Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NSA Wiretaps: Googling for Terrorists

There are excellent articles at Ars Technica and Winds of Change explaining how specific, hypothetical computerized "wiretapping" scenarios would be nearly impossible to pass through the FISA court system. The basic concept is that an automated computer program would tap many lines simultaneously, or automatically switch the wiretaps to persons of interest. The volume would be so tremendous so as to make the traditional court process literally impossible.

Such systems (think google for telephone calls) would amass and sift enormous amounts of data attempting to aggregate and discern patterns that would lead to the enemy. If you've used google, you already understand how effective such a system can be. If we had been aggressively using these techniques prior to 9/11 things might have turned out differently.

Of course there are costs. In these processes, regular citizens would have their calls processed by the monitoring system. Such information databases could be used expose many non-terrorist related connections. The gov't has used its intelligence agencies for political purposes before; cite 1 and cite 2. I don't downplay these facts. I do remember our 3000 dead Americans -- and I ask you: can't we use our best techniques against the enemy to protect ourselves from another 9/11?

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This is a joke, but I hear stuff like this everyday