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July 30, 2007


I'm sure Bush will tell us that if anyone leaked information from his administration, they will be taken care of ;)

like i said yesterday...

data mining is PRECISELY what produces grist for the entire surveillance program... in fact, it is THE BASIS for the entire program... data mining - what i refer to as sniffing - is an automated program designed to "sniff" through multi-terabytes of real-time electronic transactions and untold mountains of stored data looking for certain pre-programmed patterns - words, phrases, data-strings, and hex code - which, if found, are then spit out for further analysis... if further analysis, probably also automated, confirms the initial analysis, the information is further spit out to a human analyst who makes a determination about what to do with it... the determination may include such options as further investigation, real-time data interception (wiretaps, et al), additional database searches, personal surveillance, etc... this is happening 24/7/365 and has been going on for years... the bush administration is simply banking on the fact that most members of congress, most journalists and most americans are simply too stupid to figure out what's REALLY going on...

and, if you want to know how it all works, check this out...


I'm not so sure I agree with you. You may be right that the data mining (and consequent probable cause issues) is the core crime they are dancing around, it is (at least as far as I can see) only a conjecture at this point. Given what we already know about how this crowd operates it could turn out that the core issue is something else entirely: Nixonian spying on lawmakers and members of the press to collect blackmail material, some sort of election manipulation scheme, or...who knows?

For my part I would rather see the nets cast as wide as possible. In an audit I have done things such as reviewing documents based on a random list of document numbers, or a rule such as "every transaction number ending in 327"; while that broad a net wouldn't fly here, I would suggest that it might be productive. I'd be willing to bet that looking at every hundredth e-mail or text message Karl Rove has sent in the last six years (if you could get them) would turn up a half dozen or so instances of illegal activity.


As has been much discussed the purpose of Administration's data-mining "leak" to the NYT is to give credence to Gonzales testimony that it was a different "program" than the TSP to escape the perjury rap. Of course everyone suspects this is bull. So, is there a way to determine if there were really two programs or just one?

In reviewing some of the answers by Comey to Shumer's questions concerning his May testimony I think there is a clue and a good line of questioning to pursue.

Here's the testimony:


You testified that during the visit to Attorney General Ashcroft’s hospital room on the evening of March 10, 2004, Mrs. Ashcroft was present when you first arrived and also later when Messrs. Gonzales and Card arrived.

Did you reveal classified information in Mrs. Ashcroft’s presence?


Did either Mr. Gonzales or Mr. Card reveal classified information in Mrs. Ashcroft’s presence?

>>Mr. Card did not. I do not recall whether Mr. Gonzales mentioned any aspects of the matter that would be considered classified, including the name of the program – which was itself classified, as I recall – when addressing Mr. Ashcroft.


So, there was a classified "name of the program."

Did that program of that classified name include both the data mining and eavsdropping activities?

I bet it did.

When Bush confirmed the existence of the NSA domestic surveillance program in December 2005, in response to the NYT article, he asserted that the surveillance was limited to communications in which at least one party was tied to Al Qaeda, and that before the surveillance was conducted, they had to identify people with such ties. If the data-mining is related to how they identify targets for the surveillance, then it is utterly disingenuous to argue that the data-mining and the surveillance are not part of a single program.

Now, Tony Snowjob and Abu G have been careful, by and large, not to call the "other intelligence ACTIVITIES" a separate "program." They keep referring to them as "other...activities." But this is like saying that that inserting food into your mouth, chewing, and swallowing are each separate "activities."

litigatomon --

Now, Tony Snowjob and Abu G have been careful, by and large, not to call the "other intelligence ACTIVITIES" a separate "program." They keep referring to them as "other...activities."

You make an interesting point. This guy is a very accomplished liar, but he just can't claim any ambiguity in his testimony that the hospital visit was not about the TSP. He repeated several times in his testimony that the "other intelligence activities" were not about the TSP.


SPECTER: First of all, Mr. Attorney General, what credibility is left for you when you say there's no disagreement and you're party to going to the hospital to see Attorney General Ashcroft under sedation to try to get him to approve the program?

GONZALES: The disagreement that occurred, and the reason for the visit to the hospital, Senator, was about other intelligence activities. It was not about the terrorist surveillance program that the president announced to the American people.

Now, I would like the opportunity...

SPECTER: Mr. Attorney General, do you expect us to believe that?


SCHUMER: OK. But you testified to us that you didn't believe there was serious dissent on the program that the president authorized. And now you're saying they knew of the dissent and you didn't?

GONZALES: The dissent related to other intelligence activities. The dissent was not about the terrorist surveillance program that the president confirmed and...


SCHUMER: You said, sir -- sir, you said that they knew that there was dissent. But when you testified before us, you said there has not been any serious disagreement. And it's about the same program. It's about the same exact program. You said the president authorized only one before.

And the discussion -- you see, it defies credulity to believe that the discussion with Attorney General Ashcroft or with this group of eight, which we can check on -- and I hope we will, Mr. Chairman; that will be yours and Senator Specter's prerogative -- was about nothing other than the TSP.

