have GnuPG or PGP, get it now, and start using it!

    Why - it's crackable in real time anyway - you just don't know about it yet. In fact, encrypting would help the powers that be a lot - sources and destinations of the communication become much easier to trace
  • by Yebyen ( 59663 )
    They would want you to think that... wouldn't they. Think about it... Hmm Why would the national security agency be letting the world know it can't handle security??? This would sure not be a good move for pr or such. I think that they just told us this because they want us to think that, so we let our guards down and don't worry so much about being cracked by the nsa... or maybe that's what they want us to think!! Maybe they just want us to think that they're not busted up because they really are and don't want to get cyberattacked up the wazoo! Thanks for reading my rant :-)

  • If you look at the Top 500 supercomputers, the Hitachi supercomputer at some Japanese university has a fraction of the processors of any of the other Crays and is still up in the top 5 I believe.

    But these are only the top 500 computers that people are happy for you to know about - they are slow, just puppies by 'other' standards.

  • Have you any idea how much of a threat North Korea is? I do.

    North Korea is a tiny underdeveloped remote country with a couple of million starving farmers. Its closed off, but it is currently without a strong leader, money, or support from larger countries.

    If that little shit of a dictorship is the biggest threat you can think of for the entire, hundred times larger and a million times richer, western world, then we are truly right. Its beginning to sound like the NRA people arguing how they need bazookas to hunt rabbits...

    "Do you know how dangerous a rabid bunny can be? I do!"

    We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.
  • by Christopher B. Brown ( 1267 ) <cbbrowne@gmail.com> on Thursday November 25, 1999 @07:40AM (#1505510) Homepage
    If people post .signatures that contain "spooky" words, or have news header line like X-NSA-Fodder: guns cuba NSA president assassination This represents stuff that is pretty easy to filter out.

    The same is true if some people send "terminologically-enhanced email" around in quantity; some analyst is reasonably likely to notice it, and find some way of filtering it to some degree.

    What would be more likely to cause consternation would be to have larger quantities of encrypted traffic. If, for instance, CVS and FTP archives started using GPG [gnupg.org] to encrypt all file transfer information in transit, this would cause more traffic where it may make it hard to tell if it's suspicious or not.

    The entertaining option would be to use something like unto stenography...

    This would involve taking "raw" messages, compressing and encrypting them using something like Blowfish. And then transforming them into masses of "dangerous terminology," compressing and maybe again encrypting that, and then transmitting this.

    Thus, if we start with message "M," we do: % cat M | gzip - | blowfish -e -k "tata, NSA" > N We now have a file, N, that's hopefully small, and reasonably encrypted.

    Now, pass it through a transformation where we turn it into a sequence of "dangerous words." The simplest option looks like:

    • ASCII 0 maps to "NSA"
    • ASCII 1 maps to "President"
    • ASCII 3 maps to "Ortega"
    • ASCII 4 maps to "Semtex"
    • and so forth...

    The obvious answer here is to pick the 256 best "dangerous words;" having only 64 would amount to a perverse equivalent to Base64 encoding; having 4000 words makes life more entertaining.

    Another alternative would be not to pick words, but rather to pick phrases in some manner from some controversial essays/books, so that we're not merely getting random words, but rather sets of words that go together to appear to be in a vaguely meaningful sequence. Information Retrieval: Algorithms and Data Structures [uchile.cl] might have something to offer here. The idea is to pick from the ways that words were phrased in some text, so that the results at least vaguely look like something one might write.

    You'll then get the original 500 byte message to expand out to something like 50K of "steganography." Fortunately, that 50K will be highly compressible English text. (Unless, of course, you picked some subversive book written in Russian as the "steganographic dictionary," in which case it'll be 50K of highly compressible Russian text.)

    Compress again, encrypt into submission, and send that CVS patch over to the GnuCash archives...

  • The Internet creates mountains of public -- not secret -- data that needs to be analyzed
    So... is this proof that there is an Echlon or something similar to it?

    If you think you know what the hell is going on you're probably full of shit.
  • Perhaps what the NSA needs to do is make use of their mass popularity among the geek crowd and develop a distributed approach to cracking down on wrongful thinking.

