The Dirty Little Secret About Mass Surveillance: It Doesn’t Keep Us Safe

peeping tom eye hole

NSA Spying Doesn’t Work to Prevent Terrorism

William Binney knows as much about spying as anyone alive.

Binney – a 32-year National Security Agency veteran – is the former head of the NSA’s global digital data gathering program, and a very highly-regarded cryptographer.

Binney told Daily Caller yesterday that the spying “dragnet” being carried out by the government is useless:

Daily Caller: There’s been some talk about the authorities having a recording of a phone call Tamerlan Tsarnaev had with his wife. That would be something before the bombing?

Binney: Before the bombing, yes. [This information comes from former FBI counterrorism agent Tim Clemente.]

Daily Caller: Then how would they have that audio?

Binney: Because the NSA recorded it.

Daily Caller: But apparently the Russians tipped off the FBI, which then did a cursory interview and cleared him. So how were they recording him?

Binney: Because the Russians gave a warning for him as a target. Once you’re on a list, they start recording everything. That’s what I’m saying.

Daily Caller: So why didn’t they prevent the bombing?

Binney: Once you’ve recorded something, that doesn’t mean they have it transcribed. It depends on what they transcribe and what they do with the transcription.

Daily Caller:  So it seems logical to ask: Why do we need all of this new data collection when they’re not following up obvious leads,  such as an intelligence agency calling and saying you need to be aware of this particular terrorist?

Binney: It’s sensible to ask, but that’s exactly what they’re doing. They’re making themselves dysfunctional by collecting all of this data. They’ve got so much collection capability but they can’t do everything.

***

Daily Caller: So what are they doing with all of this information? If they can’t stop the Boston marathon bombing, what are they doing with it?

Binney: Well again, they’re putting an extra burden on all of their analysts. It’s not something that’s going to help them; it’s something that’s burdensome. There are ways to do the analysis properly, but they don’t really want the solution because if they got it, they wouldn’t be able to keep demanding the money to solve it. I call it their business statement, “Keep the problems going so the money keeps flowing.” It’s all about contracts and money.

Daily Caller: But isn’t data collection getting easier and processing speeds getting faster and data collection cheaper? Isn’t the falling price one of the reasons they can collect data at this massive level?

Binney: Yes, but that’s not the issue. The issue is, can you figure out what’s important in it? And figure out the intentions and capabilities of the people you’re monitoring? And they are in no way prepared to do that, because that takes analysis. That’s what the big data initiative was all about out of the White House last year. It was to try to get algorithms and figure out what’s important and tell the people what’s important so that they can find things. The probability of them finding what’s really there is low.

Similarly, Fortune notes that the NSA’s “big data” strategy is ineffective:

The evidence for big data is scant at best. To date, large fields of data have generated meaningful insights at times, but not on the scale many have promised. This disappointment has been documented in the Wall Street Journal, Information Week, and SmartData Collective.

***

According to my firm’s research, local farmers in India with tiny fields frequently outperform — in productivity and sustainability — a predictive global model developed by one of the world’s leading agrochemical companies. Why? Because they develop unique planting, fertilizing, or harvesting practices linked to the uniqueness of their soil, their weather pattern, or the rare utilization of some compost. There is more to learn from a local Indian outlier than from building a giant multivariate yield prediction model of all farms in the world. The same is true for terrorism. Don’t look for a needle in a giant haystack. Find one needle in a small clump of hay and see whether similar clumps of hay also contain needles.

You need local knowledge to glean insights from any data. I once ran a data-mining project with Wal-Mart (WMT) where we tried to figure out sales patterns in New England. One of the questions was, “Why are our gun sales lower in Massachusetts than in other states, even accounting for the liberal bias of the state?” The answer: There were city ordinances prohibiting the sale of guns in many towns. I still remember the disappointed look of my client when he realized the answer had come from a few phone calls to store managers rather than from a multivariate regression model.

