Welcome to Orwell’s 1984
3/04/2013 — Forbes.com
Most people who visit Salt Lake City in the winter months are excited about taking advantage of the area’s storied slopes. While skiing was on my itinerary last week, I was more excited about an offbeat tourism opportunity in the area: I wanted to check out the construction site for “the country’s biggest spy center.”
An electrifying piece about domestic surveillance by national security writer James Bamford that appeared in Wired last year read like a travel brochure to me:
“In the little town of Bluffdale, Big Love and Big Brother have become uneasy neighbors. Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.”
Thursday, 06 December 2012
“What I’ve been basically saying for quite some time, is that the FBI has access to the data collected, which is basically the emails of virtually everybody in the country,” NSA whistleblower William Binney affirmed in a recent interview with the Kremlin-funded news outlet Russia Today (RT). “And the FBI has access to it.”
Binney was asked by the Russian news outlet about whether domestic surveillance efforts have intensified since President Obama took office in 2008. He responded:
The change is it’s getting worse. They are doing more. He is supporting the building of the Bluffdale facility, which is over two billion dollars they are spending on storage room for data. That means that they are collecting a lot more now and need more storage for it. That facility by my calculations that I submitted to the court for the Electronic Frontiers Foundation against NSA would hold on the order of 5 zettabytes of data. Just that current storage capacity is being advertised on the web that you can buy. And that’s not talking about what they have in the near future.
The overall theme represented in Binney’s testimony seeks to protect the freedoms and liberties granted to Americans under the U.S. Constitution. “The central [U.S.] government defines what is right and wrong and whether or not they target you,” Binney concluded. “They are violating the foundation of this entire country … and they are not living up to the oath of office.”
An Old Paper (Background – old programs don’t die….):
Although the IOA, headed by convicted felon John Poindexter, was later shut down, concern remained that the DHS would continue the IAO’s plans to integrate all available electronic information into a central database that could then be mined for patterns. In January2003, Senator Russ Feingold proposed the Data Mining Moratorium Act. Had it passed the act would have suspended all data-mining activities by the Departments of Defense and HomelandSecurity and required all federal agencies to report on data-mining programs in development or use within ninety days.
In a statement introducing the bill, Feingold noted, “Like manyAmericans, I was surprised to learn during the last few months that the Department of Defense has spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing a data-mining system called Total Information Awareness while permitting the progeny of Total Information Awareness to appear in places like the Department of Homeland Security.” As Feingold’s bill languished incommittee and funding for the IAO was eliminated, data-mining projects persisted, some under Defense Department black budgets, others deep in the maze of the Department of HomelandSecurity.
One such program developed within the DHS and continuing the work of the IAO is ADVISE—the Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic EnhancementProgram. ADVISE collects massive amounts of publicly available data (including purchasing,travel, and internet-accessing habits) cross references it with information gathered from intelligence and law enforcement, and searches for links and patterns. As reported by OMB Watch, “the technology will draw connections between persons, determining who is related towhom, who works with whom, who lives close to whom, and who is associated with what organization/s.” One’s first impressions of “homeland security,” then, should not be dismissed too quickly—suspicion is fully justified.
ADVISE (Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement) is a research and development program within the United States Department of Homeland Security Threat and Vulnerability Testing and Assessment (TVTA) portfolio. It is reported to be developing a massive data mining system, which would collect and analyze data on everyone in the United States and perform a “threat analysis” of them.
The data can be everything from financial records, phone records, emails, blog entries, website searches, and any other electronic information that can be put into a computer system. The information is then analyzed, and used to monitor social threats such as community-forming, terrorism, political organizing, or crime.
ADVISE will possess the ability to store one quadrillion data entities.
The exact scope and degree of completion of the program is unclear. ADVISE is in the 2004-2006 Federal DHS Budget as a component of the $47 million TVTA program.
The program was officially scrapped in September 2007 after the agency’s internal Inspector General found that pilot testing of the system had been performed using data on real people without required privacy safeguards in place.
Programs rear their heads and fade off the radar. Then another similar program appears again. By now these programs ought to be pretty familiar to lawmakers. They are determined. They are certainly building all this storage space. It’s the gestalt, stupid.