    Just imagine -- you download a screensaver that uses your system's spare cycles to analyze a chunk of suspicious data. If it should prove to be a legitimate thought crime, your system sends out the orders directly to the silent black helicopters. Let's see, we could call it SPOOK@home.

    I think it's something we all owe to the NSA -- don't you?
  • It also happens to have one of the largest standing armies in the world. And the fact that they (the army) are well fed, would lead to the starving farmers. Oh and the slight fact that they do have missles that CAN reach Japan, not to forget their biological weapon technology. All in all I think it is best NOT to underestimate a country that is so volitile. Because of its weak state it makes it much bigger problem.
  • I'd say it's time for the federal government to step in when some states think it's OK for people to be owned by other people, don't you?

    And living conditions are still incredibly variable from state to state. Sure, we're all "Americans" here, but the two years I went to school in another state did seem almost like being in another country, as did the week I spent in San Francisco. YMMV, of course, and the change from NY to Pennsylvania doesn't feel as drastic. Hell, even upstate and downstate NY sometimes feel like foreign countries to each other. :)

  • In some ways, the accessibility of large quantities of information is a good thing. In other ways, it's bad. Why is it bad?

    1. Info-addicts like me end up in all kinds of interesting trouble at work (that's why I've semi-disappeared from /. BTW ... work took my access away).

    2. More importantly IMHO, the lowest common denominator is STILL pandered to. What good are multiple cable channels when they're all taken up by Monica Lewinsky, old B movies (that aren't even so-good-they're-bad), and syndicated re-runs of shows that weren't worth watching the first time around?

  • It's awfully funny when Anonymous Cowards bitch about /.ers who supposedly know too little and whine too much.

    There's no doubt that we have way too much Federal Government. Ever since about 1914 when the Feds forced an Income Tax on us, the FG has grown exponentially, sucking the juices from our freedoms and our economy. The NSA is just the tip of the iceberg of the kind of meddling dumped on us by people who have too much of our money and too little respect for us as individuals.

    /.ers who participate in the least government-regulated part of our economy: computers and software, should thank their lucky stars that the worst thing that can happen to them is to have Bill Gates investigated for monopolism. If we don't do something about that and all the other niggling little interferences in our lives perpetrated out of the District of Criminals, things will get worse. Much worse.

  • Explain your take on it? Just saying that I'm a "...ignorant, spoiled sons of bitch..." doesn't help your point be made at all.

    I am certian that people would love to hear you with an actual argument not just bitching about my opinion.
  • I totally agree - we no longer have a government representative of the people - regardless of our prosperity we should try to live up to what we expect of other countries, and practice what we preach.
  • I'd say it's time for the federal government to step in when some states think it's OK for people to be owned by other people, don't you?
    Not me. The whole tradition of slavery was on the way out when Mr. Lincoln enslaved the rest of us with what amounts to martial law. He was the first one to impose an (unconstitutional, it was later decided) income tax. He was the first one to force the sacrifice of the lives of the best and the brightest in a draft (because fighting the South was an unpopular cause and people had to be forced to do it).

    Juries in the North were refusing to convict people who gave safe harbour to former slaves, and that humane tradition was beginning to filter down South.

    Instead of the massive, horrible, and tremendous death and destruction of the Civil War, we might have abolished slavery in the same period of time by merely publicizing that every citizen on a jury has not only the right but the duty to judge both the law and the facts in any case brought before him/her.

    That right and that duty remain today. Were every /.er to judge the IRS, the BATF, the DEA and every other unconstitutional branch of the Federal Government in their juries, many of the so-called powers of the Federal Government would just evaporate.

  • Th1s explains why M$ WORD (and other m$-th1ng$) is so slow, machine-eater.
  • Interesting take, I did actually go to the army at one time after getting called. The recruiter was nice, honest, and didn't bug me like the air force guy ... however he said that I had the highest asvab scores he'd seen in a long time, and handed me a card for someone in the NSA -- said I would be "better used" there. I sort of said thanks but no thanks ;) I wouldn't mind knowing just what we pay for - I mean the org. is living off of taxpayer money.

    At any rate, alas tis time to return to work.
  • What about to get your hands on YOUR secrets collected by them :-> ??
  • I'm sure that sales of the Playstation2 and the G4 will soon topple the NSA's exclusive hold on supercomputers.

