National Security Agency

On this episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin talks to Russell Tice, former intelligence analyst and original NSA whistleblower, about how the recent NSA scandal is only scratches the surface of…

FurbyA blast from the past. CNN reported back in 1999…

Can the cute, popular toy Furby be a threat to national security? The government thinks so, and has banned it from National Security Agency premises in Maryland.

Furby is embedded with a computer chip that allows it to record words. Because of that ability, NSA officials were worried “that people would take them home and they’d start talking classified,” one Capitol Hill source told The Washington Post.

In a warning to employees, the NSA said, “Personally owned photographic, video and audio recording equipment are prohibited items. This includes toys, such as ‘Furbys,’ with built-in recorders that repeat the audio with synthesized sound to mimic the original signal.”

“We are prohibited from introducing these items into NSA spaces. Those who have should contact their Staff Security Office for guidance,” a memo said.

NSADan Nosowitz writes on Popular Science:

The National Security Agency is, by nature, an extreme example of the e-hoarder. And as the governmental organization responsible for things like, say, gathering intelligence on such Persons of Interest as Osama bin Laden, that impulse makes sense–though once you hear the specifics, it still seems pretty incredible. In a story about the bin Laden mission, the NSA very casually dropped a number: Every six hours, the agency collects as much data as is stored in the entire Library of Congress.

That data includes transcripts of phone calls and in-house discussions, video and audio surveillance, and a massive amount of photography. “The volume of data they’re pulling in is huge,” said John V. Parachini, director of the Intelligence Policy Center at RAND. “One criticism we might make of our [intelligence] community is that we’re collection-obsessed — we pull in everything — and we don’t spend enough time or money to try and understand what do we have and how can we act upon it.”

James Bamford reviews The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency by Matthew M. Aid in The New York Review of Books:

On a remote edge of Utah’s dry and arid high desert, where temperatures often zoom past 100 degrees, hard-hatted construction workers with top-secret clearances are preparing to build what may become America’s equivalent of Jorge Luis Borges’s “Library of Babel,” a place where the collection of information is both infinite and at the same time monstrous, where the entire world’s knowledge is stored, but not a single word is understood. At a million square feet, the mammoth $2 billion structure will be one-third larger than the US Capitol and will use the same amount of energy as every house in Salt Lake City combined.

Unlike Borges’s “labyrinth of letters,” this library expects few visitors. It’s being built by the ultra-secret National Security Agency—which is primarily responsible for “signals intelligence,” the collection and analysis of various forms of communication—to house trillions of phone calls, e-mail messages, and data trails: Web searches, parking receipts, bookstore visits, and other digital “pocket litter.” Lacking adequate space and power at its city-sized Fort Meade, Maryland, headquarters, the NSA is also completing work on another data archive, this one in San Antonio, Texas, which will be nearly the size of the Alamodome.

Just how much information will be stored in these windowless cybertemples? A clue comes from a recent report prepared by the MITRE Corporation, a Pentagon think tank…