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NSA spy program hinges on state-of-the-art technology
By Shane Harris, National Journal
The furor over the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping,
authorized by President Bush, has focused largely on legal questions --
whether the NSA has the authority to spy on Americans inside the United
States and whether the commander-in-chief can order the agency to do so.
But that debate has largely smothered examination of how the nation's
largest intelligence agency is collecting -- and analyzing -- information
intercepted from hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans. Since the
9/11 attacks, the NSA has abandoned the mantra that guided it in earlier
decades -- Do not spy on Americans inside the nation's borders. Things
have changed, and the NSA may be on the cusp of employing state-of-the-art
technologies to uncover more information about potential terrorists, and
about Americans here at home.
the NSA has pursued cutting-edge data-mining technologies that don't just
find key words but also uncover hidden relationships among data points.
These technologies can even detect how a particular analyst thinks,
identify what his or her biases are, and then suggest alternative
Data-mining systems, which the NSA has publicly pursued and spent millions
of dollars researching, don't just "connect the dots" but also alert
analysts about which dots to connect, which to disregard, and how to
connect them in ways they may never have considered. It is unclear which,
if any, of these data-mining tools the NSA is using to analyze the
domestic information gathered in the current eavesdropping program, but
the tools themselves offer a telling look into the agency's potential to
exploit what it collects, regardless of its legal basis for doing so.
Barry Wellman Professor of Sociology NetLab Director
wellman at chass.utoronto.ca http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman
Centre for Urban & Community Studies University of Toronto
455 Spadina Avenue Toronto Canada M5S 2G8 fax:+1-416-978-7162
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