    Let's face it, facts like that are simply relics of what the intelligence industry used to be founded on. Back in the day, computer manufacturers could only make the top-of-the-line computers for governments and those with similar budgets. Now, the entire computer industry and its advances are being driven by the consumer market. Manufacturers make more profit designing faster consumer-aimed machines that will sell in the millions, rather than designing multimillion dollar machines that sell in the dozens. And new technology breakthroughs from R&D labs are out in the marketplace within a few years, far too quick for groups like the NSA to keep any serious computing advantage for long.

    As someone else has already said, intelligence agencies are going to have to get SMARTER, rather than trying to fulfill their wet dream of an Orwellian overseeing of all the world's information.

  • Well, it's not regulated - yet... Hell there's a tax on marriage... You must pay a 25 dollar "processing fee" when found "not guilty" in small claims court, sales tax to the state (depending on your state) and another 30-40 percent to the IRS... Unless the people speak up and ask what the hell is going on it will only get worse. That's why I have my Slashdot soapbox :)

    As per the Microsoft thing - I actually am very impressed with the Attorney General office right now, sure Janet Reno may be rather odd - but she has made certian that the law is being upheld, especially in new and developing technologies. New things are easiest to corrupt, especially because of the appeal, awe, and misgivings that they hold.
  • Remember the "quantic computer"? I find such agencies are natural candidates for acquiring one, when available. The implosion of these agencies will be consequence of the evolution of humankind, through the walk beyond the nowadays "order of things" (the extreme exploit of the so-called "3rd World" by the so-called "1st World", for example). When domination is not necessary, NSA will be obsolete.
  • At least the original post had some content. The best you could muster was a worthless opinion and an insult. What'll you do for your next trick, dickbag?

    - A.P.

    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • Yeowch. I hope they at least use DVDs or something else with a little bit of capacity, and not just floppy disks. Poor guy.

    - A.P.

    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Nobody got it. This article was a good shot to spread FUD on the public usage of encryption like GnuPG and PGP. I see this as an answer to the German endorsement of GnuPG.

    So all the Americans will repeat in their bible hours "encryption is evil - God sees everything and NSA hears everything" and develop a broad public opinion against encryption. Then they can more easily ban encryption.

    I wonder when the US will impose crypto IMPORT regulations. The US are developing into a totalitarian state. sorry about this... But I'm outta here soon...

  • Do you have any idea at all how amazingly insipid your comment was?

    Try researching something before you attempt to involve yourself in the conversation. North Korea has 1 million men in uniform, 600,000 of them on the border with South Korea. They have a further 5 million reserve forces, armed and trained. And, as someone else mentioned already, we (the U.S. and allies) continue to FEED the NK army, while the NK government pretends to feed their normal citizens. The DPRK government has a great number of missiles available, and the press seems convinced they have nukes.
  • Heh. True 'nuff.

    Regardless of access, I only listen to two radio stations, watch essentially no TV, read books that interest me (in general, and at a given moment), listen to music that I've chosen, and wander through a tiny interesting portion of the 'net. Maybe 5% of my 'internal resources' are used up in filtering out the >98% of everything that's crap.

    It's when you take whatever you're given that you truly get overloaded, and usually overloaded with the very worst.

  • Everyone by now knows how easy it is (for some gurus among us - not for me though) to gather information from internet/phone/GSM/other communications that it wouldn't be use to send information NSA can act with. How many bytes of information thay get? How many of that is encoded? To be short it would take more time to monitor it than it is worth it. Its better not to hide, because than they don't seek you ... ;) 'BE the difference that makes the difference' - JEWEL

  • You've touched on some points I didn't even consider. It does seem likely that both outright encryption and the use of techniques like Steganography would add significantly to the overhead required to make some determination as to any potential threat imposed by a message's content. And, it would seem, there's no real way to tell if any given image contains any "steganographied" content. This suggests that the use of "decoy" images may increase the overhead even further.
  • I suggested using a "subversive" document, to annoy would-be analysts.

    Better still would be to use the Bible as the text onto which messages would be layered.

    • The Bible is a fairly long document, with lots of semi-repeated substrings, thus providing a lot of useful material for building a dictionary of substrings.
    • The material that you would get out of this would look more like a rambling Bible study than anything else.

