1993-06-24 - Re: a new role for the NSA

Header Data

From: Peter Wayner <pcw@access.digex.net>
To: ld231782@longs.lance.colostate.edu
Message Hash: e24061a02cbd0ecde2c090eeb2e272934a29f397de78e69d356683b9a708be32
Message ID: <199306241253.AA00313@access.digex.net>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1993-06-24 12:53:23 UTC
Raw Date: Thu, 24 Jun 93 05:53:23 PDT

Raw message

From: Peter Wayner <pcw@access.digex.net>
Date: Thu, 24 Jun 93 05:53:23 PDT
To: ld231782@longs.lance.colostate.edu
Subject: Re:  a new role for the NSA
Message-ID: <199306241253.AA00313@access.digex.net>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

Many people have pointed out, perhaps correctly, that strong
crypto could mean the end of the line for many of the workers
at the NSA. If I was in charge of the NSA, I would argue to
my budget-dispensing superiors that all of the strong crypto
just meant that I needed a bigger budget to scan for data. 

So the terrorists get crypto terminals? Well, they probably
won't have a Tempest class machine so there is plenty of SIGINT
that can still be done. There are plenty of opportunities to
target people and their communications links with localized
bugs. It just requires some more money. 

I've often wondered whether the NSA's presumed approach of 
acting as a huge vacuum cleaner for data was the best way
of gathering intelligence. It may have been in the 1960's
and earlier when transmission rates were relatively expensive
and people didn't call long distance unless their was a 
death in the family. Now, though, the sheer volume of data
has exploded. Vaccuumming it all in and sorting it out
in the buildings at Fort Meade must be much less cost effective--
no matter how many voice recognition computers that they have.

Today, information is much, much cheaper than it used to be.
Intelligence is just as expensive as ever. 

Incidentally, Bill Safire wrote a great piece on this a year
or so ago. He argued that it was time for the Spy agencies to
go back to Mata Hari type shenanigans because the magic window
of SIGINT was about to be closed again. If anyone could dig
it up, I would appreciate the reference. 

-Peter Wayner