So, please, Mr. President, stop building your giant database in the sky and quit hoping that algorithm experts will generate a terrorist prevention strategy from that data. Instead, rely on your people in the field to detect suspicious local patterns of behavior, communication, or spending, then aggregate data for the folks involved and let your data hounds loose on these focused samples. You and I will both sleep better. And I won’t have to worry about who is lurking in the shadows of my business or bedroom.

Likewise, Nassim Taleb writes:

Big data may mean more information, but it also means more false information.

***

Because of excess data as compared to real signals, someone looking at history from the vantage point of a library will necessarily find many more spurious relationships than one who sees matters in the making; he will be duped by more epiphenomena. Even experiments can be marred with bias, especially when researchers hide failed attempts or formulate a hypothesis after the results — thus fitting the hypothesis to the experiment (though the bias is smaller there).

This is the tragedy of big data: The more variables, the more correlations that can show significance. Falsity also grows faster than information; it is nonlinear (convex) with respect to data (this convexity in fact resembles that of a financial option payoff). Noise is antifragile. Source: N.N. Taleb

If big data leads to more false correlations, then mass surveillance may lead to more false accusations of terrorism.

Professor Jonathan Turley – one of the nation’s top constitutional and military law expertsnoted after the Boston bombing:

For civil libertarians, all terrorist attacks come in two equally predictable parts.

First, there is the terrorist attack itself — a sad reality of our modern life. Second, comes the inevitable explosion of politicians calling for new security measures and surveillance. We brace ourselves for this secondary blow, which generally comes before we even fully know what occurred in an attack or how it was allowed to occur.

Politicians need to be seen as actively protecting public safety and the easiest way is to add surveillance, reduce privacy and expand the security state. What they are not willing to discuss is the impossibility of detecting and deterring all attacks. The suggestion is that more security measures translate to more public safety. The fact is that even the most repressive nations with the most abusive security services, places such as China and Iran, have not been able to stop terrorist acts.

While police were still combing through the wreckage from the Boston Marathon, politicians ran to cameras to pledge more security measures and surveillance. Indeed, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel demanded more cameras in response to the Boston attack. Chicago already is one of the most surveilled cities in the United States. Emanuel’s solution: add some more. It is a perfectly Pavlovian response of politicians eager to appear as champions of public safety.

We need to resist the calls for a greater security state and put this attack into perspective. These two brothers built homemade bombs with over-the-counter pressure cookers. They placed the devices in one of the most surveilled areas of Boston with an abundance of police and cameras [Proof here]. There is only so much that a free nation can do to avoid such an attack. Two men walked in a crowd and put two bags down on the ground shortly before detonation.

No one is seriously questioning the value of having increased surveillance and police at major events. That was already the case with the Boston Marathon. However, privacy is dying in the United States by a thousand papercuts from countless new laws and surveillance systems. Before we plunge ahead in creating a fishbowl society of surveillance, we might want to ask whether such new measures or devices will actually make us safer or just make us appear safer.

Not only did mass surveillance fail to stop the Boston bombing, it also failed to stop 9/11:

Widespread spying on Americans began before 9/11 (confirmed here and here. And see this  [and this.])

And U.S. and allied intelligence heard the 9/11 hijackers plans from their own mouths:

  • An FBI informant hosted and rented a room to two hijackers in 2000. Specifically, investigators for the Congressional Joint Inquiry discovered that an FBI informant had hosted and even rented a room to two hijackers in 2000 and that, when the Inquiry sought to interview the informant, the FBI refused outright, and then hid him in an unknown location, and that a high-level FBI official stated these blocking maneuvers were undertaken under orders from the White House. As the New York Times notes:

    Senator Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who is a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, accused the White House on Tuesday of covering up evidence ….The accusation stems from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s refusal to allow investigators for a Congressional inquiry and the independent Sept. 11 commission to interview an informant, Abdussattar Shaikh, who had been the landlord in San Diego of two Sept. 11 hijackers.