      The "Bad Guys" might think you're a religious crank; raving a bit, but harmless.

    • The Bible actually is a tremendously subsersive book. Many totalitarian regimes have considered it highly dangerous.
    • The Bible is widely available, and quoting bits of it, or things that look like bits of it, isn't particularly unusual.

    This kind of amounts to a reverse form of Bible Codes [hex.net] analysis... There are cranks out there that think that God put special "codes" into the Bible that they can analyze; using the Bible in this way produces documents that are "Biblical" that actually do contain special codes.

  • What I think the NSA is saying is indeed "Give us more money", but one neds to look further than that.

    I think the root of the matter is more complex: it's the same as the US Millitary is facing. A job that is much more complex and difficult than before, with the expectation from the civilians that they do it with the same amount of money.

    When this happens, there are only 2 solutions: either you give the organization more money to cope with all the additional responsibility they have to take on to satisfy their mission, or you change the mission. It's that simple.

    What really needs to happen at the policy maker-level in the US gov't is a hard look at what we really want our National Security-related organizations to do. Hard priorities need to be made, that reflect current (and reasonably anticipated) realities, not the assumptions of 15 or 20 years ago. Then, the organizations need to be told the new mission definitions, and funded accordingly.

    This isn't easy. Many organizations have a large institutional inertia, which resists change, and so far there has been little leadership from the policy-makers to do a complete overhaul of US National Security policy and directives to the organizations. It needs to be done; steps are being taken, but they need to be faster and more sweeping.

    Hell, I don't have any problem giving the NSA more money, as long as they have a rational mission that reflects current realities, which I'm not so sure they do anymore.


  • Bzzzzt.

    You don't follow what North Korea's income comes from, do you? Hint: Iraq did not design the initial Scud missiles, for instance; they only modified one of the designs to increase range at the expense of warhead mass and accuracy.

    Considering that their leader is completely unstable, that they have a huge standing army, that they are consistently confrontational -- to the degree of assassinating South Korean cabinet ministers... and that they're neighbors with both Russia and the PRC, one has to be *very* careful regarding the region.
  • Okay, so the NSA is complaining that they're overburdened. Good. Now let's treble the noise introduced into the system and write our congressmen to keep them from getting any additional funding.

    We mustn't get satisfied here - If noise is constant then Moore's law alone will help them out. And this may all be misinformation, since if anyone would be aware of the utility of that it would be the NSA.
  • by rus_r ( 75847 ) on Thursday November 25, 1999 @02:23PM (#1505571)
    I'm not concerned about a government protecting its citizens from legitimate threats, but
    I am concerned about that same government with unlimited police powers. When we
    permit our political system, either through action or inaction, to become orwellian in scope
    we run the risk of becoming victimized by that political system.

    Say that we repeal the fourth amendment and end all personal privacy. The government
    is given a mandate to eliminate all threats. Who decides what a threat is? The
    government. Now notice that most network intrusion attempts come from linux
    machines. Perhaps those long-haired nerds aren't so harmless now...perhaps they bear
    closer watching. Someone then might get the bright idea that these people..these
    anti-social malcontents (they cant even dress right ferchrissakes!) should be removed
    from the general population because they pose a potential risk, with their constant
    evaluation of network security implementations..
    and those cryptology freaks, what are they hiding? What dont they want us to know?

    I, for one, don't want to live in a society where I worry what some bureaucrat thinks of
    me. I want the freedom to be left alone as I leave others alone. I dont want to consult a
    known list of echelon keywords, each guaranteed to trigger interest from unknown
    agencies, before I think what to say.

    I dont want to hurt anyone. I just want to be me.
  • Innocent! HAH...

    Until the citizens of the respective countries you named take responsibility and control of their governments from despots, zealots, and the greedy/power hungry then none of them are innocent; They are no better than accomplices. The children are exceptions (of course).

    Ignorance is bliss I suppose...

