NSA’s Activities: Valid Foreign Intelligence Targets Are the Focus October 31, 2013 Recent press articles on NSA’s collection…


NSA’s Activities:

Valid Foreign Intelligence Targets Are the Focus

October 31, 2013

Recent press articles on NSA’s collection operations conducted under Executive Order 12333 have misstated facts, mischaracterized NSA’s activities, and drawn erroneous inferences about those operations.  NSA conducts all of its activities in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies – and assertions to the contrary do a grave disservice to the nation, its allies and partners, and the men and women who make up the National Security Agency.

All NSA intelligence activities start with a validated foreign intelligence requirement, initiated by one or more Executive Branch intelligence consumers, and are run through a process managed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.  When those requirements are received by NSA, analysts look at the Information Need and determine the best way to satisfy it.  That process involves identifying the foreign entities that have the information, researching how they communicate, and determining how best to access those communications in order to get the foreign intelligence information.  The analysts identify selectors – e-mail addresses and phone numbers are examples – that help isolate the communications of the foreign entity and task those to collection systems.  In those cases where there are not specific selectors available, the analysts will use metadata, similar to the address on the outside of an envelope, to attempt to develop selectors for their targets.  Once they have them, they task the selectors to the collection systems in order to get access to the content, similar to the letter inside the envelope. 

The collection systems target communications links that contain the selectors, or are to and from areas likely to contain the selectors, of foreign intelligence interest.  Seventy years ago, the communications links were shortwave radio transmissions between two points on the globe.  Today’s communications flow over technologies like satellite links, microwave towers, and fiber optic cables.   Terrorists, weapons proliferators, and other valid foreign intelligence targets make use of commercial infrastructure and services.   When a validated foreign intelligence target uses one of those means to send or receive their communications, we work to find, collect, and report on the communication.   Our focus is on targeting the communications of those targets, not on collecting and exploiting a class of communications or services that would sweep up communications that are not of bona fide foreign intelligence interest to us.   

What NSA does is collect the communications of targets of foreign intelligence value, irrespective of the provider that carries them.  U.S. service provider communications make use of the same information super highways as a variety of other commercial service providers.  NSA must understand and take that into account in order to eliminate information that is not related to foreign intelligence.

NSA works with a number of partners and allies in meeting its foreign-intelligence mission goals, and in every case those operations comply with U.S. law and with the applicable laws under which those partners and allies operate.  A key part of the protections that are provided to both U.S. persons and citizens of other countries is the requirement that information be in support of a valid foreign intelligence requirement, and the Attorney General-approved minimization procedures.  These limitations protect the privacy of all people and, in particular, to any incidentally acquired communications of U.S. persons.  The protections are applied when selectors are tasked to the collection system; when the collection itself occurs; when the collected data are being processed, evaluated, analyzed, and put into a database; and when any reporting of the foreign intelligence is being done.   In addition, NSA is very motivated and actively works to remove as much extraneous data as early in the process as possible – to include data of innocent foreign citizens.

NSA Public Affairs Office

EU citizens can support efforts to establish environmental destruction as a crime. When at least 1 million EU citizens from 7…

EU citizens can support efforts to establish environmental destruction as a crime. When at least 1 million EU citizens from 7 different countries support it, the law will be discussed at EU level. It was on the UN table back in 96, but intense lobbying by the US, UK, France and Holland stopped it at the last moment. Here’s another chance at the EU…


Short Film: Six Apartments

film, decay, six apartments, Reynold Reynolds, 2011

Life is in decay in Reynold Reynolds‘ beautifully shot short film Six Apartments. Six strangers, unaware of each other’s existence, live their lives in isolation, passing their time on Earth listening to the radio, watching TV, scrubbing their feet, feeding their pet snake, etc. All the while they do not notice that their world is slowly decomposing all around them. Depending on your stomach for that kind of thing, some of the decay can be quite grotesque. But, the stunning camera moves and shot compositions are completely wonderful to behold.


How to lose $172,222 a second for 45 minutes

sotware, devops, bug, HFT, algotrading, losses, knoght capital, fragility

This is probably the most painful bug report I’ve ever read, describing in glorious technicolor the steps leading to Knight Capital’s $465m trading loss due to a software bug that struck late last year, effectively bankrupting the company. The tale has all the hallmarks of technical debt in a huge, unmaintained, bitrotten codebase


List of common misconceptions

wikipedia, misconceptions, common knowledge, error, assumptions

This list pertains to current, widely held, erroneous ideas and beliefs about notable topics which have been reported by reliable sources. Each has been discussed in published literature, as has its topic area and the facts concerning it. Note that the statements which follow are corrections based on known facts; the misconceptions themselves are referred to rather than stated.


