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Saturday, April 02, 2005

Chatter

Picked up Patrick Keefe's Chatter, recently, all about sigint surveillance, in particular the Echelon project. We have all heard about term 'chatter' by now, we have a feeling for what it means, but how is it measured? That question is never answered. I pose the more general question in a post at Future Now. I know a little about the subject and worked on Darpanet many years ago, have also looked at text mining approaches .. so I thought there would be some interesting detail here. Pretty early on Keefe makes it clear that he doen't know much about the topic, or technology in general. He provides uninteresting descriptions of his standing outside of facilities looking in through the fence, or interviewing other journalists with similarly limited knowledge. While visiting a purported, abandoned NSA site ... he is amazed that the computer room had a raised floor ... that there was a cable tunnel between two buildings on the site. He is in awe of the radomes that protect antenna complexes. He shows shock that an employee at a UK base is prosecuted when she steals classified material to support her own political agenda. He lost my respect fairly quickly, but I did slog on. He is further amazed that the NSA's public web site does not contain a full directory of their employees (no company does this today). He describes the criminal trashing of Admiral Poindexter and his neighbors to make a point. There was no faint suggestion of loss of privacy or potential data mis-use that he does not cover in depth, but there was not much mention of the potential value of these capabilities. His discussion of 'mining' in particular was weak; you got the impression it was just about finding words. The one part I did find interesting was some of the statistics regarding human intelligence ... but can I trust them? Find this at the library, but beware.

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