  • The National Security Agency and the FBI were each independently listening in on the phone calls between the supposed mastermind of the attacks and the lead hijacker. Indeed, the FBI built its own antenna in Madagascar specifically to listen in on the mastermind’s phone calls
  • According to various sources, on the day before 9/11, the mastermind told the lead hijacker “tomorrow is zero hour” and gave final approval for the attacks. The NSA intercepted the message that day and the FBI was likely also monitoring the mastermind’s phone calls
  • According to the Sunday Herald, two days before 9/11, Bin Laden called his stepmother and told her “In two days, you’re going to hear big news and you’re not going to hear from me for a while.” U.S. officials later told CNN that “in recent years they’ve been able to monitor some of bin Laden’s telephone communications with his [step]mother. Bin Laden at the time was using a satellite telephone, and the signals were intercepted and sometimes recorded.” Indeed, before 9/11, to impress important visitors, NSA analysts would occasionally play audio tapes of bin Laden talking to his stepmother.
  • And according to CBS News, at 9:53 a.m on 9/11, just 15 minutes after the hijacked plane had hit the Pentagon, “the National Security Agency, which monitors communications worldwide, intercepted a phone call from one of Osama bin Laden’s operatives in Afghanistan to a phone number in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia”, and secretary of Defense Rumsfeld learned about the intercepted phone call in real-time (if the NSA monitored and transcribed phone calls in real-time on 9/11, that implies that it did so in the months leading up to 9/11 as well)

But even with all of that spying, the government didn’t stop the hijackers … even though 9/11 was entirely foreseeable.

If you have a hard time believing that the government would push a program on the basis of national security which impinges on our freedoms and yet is ineffective in keeping us safe, please review the following statements by top national security experts saying that the following government programs do nothing at all to make us safer:

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  • R Foreman
  • hvaiallverden

    Even thrue the WW2, in my land there was people that managed to preform and do counter acts/terror acts, depending on witch side on is persiving this iisue from.
    Even witch checkpoints everywhere.
    Even when the sole numbers of soildiers(90 000 wermach/25 000 sivilians in Finnmark) some managed to utgo the survailnce and intellegence.

    The belife in survailence/intellegnce preemting this is utter bollony, the exuses and causes used, bollocs, and it all, every f…. issue is berried in the American war maschinery rape and plunder of foregin land and people.
    To not even admitt this, or even try to talk about this, is the underlinding problem and when every thing, issue, perseption is twisted and mutch just flattout lies, its like banging ones head into a wall.
    And that wall, is equally ditributed between, morronic belife and utter knowledgeness, where people dont even know where they are Making Wars.
    I can unly hope that the Americans realise this, the second fact is instittuttionalised Paranioa, thrue decades of war propaganda, from the cold war to the present “war on terror” and even more morronic, the “war on drugs”.
    This, is the sole reason for the downfall of the American empire.
    Because this is an Ilution, created by forces from the Ronnerbarons and their hendgmen, our present politicians and so on, where the second real problem is, the Austerety/Bailouts of private sentral banks.

    The wurst part of it, this is the core, is that the USA is highJacked by foreign people, and they arent even Americans, they belong to a completely different people, with a policy of pure evil and destruction is their game, and right now, they controll the biggest and mots wicious goverment money can by, the bastards in the Washington DC, a dirstict that is not even America, its a British Potectorate, aka Hong Kong in its hay days.
    Like the Turks, you will have a rude awakening, I just try to minimase the damage and give a hint of things to come, because this was planed a long time a go and so far, its on track.
    Iam afraid.

    #And to the list I gave Yesterday, I made sone errors, not in the topp of the list but the bottom parst of it, the masses menth for slaugther and enslavement.
    This is why I try to talk to the f….. idiots in Israel, that what they are made to “belive” and think is flattout wrong and they ARE the slaughter lamb, the sacrifying Lamb, not the rest, its YOU, Israeli, THEY dont give a f…. about You.
    The Yellow book, the Torah, is the “jews”, and dont for a second think they will be Nice with the “jews” because the inihiliation of the masses, the “jews” are nescesery to slaughter in their “belife”, and their “theater/prophecys” is not forfilled. And the followes of the Green Book, Islam, fate is and will be the same, as the followers of the other Books. This goes for the followers of the Red Book, the bible(the fishermans tales), aka Christians in every term, the rest of the list is acurate#