ClubOrlov: The Sixth Stage of Collapse

orlov, collapse, collapsonomics, economics, environment, governance

I admit it: in my last book, The Five Stages of Collapse, I viewed collapse through rose-colored glasses. But I feel that I should be forgiven for this; it is human nature to try to be optimistic no matter what. Also, as an engineer, I am always looking for solutions to problems. And so I almost subconsciously crafted a scenario where industrial civilization fades away quickly enough to save what’s left of the natural realm, allowing some remnant of humanity to make a fresh start.


Book of Lamentations

dystopia, fuction, psychiatry, DSM, DSM-5, Borges, review, literature

Just as Borges’s system groups animals by seemingly aleatory characteristics entirely divorced from their actual biological attributes, DSM-5 arranges its various strains of madness solely in terms of the behaviors exhibited. This is a recurring theme in the novel, while any consideration of the mind itself is entirely absent. In its place we’re given diagnoses such as “frotteurism,” “oppositional defiant disorder,” and “caffeine intoxication disorder.” That said, these classifications aren’t arranged at random; rather, they follow a stately progression comparable to that of Dante’s Divine Comedy, rising from the infernal pit of the body and its weaknesses (intellectual disabilities, motor tics) through our purgatorial interactions with the outside world (tobacco use, erectile dysfunction, kleptomania) and finally arriving in the limpid-blue heavens of our libidinal selves (delirium, personality disorders, sexual fetishism). It’s unusual, and at times frustrating in its postmodern knowingness, but what is being told is first and foremost a story.


Binding Chaos

politics, governance, power, control, oligarchy, anarchy, democracy

If there was ever a need for political representation or a paternalistic and opaque authority it has been removed by technology. Every political system we have tried has proven incapable of protecting human rights and dignity. Every political system we have tried has devolved into oligarchy. To effect the change we require immediately, to give individuals control and responsibility, to bring regional systems under regional governance, allow global collaboration and protect the heritage of future generations, we need a new political model.


on Nicolescu’s Manifesto of Transdisciplinarity

Nicolescu, transdisciplinarity, philosophy, education, knowledge

Transdisciplinarity “concerns that which is at once between the disciplines, across the different disciplines, and beyond all discipline,” and its aim is the unity of knowledge together with the unity of our being: “Its goal is the understanding of the present world, of which one of the imperatives is the unity of knowledge.” (44) Nicolescu points out the danger of self-destruction caused by modernism and increased technologization and offers alternative ways of approaching them, using a transdisciplinary approach that propels us beyond the either/or thinking that gave rise to the antagonisms that produced the problems in the first place. The logic of the included middle permits “this duality [to be] transgressed by the open unity that encompasses both the universe and the human being.” (56). Thus, approaching problems in a transdisciplinary way enables one to move beyond dichotomized thinking, into the space that lies beyond.


Space-Born Jellyfish Hate Life On Earth

space, jellyfish, gravity, perception

A warning for future space colonizers: Babies born in space might not ever figure out how to deal with gravity. Jellyfish babies, at least, have to deal with massive vertigo on Earth after spending their first few days in space. NASA first started sending jellyfish to space aboard the Columbia space shuttle during the early ‘90s to test how space flight would affect their development. As cool as being an astronaut baby sounds, the jellies didn’t develop the same gravity-sensing capabilities as their Earthly relatives.


What Is ‘Evil’ to Google?

Ian Bogost, evil, google, morality, ethics, progress, engineering, silicon valley, narcissism

Famous though the slogan might be, its meaning has never been clear. In the 2004 IPO letter, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin clarify that Google will be “a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains.” But what counts as “good things,” and who constitutes “the world?” The slogan’s significance has likely changed over time, but today it seems clear that we’re misunderstanding what “evil” means to the company. For today’s Google, evil isn’t tied to malevolence or moral corruption, the customary senses of the term. Rather, it’s better to understand Google’s sense of evil as the disruption of its brand of (computational) progress.


The Future of Europe

Soros, Europe, uncertainty, prediction, understanding, fragility, feedback, interference, economics

By contrast I emphasize the role of misconceptions, misinterpretations and a sheer lack of understanding in shaping the course of events. I focus on the process of change rather than on the eventual outcome. The process involves reflexive feedback loops between the objective and subjective aspects of reality. Fallibility insures that the two aspects are never identical. That is where my framework differs from mainstream economics.


Ecce Animal

art, design, cocaine, diddo, ecce animal, skull

Ecce Animal

Dimension 12 x 18 x 22 cm
Compression molded Cocaine (street sourced) and Gelatin.

