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New Report On NSA Released Today

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the some-of-the-secrets-some-of-the-time dept.

Government 81

daveschroeder writes "George Washington University has today released a three-volume history of NSA activities during the Cold War (major highlights). Written by agency historian Thomas R. Johnson, the 1,000-page report, 'Cryptology During the Cold War, 1945-1989,' details some of the agency's successes and failures, its conflict with other intelligence agencies, and the questionable legal ground on which early American cryptologists worked. The report remained classified for years, until Johnson mentioned it to Matthew Aid, an intelligence historian, at an intelligence conference. Two years later, an abstract and the three current volumes of the report are now available (PDF) from GWU and the National Security Archive. Aid, author of the forthcoming history 'The Secret Sentry: The Top Secret History of the National Security Agency,' says Johnson's study shows 'refreshing openness and honesty, acknowledging both the NSA's impressive successes and abject failures during the Cold War.' A fourth volume remains classified. Johnson says in an audio interview: 'If you are performing an operation that violates a statute like FISA, it's going to come out. It always comes out.'" And reader sampas zooms in on a section in Document 6 about the growth of NSA's IT: their first Cray purchase in 1976, the growth of circuits between facilities, and internal feuds over centralized IT development vs. programmers-in-departments. "A young systems engineer named [redacted] was urging NSA to look at some technology that had been developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). In 1969 DARPA had developed a computer internetting system called ARPANET... NSA quickly adopted the DARPA solution. The project was called platform."

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Some interesting highlights... (4, Informative)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763029)

...are in another Wall Street Journal article [wsj.com] . On Vietnam:

The NSA's role in Vietnam has been well documented in a specific agency history by agency historian Robert J. Hanyok, who wrote of NSA's botched intelligence on the supposed second attack in the Gulf of Tonkin. But Mr. Johnson's interpretation differs. Mr. Johnson hired Mr. Hanyok to expand on the more-limited treatment of the war in Mr. Johnson's history.

Mr. Hanyok finds that NSA not only made analytic errors but it also withheld information from the White House, leading White House officials to believe that there had been a second attack when there hadn't been. Mr. Johnson maintains that the NSA was "flat wrong" in reporting a second attack in the Tonkin Gulf, but he attributes it to human error not an effort to manipulate the White House. (Vol. 2, p. 583)

Another area of interest is the legal issues with which the NSA has always grappled:

Mr. Johnson's history makes clear that NSA, and its predecessors, have long grappled with legal uncertainty. "Early American cryptologists worked without the knowledge of the American public," Mr. Johnson writes of the World War I period. "They even worked without knowing if what they were doing was legal or not. It was an odd and unsettling position to be in." (Vol. 1, p. 272)

Even as Congress sought to clarify the laws on government intercept operations, the 1934 Federal Communications Act left vague whether such activities were legal. A 1950 bill amending the criminal code that then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson pushed gave legal protection to intercept activities. The NSA was created two tears later in a secret memo from President Truman, but it wasn't until 1959 that it was named in legislation.

Meanwhile, the revelation in 1960 that two NSA employees had defected to the Soviet Union in prompted multiple agency investigations. An intensive screening of agency employees turned up 26 employees believed to be homosexual who were fired. "The proceedings were not all that a civil libertarian might have wanted, but they calmed the waters enough for NSA to begin functioning again," Mr. Johnson writes. (Vol. 1, p. 284)

It wasn't until 1968 that NSA's activities were officially authorized through obscure language in a crime bill. "It did so just in time," Mr. Johnson writes. "The Watergate period and the attendant Church and Pike Committee hearings called into question all that was illegal about espionage and much of what was legal, too." (Vol. 2, p. 474)

Those hearings revealed NSA's involvement with two eavesdropping programs -- known as Shamrock and Minaret. For decades, Shamrock obtained copies of cable traffic entering or leaving the U.S., and Minaret intercepted communications of Americans who had been placed on a watchlist.

In his history, Mr. Johnson reveals that the NSA lawyer who first looked at Minaret "stated that the people involved seemed to understand that the operation was disreputable if not outright illegal." (Vol. 3, p. 85) Reports from the program were designed to look like they didn't come from NSA.

Mr. Johnson gives great credit to NSA Director Gen. Lew Allen for shutting them down, noting that the director said "the did not pass the smell test." (Vol. 3, p. 84) Mr. Johnson is openly critical of the programs, writing, for example, that Minaret "came to a well-deserved end." (Vol. 3, p. 86)

He says in an interview that NSA employees involved should have gone to their bosses and said, "Boss, if you keep doing this, you're violating the law, and you could go to jail."