    Dont forgett, this is against people with perseptions and “realitys” far beyound ours and rests in a vision so perverted and Evil, that merly speaking of issues like the Talmudic teatchings is Non present in all the MSMs all over the globe.
    Why.
    Ask your self, why, when if you read what they say, that wll make any sane person, sick.
    And still, its an earshattering silence about it.
    Even Einstein(a genuine “jew”) and freind of Israel, warned as far he could go, ont his issue.
    And now we all see the consequencess of it, this hole Issue is controlled by the Mossad.
    Mossad controlls everything, and that means the RobberBarons knows everything.
    And still you do nothing.

    You are herby Warned, once again.

    Wake the f… up.

    peace

    • jeff

      Wake up you say? That’s a good idea as we Christians have been warning the unbelieving world about the return of Jesus our savior. All these rights people have had to give up and all this government control that’s occuring around the world and the many wars was all fortold in God’s word the Bible. The one you called “fish tales” and God you mock predicted this global conspiracy thousands of years ago. The USA is just a part of the puzzle in the Global agenda that’s been in the works for years and only now is nearing full swing. People are being herded like cattle and are being “rounded up” soon to be branded (micro chipped probably) so the world leader to be revealed soon can keep track of you. In fact the Bible says there will come a time that if you don’t have this “brand” you won’t be able to buy or sell or get a job or eat. You’ve heard Christians mention the “anti-christ” haven’t you? We know what his agenda is and have known for years. It’s only now that some here in the USA are realizing how their freedoms are being eroded one by one under the guise of security and to prevent terrorist attack. What a lie you people are swallowing if you think that’s the reason for this invasion of privacy the NSA is doing now. Even they don’t know that they are pawns in a much larger scheme that involves the entire world. Has anyone noticed that they are arranging for Mexico, Canada and United States to consolidate into one country? Europe has already done that and NATO can already go into many countries and push it’s weight around and soon they will be in the USA enforcing universal (global) law in place of our own military. All this is just scratching the surface and it’s going to get much, much worse until the new “world leader” comes on the scene he will seem to have all the answers to the world’s problems. The Bible says he will bring a temporary peace and the whole world will , except true Christians, follow and worship this guy. There’s a lot more to this story and if you’re wise you will investigate. After all you do have the internet so use it to study for yourselves.

  • Honest Harry’s Used Cars

    Who writes all this stuff?

    “Binney – a 32-year National Security Agency veteran – is the former head of the NSA’s global digital data gathering program, and a very highly-regarded cryptographer.”

    In this clever article “Binney” (at 32) essentially tells us that the Boston bombers were the culprits, that there are recordings of one of the Boston bombers telling his wife in a telephone call that he’s going to bomb the marathon (and implant a bunch of phony actors with fake injuries too?)

    Who benefits from this spooky revelation being reported here about the Boston bomber being wire-tapped by NSA? Who? The spooks do. The very same spooks everyone with half a brain knows are in the business of lying to all of us. So, why is this bullshit quote from a spook being reported here?

    Let’s dig just one foot deeper here.

    “According to Le Monde, the intelligence services of America’s close ally France and of other governments had infiltrated the highest levels of Al-Qaeda’s camps, and actually listened to the hijackers’ debates about which airlines’ planes should be hijacked, and allied intelligence services also intercepted phone conversations between Al-Qaeda members regarding the attacks.”

    Here we have another spook being quoted (and floated) before our eyes who claims he has complete intelligent data and understanding that the hijackers and Al-Qaeda did 9-11.

    What hijackers? The hijackers the MSM told us all about on 9-11? We know that was a complete lie.

    It’s all very funny what is being said here, since there is no evidence linking Al Qaeda to 9-11, except phony evidence like the endless phony Osama bin Laden tapes that infiltrated the news rooms all across the country for several years. The assertion here would be huge news, were it really true.

    God damn it, people. Remember? Some spook caught Mohammed Atta’s passport as it floated down from the Twin Towers within seconds of the first plane hitting the towers. And from out of a blacked and smoking hole in the ground out in Pennsylvania, there was another passport found by a spook.

