Somewhere between Sept. 11 and today, the enemy morphed from a handful of terrorists to the American population at large, leaving us nowhere to run and no place to hide.
Within weeks of the attacks, the giant ears of the National Security Agency, always pointed outward toward potential enemies, turned inward on the American public itself. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, established 23 years before to ensure that only suspected foreign agents and terrorists were targeted by the NSA, would be bypassed. Telecom companies, required by law to keep the computerized phone records of their customers confidential unless presented with a warrant, would secretly turn them over in bulk to the NSA without ever asking for a warrant.
So much intercepted information is now being collected from “enemies” at home and abroad that, in order to store it all, the agency last year began constructing the ultimate monument to eavesdropping. Rising in a remote corner of Utah, the agency’s gargantuan data storage center will be 1 million square feet, cost nearly $2 billion and likely be capable of eventually holding more than a yottabyte of data — equal to about a septillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.
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A surveillance system capable of monitoring 10 million people simultaneously this year will be able to monitor 100 million the next year — at probably half the cost. And every time new communications technology appears on the market, rest assured that someone at the NSA has already found a way to monitor it. It’s what the NSA does.
What Church likely never anticipated was the rise of the security-industrial complex, a revolving door between those generating the fears and those profiting from them.
Phi Beta Iota: NSA leadership is blatantly corrupt (this is the same person who destroyed ABLE DANGER rather than share the information with the FBI). The only good news is that NSA is also inept–it processes less than one percent of what it captures, and is essentially cheating the taxpayer at the same time that it is spying on the taxpayer. The time has come to create a whole new cadre of ethical leaders who actually understand the new craft of intelligence as decision support (outputs) instead of budget share (inputs), and to slam it back from $90 billion a year toward $20 billion a year. With the savings the next President can afford to give all displaced personnel a year’s salary and a year’s re-training toward education, infrastructure, and information-era jobs.