Anything you say can and will be used

Via Wired comes word of a top secret government project with very disturbing implications.

Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks… It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

Note that this is not just for intercepting information with the authorization of a search warrant. This project will intercept, store, and analyze “complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter'” in general. You and me, in other words. Total government surveillance of private citizens.

Killed by Congress? Yeah, right.


  1. Didaktylos says

    Don’t worry so much – this will gather information far more quickly than it can be processed. Sam Hall will always defeat Big Brother.

    • Ryan says

      I’m curious about the “Sam Hall” to which you refer. I’m only familiar with the old English ballad of that name, but that doesn’t seem to be a great fit (a ballad about an unrepentant criminal sent to execution =/= deluge of data from intercept collection and the problem of interpreting/filtering it).

  2. unbound says

    Just need to use the same approach that you should use at the grocery store with a rewards card (in that case buy infant formula and rat poison on the same trip occasionally to mess around with their matching algorithms). Make sure you spend plenty of cycles issuing searches for a wide variety of irrelevant subjects…probably time for everyone to get StumbleUpon and set your interests to everything.

  3. Yellow Thursday says

    If they’re tracking internet usage, 90+% of the information they gather is going to be porn.

    • unbound says

      Good point. Especially considering they set up the data center in Utah, the number 1 state for internet porn traffic in the US.

  4. Hunt says

    A lot more can be done just with basic SQL than is ever normally exercised, and I can see the temptation to sift the world’d data to trace incipient terrorist threats. The problem is, it will never be restricted to just that. The question is, how many false positive will there be before people have had enough? This is interesting, since I just watched “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” the remake with Michael Douglas, wherein two reporters plant false evidence to frame a crooked prosecutor. I suspect that any such NSA project would inevitably be fouled by a similar barrage of falsely contrived planted “plots,” along with exonerating excuses. In other words, civil rights activists and hackers would start to fuck with them, unless of course it remained an entirely covert operation. Of course, that’s exactly what “killed by Congress” can mean.

  5. Hunt says

    Another thing: I remember when “total information awareness” first started being bandied about, my library allowed a person to walk into it, sit down at a computer and start typing into a browser. I can remember thinking to myself, shit, this is truly total anonymity. I could be be anyone, say anything, and there was really shit that could trace anything back to me personally. A few months later, you could only sit at a computer if you logged in with a valid library card, with a name and address attached to it. Now, I am not a naturally paranoid person, but make of it what you will. Today, even if you’re in a free wireless zone, your net traffic is going to be tagged by your laptop MAC address, which can be correlated to a serial number and a receipt of your purchase. There are very, VERY few ways to achieve complete anonymity on the web today.

  6. Mike de Fleuriot says

    Lucky for the rest of the world, if the USA gets too big for it britches, we will just cut it off from the rest of us. Sure we might struggle for a day or two, but we will manage in the end.

    Sucks to be in a country that will allow that. Pity you can not do anything about it.

  7. kraut says

    Hail to the Total Surveillance Society – or SS for short.
    Isn’t it nice to bask in the feeling of safety that you experience when you know that Big Brother knows everything about what you do on your machine.
    Type the wrong proscribed work in, and you will receive a knock by the man in black on your door…but we only do it to keep you safe.

    Ever since 2001 “security” has trumped democracy. And freedoms went downhill from there. Time to unplug yourself from the system.

  8. Art says

    Given the known history, the Glomar Explorer was all about recovering a Soviet sub with intact nuclear missiles on board, the DSRV was used to tap Russian underwater cables (and God knows what else), one has to wonder what the real purpose of the Utah Data Center is. TIA is the pat answer. Which suggests that there is something far more underhanded going on.

    If TIA is the friendly face they leave open as acceptable then we are in “Pinky and the Brain”, Take over the world!, territory for the actual goal.

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