  • Or not. I recall that the "Jam Echelon" day wasn't a success (also reported by CNN). Could this just be creative misinformation to try and make the US gov't re-evaluate their "new" encryption stance, or otherwise lull us into a false sense of security? Digital data is not harder to work with than analog; it's easier! By its nature, it's easier to examine things bit-by-bit and score it with simple AI programs (and don't tell me there aren't a few Lisp/Prolog or Perl hackers in the NSA).
  • by DragonHawk ( 21256 ) on Thursday November 25, 1999 @05:36PM (#1505582) Homepage Journal
    I don't mean the NSA, either. I mean a rather vocal portion of the Slashdot readership. :-(

    "Hey, let's post Echoelon fodder!" Yes, brilliant. First, it is pretty doubtful that putting random keywords at the bottom of your message traffic is going to fool even a computer. They're looking at where your message is from, where it is to, and what it is about. They really couldn't care less about your posts to comp.os.linux.misc with "plutonium" and "Iraq" at the bottom. Second, even if you did have an effect, all you are going to do is increase my tax bill. Increase the workload, and more people/computer power is needed, which is paid for out of my wallet. And while you're at it, you might actually be reducing the attention a real problem might otherwise get. Yeah, great idea.

    Folks: Governments spy on other governments and organizations. If you think this is news, you really need to wake up and smell something. The CIA and NSA and Armed Forces and whoever else are going to go right on spying on other governments, because I can guarantee you, the other governments aren't going to stop spying on us.

    Personally, I'm glad we have a reasonably good military and intelligence operation, because it greatly reduces the chances that we'll be speaking Chinese or Russian in the future, or be reduced to radioactive cinders for that matter.

    And if you really think the government is out to get you, you should seek the aide of a professional psychiatrist. They can help you overcome your paranoia, and help you realize that the "X-Files" is just a TV show.
  • North Korea is a large threat because of their alliegances.

    If some of the older slash dotters around here might cast their minds back[might require some straining], we may remember exactly who the UN were fighting in the Korean War. Mostly it wasnt the North Koreans, but the Peoples Republic of China, who entered the war when McArthur proceeded to invade North Korean Territory after successfully capturing and securing South Korea.

    Are they a big enough threat to national security for you?

    People may comment, 'but china and the US are major economic partners etc etc etc. They wouldnt threaten their own economic situation just for North Korea'.

    China will support and very likely defend North Korea if a war broke out.
    Because North Korea provide a convenient military buffer between themselves and South Korea. Keep in mind that China is still a communist country, and would not be adverse to sacrificing their economic goals, to bolster their internal and external political/strategic goals. We should not try and project our capitalist views on another country, especially as many have mis-judged them quite badly in the past.

    They do have the weapons, the manpower and the ability to wage effective war when they see fit. Those who doubt this should perhaps remember that china does have a long and proud military history.

    So dont ever underestimate any countries ability to wage war. The smallest enemy, can become your deepest worry.

    As to the question, 'is China a threat to National Security?', that is debatable, depending on US intelligence estimates and their related threat estimates of China's strategic Forces, but one would have to catagorize any nuclear capable enemy as a potential threat to ones national security.

    Even if a their nuclear birds dont fly due to whatever, it isnt hard to sneak a low yeild nuclear weapon into a country with vast borders, such as the US, slap it in a delivery truck and park it within a kilometer of the white house. Or perhaps in Pearl Harbour. Or close by any strategic target you might want to name in the US.

    Dont get me wrong, the US has relatively good defenses, both military and civilian, but they are not omnipotent. Hence where a project like echelon comes in, to fill the some of the gap. It aint pretty, not even legal, but from the point of view of any Chief of Staff, or nuke weary politico, knowing where the enemy may be, or may strike, or his plans, are invaluable.

    So debate among yourselves the merits of echelon and your national security agency, but dont doubt their are threats out there, domestic and foreign, there certainly are, and they will perhaps join us when slashdot has its first nerds revoloution, overthrows world governments, installs linux on everything including my TV remote control, and software, pizza and caffeine beverages are free for all.

  • by roystgnr ( 4015 )
    They're looking at where your message is from, where it is to, and what it is about. They really couldn't care less about your posts to comp.os.linux.misc with "plutonium" and "Iraq" at the bottom.

    No, of course not; everybody knows all international criminals obey proper netiquette by posting only to alt.terrorist.evil. Or better yet, they send nice, properly addressed SMTP messages to "binladen@secrethideout.org"! No terrorist organization would even think of using a massively distributed system like Usenet, where tracking the receiver of a message is impossible and tracking the sender (assuming something like mixmaster is used) can be close to impossible.