    Are these the hijackers this spook is talking about?

    The people behind writing this article are benefiting who? Are they enlightening any of us? How?

    Is it really a notable (alternative media journalism worthy) revelation that surveillance has nothing to do with EFFECTIVELY stopping terrorism? I do not think so. That is ostensibly the pretext of this article. But it’s a pointless exercise is mealy-mouthed journalism, if that’s the real intent behind what we’re reading here.

    The article seems merely to be a list of spook-abetting assertions, assertions most should recognize as completely and laughable false disinformation.

    We all know the Internet is loaded with spooks. What most fail to realize is just how loaded the Internet is with spooks.

    That’s the dirty little secret here. The spooks spend endless hours throwing exactly this sort of crap up on the wall. Did any of it stick today? Let’s hope not.

    The only way to beat these people who make a living lying to everyone, is to ignore them. They are relentless. They are paid to be relentless.

  • eric swan

    One aspect that I haven’t seen or read of is the chilling effect this total surveillance has on public discourse and behavior..

  • civoc

    That makes Susan Lindauer an angel of truth. Thanks Mr Binney

  • Pointsouttheobvious

    What I never see mentioned in recent articles about metadata and large scale models, even in articles written by the fragments of an independent media is The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver. You would think a 500 page book about how using mass data to predict the future is almost always a futile effort would be useful in a counter-argument to our security state.

  • vlad

    At last, we’re hearing proper spooks talking about the reality of the situation with a level head, unbound by political bias.

  • IonOtter

    When the Soviets recruited John Walker to steal crypto from the US Navy, they didn’t want the plans for the crypto devices. And they didn’t want current or unused keying material, either. They wanted EXPIRED crypto keys. Stuff that was supposed to be destroyed and thrown away.

    Why?

    Because the Soviets *recorded* everything. The encrypted signals were all recorded off the air, and they took the expired crypto, loaded it into devices they already had from *other* spies, then decrypted all our *OLD* traffic. (They also used the crypto to reverse engineer the generating algorithm, which is why we had to build a whole bunch of new devices after that mess.)

    So. Same thing here. Only instead of decrypting the voice calls, they’re saving it for A.I. (Artificial Intelligence). Speech-to-text is already pretty good for English, and Google is getting better and better. Imagine two, maybe three years down the line, when Speech to Text is *awesome*. Now the machines don’t have to listen at real-time, they can listen at 20x speed. Or *digital* speed. Instead of taking weeks to “listen” to several years of recorded calls, it takes only an hour. Just analyze the whole recording, and look for the “peaks and valleys” that suggest something interesting is being said, focus in on those portions, and listen again with higher resolution.

    Now they feed *everyone’s* recorded calls into the machine, and it sifts through the data *for* them. A huge amount of data goes in, and a nicely processed and condensed list of “people of interest” comes out the other end.

    That’s awesome if you’re looking for a moron building a bomb to hurt people. But see, the morals of a society don’t remain static. Leaders change. Attitudes change. What was “acceptable” today, might be “suspect” tomorrow. What was suspect today, might be worthy of a “shoot on sight” in the future. I mean, hey? We were “okay” with the surveillance going on in 2013, so we’ll probably be okay with “shoot on sight” orders in 2023.

    Ultimately, this isn’t about what you’re okay/not okay with. This isn’t about you-or anyone else for that matter-doing something wrong. It’s not about hiding. Privacy is *NOT* hiding something, privacy is a default standard of RESPECT.

    Privacy is saying I’m not going to stare in your bedroom window because it’s wrong. It’s saying I’m not going to look at your purchase records to see what kind of pervert you are, because the definition of “pervert” is subjective to the observer, not just society.

    We deserve privacy because privacy is a measure of how much the government respects the people it governs.

    And as we can see, government does *NOT* respect us.

    At all.