“The analysis started with the preparation of the 100% Cocaine standard and sample solution. An amount of standard was dissolved in a mobile phase followed by a series of trial runs to calibrate and identify the HPLC method that gave adequate separation of the standard. After several trail runs the preferred mobile phase consisted of 20% Acetonitrile, 80% water and contained 0,1% Trifluoroacetic Acid (TFA).”


Given the challenges to employing transparency as a check on algorithmic power, a new and complementary alternative is emerging….

Given the challenges to employing transparency as a check on algorithmic power, a new and complementary alternative is emerging. I call it algorithmic accountability reporting. At its core it’s really about reverse engineering—articulating the specifications of a system through a rigorous examination drawing on domain knowledge, observation, and deduction to unearth a model of how that system works.

As interest grows in understanding the broader impacts of algorithms, this kind of accountability reporting is already happening in some newsrooms, as well as in academic circles. At the Wall Street Journal a team of reporters probed e-commerce platforms to identify instances of potential price discrimination in dynamic and personalized online pricing. By polling different websites they were able to spot several, such as Staples.com, that were adjusting prices dynamically based on the location of the person visiting the site. At the Daily Beast, reporter Michael Keller dove into the iPhone spelling correction feature to help surface patterns of censorship and see which words, like “abortion,” the phone wouldn’t correct if they were misspelled. In my own investigation for Slate, I traced the contours of the editorial criteria embedded in search engine autocomplete algorithms. By collecting hundreds of autocompletions for queries relating to sex and violence I was able to ascertain which terms Google and Bing were blocking or censoring, uncovering mistakes in how these algorithms apply their editorial criteria.

All of these stories share a more or less common method. Algorithms are essentially black boxes, exposing an input and output without betraying any of their inner organs. You can’t see what’s going on inside directly, but if you vary the inputs in enough different ways and pay close attention to the outputs, you can start piecing together some likeness for how the algorithm transforms each input into an output. The black box starts to divulge some secrets.

Rage Against the Algorithms - Nicholas Diakopoulos - The Atlantic (vianew-aesthetic)

The Viridian Years

viridian, green, design, bruce sterling, landline, obsolesence

On October 14, 1998, science fiction author Bruce Sterling stood on the stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and announced his plans for the new millennium. Y2K was going to come and go, he predicted, and then in early January, journalists were going to be desperate for novelty. A new millennium needed new ideas and as a noted science fiction author, he expected they’d be ringing his phone off the hook (phones were on hooks back then — in 1998, everyone still had a landline)


TED talks are lying to you

salon, creativity, business, Peenemünde

And yet nobody wanted to add Peenemünde, where the Germans developed the V-2 rocket during the 1940s, to the glorious list of creative hothouses that includes Periclean Athens, Renaissance Florence, Belle Époque Paris and latter-day Austin, Texas. How much easier to tell us, one more time, how jazz bands work, how someone came up with the idea for the Slinky, or what shade of paint, when applied to the walls of your office, is most conducive to originality


Robin Friend | on Tumblr - Formations


Robin Friend | on Tumblr - Formations

The shaft of light streaming though the crack reminds me of a Baroque painting. The challenge of creating a photograph in complete darkness in a mine is a testing experience. Ropes, harnesses and inflatable dinghies are needed and very long exposures with the help of a hand held torch were used to make this particular image.

Why Microsoft Word Must Die

stross, MS, microsoft word, rant, writing, typesetting, broken by design, LCD

I hate Microsoft Word. I want Microsoft Word to die. I hate Microsoft Word with a burn­ing, fiery pas­sion. I hate Microsoft Word the way Win­ston Smith hated Big Brother. Our rea­sons are, alarm­ingly, not dissimilar.… Microsoft Word is a tyrant of the imag­i­na­tion, a petty, unimag­i­na­tive, incon­sis­tent dic­ta­tor that is ill-suited to any cre­ative writer’s use. Worse: it is a near-monopolist, hav­ing nearly 80 per­cent of the word pro­cess­ing field to itself. Such dom­i­nance has bru­tal­ized the minds of soft­ware devel­op­ers to such an extent that few can imag­ine a word pro­cess­ing tool other than as a shal­low imi­ta­tion of the Red­mond Behe­moth. So what’s wrong with it?


Storyboard 75: The big book of narrative

narrative, storytelling, journalism, writing, archive, stories

Since the first stirrings of the Nieman Foundation’s narrative writing program nearly 20 years ago, the staff has tended a treasure trove of resource material devoted to excellence in journalistic storytelling. Much of that material went online first via the Nieman Narrative Digest and, in 2009, here at Nieman Storyboard. Storyboard 75 represents some of the most popular posts* from our archive so far.