And if it was about the TSP, you're dissembling to this committee. Now was it about the TSP or not, the discussion on the eighth?

GONZALES: The disagreement on the 10th was about other intelligence activities.

SCHUMER: Not about the TSP, yes or no?

GONZALES: The disagreement and the reason we had to go to the hospital had to do with other intelligence activities.


Come on. If you say it's about "other," that implies not. Now say it or not.


GONZALES: It was not. It was about other intelligence activities.

SCHUMER: Was it about the TSP? Yes or no, please?

That's vital to whether you're telling the truth to this committee.

GONZALES: It was about other intelligence activities.


When he says it is about "other intelligence activies" than the TSP, that logically has to mean that it was not about the TSP. There is just no ambiguity there.

Even with the qualifier: "that the President confirmed." If there is only one program, with one classified name (see my post above), and his visit was about some aspect of that program, there is just no way for him to say it was NOT about that program and for that to be a truthful response.

marcy... I just read you FDL piece on datamining, and I wanted to bring another fact to your attention:

"The burgeoning use of national security letters coincides with an unannounced decision to deposit all the information they yield into government data banks -- and to share those private records widely, in the federal government and beyond. In late 2003, the Bush administration reversed a long-standing policy requiring agents to destroy their files on innocent American citizens, companies and residents when investigations closed."


IIRC, under standing NSA policy, all records and information collected through legal wiretaps of foreign citizens that concerned US citizens that were not targets for investigation had to be destroyed within 48 hours.

Now, there is no way that data-mining can work against US citizens if records are destroyed within 48 hours -- data mining could only be effective if patterns were established over time.

I'd like to suggest that the executive order cited above was part and parcel of the data mining operation -- that files would be opened by the NSA on US citizens if they wrote the word "jihad" in an email. Now the NSA can't really investigate US citizens -- that's the FBI's job -- and if the NSA sent over a list of people to be investigated solely because they used the word "jihad" in an email, the FBI would ignore it...and consequently the NSA would have to destroy the data record.

The solution was to allow "closed" files to be maintained, and added to until the data mining algorithm flagged someone as a person of interest.

Pursuing this theory a bit further...

The reason that JoD and the FBI got their panties in a wad about this program had nothing to do with "civil rights" -- Ashcroft, Comey, and Mueller didn't suddently become card carrying members of the ACLU. The reason this became an issue is because the data-mining algorithm wound up targeting a whole lot of Americans as "persons of interest" that the FBI had to investigate.

And, of course, none of them turned out to be terrorists -- and the DoJ and FBI was wasting valuable resources on tracking down the "leads" provided by the data-mining program. So they decided to shut it down, and the way they did it was to raise legal questions about the program.

...and the reason why the Bush admin won't talk about this program is that anti-war groups like ANSWER and prominent individuals like Juan Cole wound up being targeted by the program -- and had national security letters issued to collect more data on them.

Just a hunch...but it sounds good to me.

While the role of data mining - or pattern recognition - on vast amounts of data is an important thread to investigate - what I am curious about is the legality of the collection and storage process.

Data mining is an analysis function of looking for patterns. So for example Walmart mines their huge purchase transaction data that has been collected and stored in massive data warehouses to look for patterns of consumer purchase behavior. But the key to the analysis is the collection and storage of data on each transaction in every store over a period of time. Then combining this transaction data with environmental data - data on the community, weather, financial conditions, economic conditions, etc all of which can be acquired commercially.

So is the government secretly collecting and storing all information on every American? From their communications - voice or data; their financial transactions; their purchase transactions; their library and book store and video rental transactions; etc, etc. Are they building massive data warehouses of identity and behavioral information on every American with no warrants? Is there a massive hoovering operation that by its very nature operates above and beyond any probable cause? Isn't this the case that EFF & ACLU have alleged took place at an AT&T node in San Francisco where all electronic traffic - voice and data - where split and collected? Couldn't this be the issue that caused Comey and Ashcroft some heartburn?

It's generally been a very productive thing to compare and contrast what US intelligence agencies like NSA do to the programs and practices in the KGB. The KGB kept enormous archives and did a lot of wiretapping, and they had/have a lot of mathematicians available to optimize algorithms. Likewise, the Israeli Mossad is probably rather involved in wiretapping and sorting through everything in Palestinian electronic media.

There are probably some obvious practices and techniques used by those organizations that e.g. NSA would want to copy- and probably got told to implement- but obviously violate American constitutional law. Maybe there's enough in the public record to allow inference of such general designs rather than sticking with incremental deduction.

There have been several references to the need to gather and store large volumes of data over time, which in turn need to be sorted automatically. Data which reach a criterion of interest are flagged, and stored seperately. The rest can be purged at some point. Some of this activity had been identified as taking place in secret rooms constructed within commercial communications centers, such as the one near San Francisco. Wasn't there some discussion about a CA company called MZsomething that had contracts with the government (CIA?) for data storage. Didn't that data somehow disappear when DoJ investigators began getting close? My memory for the details of these loose threads is insufficient to lay a coherent case, but they could have a common origin.

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