    You know, I just wanted to post this because I got a chuckle imagining alt.terrorist.evil, but now I wonder just how many alt.binaries.* posts actually have steganographic content.

  • Yes, very true. China is the only threat left to America and the world (except for the proliferation of Nuclear weapons to smaller states: but that is a different question). Had he said China, I would never have objected.

    However, we don't say China, do we. Instead we trade with and suck up to China, completely ready to not give a shit about the people they kill or the countries they invade (Tibet). We send our leaders to China where they proceed to get down on their knees and praise the totalitarian, dehumanizing dictatorship. Even here on Slashdot, anyone saying that the Chinese regime is simply evil and should be crushed with any possible means was moderated down in exchange for long letters about the peace-loving, politically stable, economically sound government of China.

    And so we have someone claiming to work for the NSA using little fish like North Korea (large standing army my ass: remember what happened to the last large standing army America fought) to justify continuing operation like if the cold war were still in full force.

    We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.
  • Ouch evilad, ya hurt me man. Maybe you can be my "wingman" when we both storm the steps of Congress...

    First off, Am I happy with the way the US Government has acted in the past? NO
    Am I troubled by the incidents of US funding being used in ways that was not intended initially? YES
    Does that make me a Baby-killer? perhaps.

    Anyway, my previous posting was of course overly simplistic, but I personally get tired of constantly hearing people slam the various US Government agencies for past funding of regimes that (may) have had human rights abuses. It was/is, to put it mildly, unfortunate, but what were/are the alternatives? The US isn't exactly adept at resolving issues purely in a diplomatic fashion without at least a threat of violence or some other "covert" action.

    During the Cold War era, we sacrificed certain levels of morality (turned a blind eye, if you will) in order to keep in check the spread of the USSR's influence. Of course, in retrospect, the choices that were made, and the dictators, despots, etc. that we supported were not that hospitable to their own citizens. What would you have done instead? Turned a blind eye? Let the USSR spread? or maybe come up with some other option that the politicians never considered?

    Respectfully, I personally don't know.

    Note: we in this context stands for the US Government and to a lesser extent me :)

  • Yeah, they're spooks, but they're *our* spooks.

    I'm as much for protecting my personal privacy as anyone else here, but having grown up in the DC area and gone to school/worked/been neighbors with the folks who work for No Such Agency, I can see the need for Echelon. Folks outside the States certainly might not agree with me (along with a lot of US citizens), but the reason Americans enjoy the benefits of political and economic hegemony is from slightly shady actions and projects like this. Is it right to use this for economic gain? Perhaps not in a sense of absolute morality, but international relations isn't governed by morality, it's governed by the conflicting desires of sovereign (er, at least, in name for those states which function as puppets of US policy) states for economic, political, and military gain.

    In this respect, the NSA & company are out there trying to keep the US ahead of the rest of the world. It might not be moral, but that's never stopped any other state from exploiting others for its advantage. One couldn't accuse the Brits, for example, of selecting the straight and narrow path every time ("Britain has no permanent allies, only permanent interests").
  • "The cold war was never about democracy, but about money. Many new wars to "stop tyrant X from killing his poor people" are setups to boost US arms sales..."

    Wow. More unfounded conspiracy theories... Get over it saq.

    "Whatever, to defend, or justify the US actions on the international stage is to be completely ignorant of the facts..."

    Were's your "facts"? Love to see them saq...

  • You know, I just wanted to post this because I got a chuckle imagining alt.terrorist.evil, but now I wonder just how many alt.binaries.* posts actually have steganographic content.

    Believe it or not, this hits on my point exactly.

    Do you really think a terrorist is going to post all their plans plaintext on Usenet? Why don't they just run front page adds in the New York Times (free registration required) instead?

    The fact of that matter is, the people in alt.kill-the-president (or those posting in comp.os.linux.misc who should be posting alt.kill-the-president) are exactly the sorts of shallow kooks that the NSA is not interested in.

    The NSA is interested in real threats, not (1) nutcases who don't do more then make a lot of noise or (2) people who pretend to be be nutcases by posting random keywords. You're just wasting my tax dollars. Cut it out.

