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Upon review of the many articles ranging from the more influential articles such as James Bamford's one in Wired, to the myriad of others, the message seems to be one of pessimism and discontent for the building of such supercomputers. In these situations, we become a devil's advocate in the argument and wonder if there are not two sides to these
moves by the Federal government. We also will evaluate carefully the criticisms of James Bamford himself, who seems the lone source for what the Federal government intends to do with this new data center soon to come online.
James Bamford & His Critics
- Body of Secrets:Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency
- The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America
- The Puzzle Palace Inside the National Security Agency, America's Most Secret Intelligence Organization
- A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies
Unlike before with The Puzzle Palace, this time the NSA cooperated with Bamford. Alarmed by Hollywood films like Enemy of the State that portrayed his agency as a ruthless cadre of assassins, the director of the NSA, Lt. Gen Michael V. Hayden, wanted the American public to have a more accurate picture of how the NSA functioned. In order to encourage better communication between the NSA and the press, Hayden granted Bamford unprecedented access to Crypto City (the NSA campus in Ft. Meade, MD), senior NSA officials, and thousands of NSA documents while he researched Body of Secrets. The NSA even hosted a book signing for Bamford on the grounds of Crypto City. It lasted more than four hours as hundreds of NSA employees lined up to have their copies of Body of Secrets autographed.
Returning to Bill Kelly. Though incorrect about the NSA leak, he asked questions about Bamford and Northwoods few people have ever voiced: The NSA doesn’t just give journalists tours of their operations, and retired CIA officers don’t just send documents to writers from the grave. There is a reason behind all this that isn't what it appears to be. Kelly’s right. It’s hard to take seriously a man who was given access to practically all areas within the NSA apparatus who then says the “NSA never handed me any documents, it was a question of digging.”
...I realized some years ago that it’s all about access. Journalists get scoops based on who they know. Authors get published based on who they know. And who they know is related to the favors they’ve performed, and are willing to perform. As a result, some of the biggest stories in recent times have been broken by writers with contacts within the FBI or CIA, who have quite possibly repaid this access by burying important information related to other stories. These writers include well-known personalities such as Jack Anderson, Bob Woodward, and Seymour Hersh... it also includes lesser figures such as Max Holland and Joe Trento IMO. (Pat Spear: email; 16 June,2010)Coogan's final summary of Bamford's books and statements is as follows.
In the complex inter-departmental turf war struggles between agencies, enlightening information often comes out. Bamford may well be one of those conduits. But this is hardly “free” information, and no matter how “useful” Bamford may be in some areas, he certainly demands to be thought of in a wholly new light.In our view, we cannot simplify who Bamford is. He certainly has contributed much valuable information on the National Security Agency. It seems to us illogical to suppose that if the NSA controlled everything Bamford says, they would sanction the many critical statements he has made of the agency and its attempts to violate civil liberties whether accidentally or deliberately, which is the way that Bamford presents the NSA. We agree with Mr. Steven Aftergood, the head of Secrecy News when while criticizing Mr. Bamford he stated,
James Bamford has done more than any other individual to shed light on the National Security Agency and to promote public accountability of this intensely secretive organization, dating back to his landmark 1982 book The Puzzle Palace. The list of his reportorial coups to the present day is long and impressive . . .We include a 30 minute video in which Bamford gets to make his case about the current NSA practices. If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link: http://youtu.be/Bh7KJnVowVg.
The International Routing Phone Call System & The NSA
tIn a 2007 article titled, NSA's Lucky Break: How the U.S. Became Switchboard to the World, Ryan Singel stated,
International phone and internet traffic flows through the United States largely because of pricing models established more than 100 years ago in the International Telecommunication Union to handle international phone calls. Under those ITU tariffs, smaller and developing countries charge higher fees to accept calls than the U.S.-based carriers do, which can make it cheaper to route phone calls through the United States than directly to a neighboring country.We decided to investigate this further and we located an elaboration of this statement in a book titled, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.
A large volume of of purely international telephone calls - call that do not begin or end in America, - also now travel through switches based in the United States. Telephone calls from Asia to Europe, for example, may go through the United States - based switches. This so-called transit traffic has dramatically increased in recent years as the telephone network has become increasingly globalized. Computerized systems determine the most efficient routes for digital "packets" of electronic communications depending on the speed and congestion on the networks, not necessarily on the shortest line between two points.James Risen, author of this book goes on to say,
Such random global route selection means that the switches carrying calls from Cleveland to Chicago, for example, may also be carrying calls from Islamabad to Jakarta. In fact, it is not difficult to tell where the domestic telephone system ends and the international network begins.This is why the Bush Administration sought a relaxation of the traditional FISA courts established in the 1970s to supervise and approve foreign wiretaps.
In the years before 9/11, the NSA apparently recognized that the remarkable growth in transit was becoming a major issue that had never been addressed by the FISA or the other 1970s-era and regulations governing the U.S. intelligence community. Now that foreign calls were being routed through switched that were physically on American soil, eavesdropping on those calls might be a violation of the regulations and laws restricting the NSA from spying inside the United States.So the opportunity was too tempting.
If the NSA could gain access to the American switches, it could easily monitor millions of foreign telephone calls, and do so much more consistently and effectively than it could overseas, where it had to rely on spy satellites and listening stations to try to vacuum up telecommunication signals as they bounced through the air. Of course, that would mean NSA would also have direct access to the domestic telephone network as well.Where are these switches? According to Risen the "...most critical ones..." are in New York area.
...a key intersection between the domestic and international telecommunications networks. Switching facilities in the region feed out to telecommunication cables that dive into the Atlantic Ocean bound for Europe and beyond. The NSA now apparently has access into those switches, allowing it to monitor telecommunications traffic as it enters and exits the United States.This applies to email communication as well as telephone calls,
...the NSA has the ability to conduct surveillance on the e-mail of virtually any American is chooses to target. One of the secrets of the Internet is that its infrastructure is dominated by the United States, and that much of the world's e-mail traffic, at one time or another, flows through telecommunications networks that are physically on American soil. E-mail between Germany and ITaly, for example, or Pakistan and Yemen, is often routed through America.The secret presidential order has given the NSA the freedom to peruse that international e-mail traffic - along with the e-mail of millions of Americans.We will continue with this discussion in the second part of our series. We will discuss the forces behing this new Utah Data Center and whether the NSA has surpassed the limits of the Constitution.