Mr. Johnson, in an interview, points to the current controversy over NSA's warrantless surveillance in the wake of 9/11. He noted that he was impressed to see reports that in 2004, about two and a half years into the program, NSA lawyers began demanding to see the White House's legal justifications for the program. Their efforts along with those of some new Justice Department lawyers forced changes in the program.

Lessons of that period are directly relevant to today's debate over surveillance powers and the requirements of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was enacted to outlaw programs like Shamrock and Minaret. "If you are performing an operation that violates a statute like FISA, it's going to come out," he says in an interview. "It always comes out."

Especially informative and interesting is an audio interview with Johnson [wsj.com] (13:29 MP3), posted along with the Wall Street Journal article. Strongly recommended.

Even more interesting and shocking! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25763247)

Mr. Johnson linked neo-conservative sconnie Dave A. Schroeder as a direct descendant to Senator Joseph McCarthy [wikipedia.org] ... and spoke openly about Schroeder's mindless ramblings on Slashdot.

Re:Some interesting highlights... (2, Funny)

n1ckml007 (683046) | more than 5 years ago | (#25764129)

The cake is a [Redacted]

Re:Some interesting highlights... (1)

show me altoids (1183399) | more than 5 years ago | (#25765515)

The sheriff is a [redacted]!

Re:Some interesting highlights... (1)

Zebra1024 (726970) | more than 5 years ago | (#25765599)

What if your last name was redacted. Wouldn't they look silly.

Re:Some interesting highlights... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25770059)

Fixed it for you.

Truly yours, NSA.

Re:Some interesting highlights... (1)

0xABADC0DA (867955) | more than 5 years ago | (#25766205)

then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson pushed gave legal protection to intercept activities. The NSA was created two tears later in a secret memo from President Truman, but it wasn't until 1959 that it was named in legislation.

Privacy dies and Truman only shed TWO tears? Hell Jefferson rolled over in his grave more than that. Truman probably didn't even get misty-eyed nuking all those Japs...

On an unrelated note... (5, Funny)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763105)

everyone who clicks the links will become a person of interest to the NSA.

Re:On an unrelated note... (5, Funny)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763315)

Having done quite a bit of research on nuclear everything (from power generation to weapons to propulsion) and then openly sharing that information with others, I'm sure I'm already a person of interest. So if you don't mind, I'll just go ahead and click away! ;-)

P.S. Gun-type bombs are easy. All you need is a critical mass of U235-- err... never mind. I seem to have guests. I'll get back to you...

Re:On an unrelated note... (2, Funny)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763465)

I'm sure I'm marked as well. Oh well, I always do enjoy crapping up the Signal:Noise.

Re:On an unrelated note... (2, Informative)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763487)

Oh, and no. You need two subcritical masses, which when shot together are critical or supercritical.

(this is nothing you can't glean from wikipedia)

Re:On an unrelated note... (3, Funny)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763755)

The joke was that I was interrupted before I could tell you that you need to use that mass to create two equally sized hemispheres of U235. Fix one against a solid wall (e.g. the inside of a steel casing would do) and position the other a short distance away. (Preferably on some sort of guides that force it to face the other hemisphere. Again, steel casing is a good idea here.) Pack explosives behind the loose hemisphere. The explosives will thrust the loose hemisphere toward the fixed hemisphere, hopefully with enough force to compact the U235 and cause a super-critical reaction.

If you manage a super-critical reaction, then *BOOM*. If you fail at it, then no boom today. Boom tomorrow. Always boom tomorrow.

Re:On an unrelated note... (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763869)

Heh, the hard part is getting the U235 and handling it safely. Any monkey can hop on the internet and learn what to do with it.

Re:On an unrelated note... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25763995)

Actually any decent machine shop can do the necessary work, and it's not too difficult to keep the exposure minimal and non-life-threatening, if you care.

Personally, if I'm planning to detonate an improvised nuclear device, I'm not caring too much if the machinist I hired gets cancer in a few years. He's most likely inside blast radius of my device anyways.