    BTW, great subject line. Calling me a "fool" obviously proves your intellectual superiority over me.
  • The NSA is interested in real threats, not (1) nutcases who don't do more then make a lot of noise or (2) people who pretend to be be nutcases by posting random keywords.

    You're just wasting my tax dollars. Cut it out.

    So which is it? Does posting gobs of "echelon keywords" in cleartext bog down the NSA or not?

    If it does, then the people posting them are doing exactly what they intended to, and your "adults acting like children" post was foolish. (By the way, is it gall or just a short attention span that causes you to complain about an inflammatory subject line, which was a reply to a post with an inflammatory subject line?)

    If it doesn't, then why are you complaining about your "wasted tax dollars"?

    Either way, how on earth do you come to the conclusion that your tax dollars aren't being wasted by the NSA, who commands multi billion dollar budgets to spy on you; they're being wasted by the trivial protests intended to make that espionage harder?

    Oh, that brings up one last point - you don't seem to grok "Jam Echelon" in the first place. The point is to raise awareness of the downright criminal desire of government agencies to spy on innocent citizens; any actual hinderance to those agencies is just gravy.
  • The EXFO [exfo.com] Live Fiber Detector [exfo.com], along with the 3M [mmm.com] Photodyne [mmm.com] tool work in a similar way: Momentarily bend an optical fiber and catch some of the photons that wander out. They can distinguish between a dark fiber, one with an "optical tone" (1kHz modulated light), and one with a live signal on it. The question is, are there enough photons there to reconstruct the actual signal, or just enough to distinguish it?

    At the office end, ADC [adc.com] makes Optical Splitters [adc.com] which are perfect for monitoring optical traffic, just like the MON jacks built into most copper (T-1 and T-3) cross-connect systems. The only problem here is that the NSA has to make their presence known, and might have to present *gasp* a warrant!
    Technically, it's trivial to get at the signal in question. Whether they can do anything with the data at that point, is a much more difficult question to answer.

    Aside from the obvious problem of sifting through all the voice and data traffic on these lines, you need to identify the parties involved in an interesting call. This would require monitoring the SS7 [webproforum.com] link and possibly having access to the SCP(s) involved. Simply hearing a conversation doesn't do a lot of good unless you know who was speaking.
  • So which is it? Does posting gobs of "echelon keywords" in cleartext bog down the NSA or not?

    Like I said in my first message:

    It is pretty doubtful that putting random keywords at the bottom of your message traffic is going to fool even a computer... even if you did have an effect, all you are going to do is increase my tax bill.

    At some point or other, Echelon is going to clue in to the fact that you're not a terrorist, and dump your message out of whatever queue it's in. If it is sooner, then you accomplish nothing, if it is later, you're wasting my money. Get it?

    ...the NSA, who commands multi billion dollar budgets to spy on you...

    Where do you get that? They're spying on other countries and international organizations, not you and me. They couldn't care less about US citizens, unless said citizens are the other end of a comm to some middle-eastern terroist or whatever.

    [How are tax dollars] being wasted by the trivial protests intended to make that espionage harder?

    I agree that any impact is likely going to be trivial compared to the overall cost. But if that is the case, why do you bother?

    The point is to raise awareness of the downright criminal desire of government agencies to spy on innocent citizens...

    If the point is to raise awareness, then fine. But wouldn't a short tagline saying "The NSA is doing so-and-so, check out this website for more!" do a better job?

    By the way, is it gall or just a short attention span that causes you to complain about an inflammatory subject line, which was a reply to a post with an inflammatory subject line?

    Gall. Okay, so I guess I deserved to be flamed for that one. Sorry. :-)
  • "I personally get tired of constantly hearing people slam the various US Government agencies for past funding of regimes that (may) have had human rights abuses. It was/is, to put it mildly, unfortunate, but what were/are the alternatives?"

    Exactly my sentiment. Who knows what the alternatives were to many of the actions that our government, or agents thereof, have taken? I seriously doubt we (the general public) could make any assumptions as to what our government has done and why. Certainly, there are many extraneous factors which have an influence which we cannot begin to comprehend and many times, I'm sure, it is choosing between the lesser of two or (possibly many more) evils. Which is the least evil? What a weighty decision, eh?


    "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." - Albert Einstein

"With molasses you catch flies, with vinegar you catch nobody." -- Baltimore City Councilman Dominic DiPietro