  • IonOtter

    When the Soviets recruited John Walker to steal crypto from the US Navy, they didn’t want the plans for the crypto devices. And they didn’t want current or unused keying material, either. They wanted EXPIRED crypto keys. Stuff that was supposed to be destroyed and thrown away.

    Why?

    Because the Soviets *recorded* everything. The encrypted signals were all recorded off the air, and they took the expired crypto, loaded it into devices they already had from *other* spies, then decrypted all our *OLD* traffic. (They also used the crypto to reverse engineer the generating algorithm, which is why we had to build a whole bunch of new devices after that mess.)

    So. Same thing here. Only instead of decrypting the voice calls, they’re saving it for A.I. (Artificial Intelligence). Speech-to-text is already pretty good for English, and Google is getting better and better. Imagine two, maybe three years down the line, when Speech to Text is *awesome*. Now the machines don’t have to listen at real-time, they can listen at 20x speed. Or *digital* speed. Instead of taking weeks to “listen” to several years of recorded calls, it takes only an hour. Just analyze the whole recording, and look for the “peaks and valleys” that suggest something interesting is being said, focus in on those portions, and listen again with higher resolution.

    Now they feed *everyone’s* recorded calls into the machine, and it sifts through the data *for* them. A huge amount of data goes in, and a nicely processed and condensed list of “people of interest” comes out the other end.

    That’s awesome if you’re looking for a moron building a bomb to hurt people. But see, the morals of a society don’t remain static. Leaders change. Attitudes change. What was “acceptable” today, might be “suspect” tomorrow. What was suspect today, might be worthy of a “shoot on sight” in the future. I mean, hey? We were “okay” with the surveillance going on in 2013, so we’ll probably be okay with “shoot on sight” orders in 2023.

    Ultimately, this isn’t about what you’re okay/not okay with. This isn’t about you-or anyone else for that matter-doing something wrong. It’s not about hiding. Privacy is *NOT* hiding something, privacy is a default standard of RESPECT.

    Privacy is saying I’m not going to stare in your bedroom window because it’s wrong. It’s saying I’m not going to look at your purchase records to see what kind of pervert you are, because the definition of “pervert” is subjective to the observer, not just society.

    We deserve privacy because privacy is a measure of how much the government respects the people it governs.

    And as we can see, government does *NOT* respect us.

    At all.

  • stevelaudig

    http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/borges.htm

    I remember him (I scarcely have the right to use this ghostly verb; only one man on earth deserved the right, and he is dead), I remember him with a dark passionflower in his hand, looking at it as no one has ever looked at such a flower, though they might look from the twilight of day until the twilight of night, for a whole life long…… died in 1889, of a pulmonary congestion.”

    NSA, the Memorious… dying of congestion, everday.

  • bkjohn

    11/ 9 WTC DESTROY and it
    top difference Improve real clear way

    helped Bible History top secrecy from !!

    Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shade: [ its

    tips unknown by WTC also 9/11 disappeared your eye front this world ]

    And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in earth[ this

    retrogression secrecy GENESIS time showing], and that every

    imagination of the thoughts of his hearts was only evil continually.

    And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and

    grieved him at his heart. And the lord said, I Will destroy man whom I

    have created – but this total destroy procedure change [ GENESIS

    chapter 7].

    And new world opened Genesis chapter 9 – during this period God say

    ‘ But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood there of, shall

    ye not eat . And surely your blood of lives will I require ; at hand

    of every beast will I require it; and at the hand of man; at the hand

    of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.

    Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shade: for the

    image of God made be man

    And I will remember my covemant, which is between me and you and every

    living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a

    flood to destroy all flesh .

    And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look up on it, that I

    may remember the everlasting covemant between God every living

    creature of all flesh that it up on the earth . And God said unto

    Noah, This is the token of the covement, which I have established

    between me and all flesh that is up on the earth ..B.K.JOHN.

    B.K.JOHN

    Search Entire
    Truth and Expose God Reality.

    CHAKKUVARAKKAL [P.O],KOLLAM-KERALA(INDIA)
    Mob-9747097759

    https://www.facebook.com/yearinreview.,e-mail:
    bkjohn008@gmail.com

 

 

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