Re:On an unrelated note... (2, Funny)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#25764167)

Oh, come on! A little neutron radiation never hurt anybody! ... Much. ... Okay, so it slowly turned them into swiss cheese. Not to mention the gamma ray burst after they accidentally set the hemispheres too close to each other. *cough* But that's beside the point! :-P

Joking aside, I'd say the problem is even deeper than proper handling. Once it's all processed for you, shaped, and clad in a protective carton or sheath for transport, U235 is relatively harmless. It's the processing that will kill you. Processing uranium into yellow cake, then converting it into uranium hexafluoride for enrichment, then finally shaping an enriched quantity of U235 is a rather difficult process that's just asking for accidents to happen.

Of course, I've always had a soft spot for the TXT file floating around that describes how to enrich uranium in your backyard with little more than a bucket. Perfect (and humorous) example of what NOT to do when processing uranium. ;-)

Re:On an unrelated note... (1)

blincoln (592401) | more than 5 years ago | (#25766131)

Of course, I've always had a soft spot for the TXT file floating around that describes how to enrich uranium in your backyard with little more than a bucket. Perfect (and humorous) example of what NOT to do when processing uranium. ;-)

That's what DIY telepresence waldoes are for. Er, not that I have any such plans myself.

Re:On an unrelated note... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25764859)

why not just use a specific element as a particle reflector to achieve a super-critical reaction?

i believe this is how a few nuclear technology pioneers killed themselves and/or made everyone exposed sick with rad poisoning.

a cursory browsing of wikipedia "confirms" this

Re:On an unrelated note... (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 5 years ago | (#25766551)

You know, that's not that bad an idea. But then, why go through the trouble to work with the reflector as well? Just more complexity. I understand beryllium is difficult to machine.

Re:On an unrelated note... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25770515)

MythBusters managed to polish Lion shit [wikipedia.org] ... so I wouldn't rule out machining of beryllium just yet.

Re:On an unrelated note... (1)

HardCase (14757) | more than 5 years ago | (#25765815)

If you have to explain the joke...

Re:On an unrelated note... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25764189)

P.S. Gun-type bombs are easy. All you need is a critical mass of U235

Two sub-critical masses, and the tricks is ensuring that the conventional explosives do not blow the bomb apart before the two masses have a chance to fission.

Re:On an unrelated note... (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#25765355)

All you need is a critical mass of U235--

Which just happens to be much, much rarer than gold. They'd never refine uranium and build a bomb from scratch, they'd be buying a functioning bomb somewhere in which case the instructions would be more like "enter code, press button, BOOM!" than anything remotely connected to nuclear science. Knowing the theory of building a nuke is like a theoretical physicist knowing how to win the world weightlifting championship, but it's a bloody long way from doing it.

Re:On an unrelated note... (1, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763533)

I work in the intelligence community, and I can assure that most people here don't even know what /. is, let alone do they monitor what a bunch of geeks talk abou...what's that? Whoooooosh? Dammit.

Re:On an unrelated note... (4, Insightful)

SemiSpook (1382311) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763613)

Well, ex-spook here, and at my organization, I was able to peruse /. before I left. Couldn't do normal things like webmail or eBay, but apparently wasting time at /. was perfectly acceptable.

Re:On an unrelated note... (3, Funny)

danieltdp (1287734) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763957)

Could you all please look at this red light?

Re:On an unrelated note... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25763931)

I thought it was slashdot's first foray into sex personals ads.

Re:On an unrelated note... (1)

danieltdp (1287734) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763935)

And everyone that posts something about the NSA... Oh, wait. Too late!

Re:On an unrelated note... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#25764227)

No we won't. Because we already are.
</tinfoil hat>

Longest Story Summary Ever (0, Troll)

54mc (897170) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763113)

As a typical /.er, I might just RTFA, rather than the summary!

[Redacted] (5, Funny)

Phrogman (80473) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763155)

[Redacted]

Re:[Redacted] (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25763303)

That's what she said!

Re:[Redacted] (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25763447)

[Redacted]

That's prepostero[Redacted].

Re:[Redacted] (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25763593)

I don't know why they bothered with that... ...we all know it was Al Gore.

Re:[Redacted] (1)

gehrehmee (16338) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763883)

My mother was a SAINT!

Re:[Redacted] (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#25764409)

I found it odd that they redacted the programmer's name. Whay would the man's neame be a matter of national security? I could see if he was a field agent, but a PROGRAMMER?

Are there any NSA spooks out there who can shed some light on this?

Re:[Redacted] (4, Interesting)

dave562 (969951) | more than 5 years ago | (#25765069)

I'm not a spook or NSA employee but it seems that the simple explination would be that they don't want to publish their personnel details much like you don't want to advertise your servers to the internet. The less information that the "bad guys" have about the internal workings of your organization, the harder it will be for them to penetrate it. In the specific case of a programmer, that programmer can be working on all sorts of highly classified projects. Even the most innocuous conversation can often times to be used to gain details about a subject.

Re:[Redacted] (2, Funny)

socz (1057222) | more than 5 years ago | (#25765313)

yah imagine if people knew the names of MS windows programmers... they'd be tied up somewhere in nor cal forced to fix things the users didn't like!

"We'll see how well you'll do with a blue screen of death in front of YOU"

Re:[Redacted] (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 5 years ago | (#25765315)

I found it odd that they redacted the programmer's name. Whay would the man's neame be a matter of national security? I could see if he was a field agent, but a PROGRAMMER?

Are there any NSA spooks out there who can shed some light on this?

First, I would guess that any NSA employee's names would be held back for a couple of reasons. First, would be from anarchist/hippie types that would want to torment this poor fellow or his family for helping out what they view as an evil organization, even if only as a programmer. Next, this guy might be privy to security issues, default passwords or back doors in the applications or IT setup at NSA. This information would be very valuable to foreign intelligence agencies.

Re:[Redacted] (2, Funny)

nsaspook (20301) | more than 5 years ago | (#25765583)

"Are there any NSA spooks out there who can shed some light on this?"

NO.

First [redacted] (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25763225)

[slashdot.org]

Writes its own limerick, really. (5, Funny)

Net0ps (84891) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763229)

A young systems engineer named [redacted]
Was urging the NSA to look at some [redacted]
    He [redacted] the [redacted],
    so they [redacted] in [redacted],
and [redacted] the [redacted] in [CLASSIFIED DUE TO MATTERS OF NATIONAL SECURITY].

Re:Writes its own limerick, really. (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763415)

So ... basicly the NSA is made up of Smurfs?

Don't Smurf smurf up every other word they smurf? That's the smurfpression I've gotten from smurfing the Smurfs on smurf. I might be smurf, but then again, I might also be smurf.

Re:Writes its own limerick, really. (1)

QRDeNameland (873957) | more than 5 years ago | (#25765023)

Sorry, I can't marklar what you marklar.

Re:Writes its own limerick, really. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25763505)

Shouldn't that be
Step 1. [redacted]
Step 2. [redacted]
Step 3. [redacted]
Step 4. [redacted]
Step 5. Profit?

Re:Writes its own limerick, really. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25763621)

In Soviet Russia, government agencies redact you?

Re:Writes its own limerick, really. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25763669)

Oo! I know! It's a mad lib!

A young systems engineer named Tom Bombadill
Was urging the NSA to look at some cheese.
    He climbed the coffee cup
    so they extinguished in nail-clipper
and fricasseed the business card in area 51.

Re:Writes its own limerick, really. (1)

Zegoma_beach (1407473) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763905)

I accidentally [redacted] the whole thing!

Re:Writes its own limerick, really. (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#25764949)

Who ever said that censorship can't be funny [youtube.com] ?

Intesesting museum (5, Interesting)

plopez (54068) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763251)

The National Cryptologic Museum, I found it very interesting. If you are in the area you might give it an hour or two.

http://www.nsa.gov/MUSEUM/museu00009.cfm [nsa.gov]

Re:Intesesting museum (5, Interesting)

SemiSpook (1382311) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763491)

Especially when they tell you about the Wall of Honor, and the fact that there are several individuals that cannot be revealed because those missions are still classified.

But, if you do get a chance to go, play with the Enigma machine they have on display. That was something that practically blew my mind when I first encountered it in the flesh.

Well, if you ask me... (1)

SemiSpook (1382311) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763409)

If the declassification folks took the time to blot out some of the finer details that probably do need the use of some classified network to read, you would think they'd remove the particular classification compartments on the actual pages. Now everyone on the intarwebs can see it. Oh noes!

I forgot, this is apparently good enough for government work. Awesome.

How about (3, Funny)

Corpuscavernosa (996139) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763523)

a 3 volume history of NSA activities 2000-2008? Those would have to be much larger volumes I'm guessing.

Re:How about (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25764015)

It's already available. In fact here is the full text:

Volume 1:
[redacted]

Volume 2:
[redacted]

Volume 3:
[redacted]

Re:How about (1)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 5 years ago | (#25767797)

Usually I use books as a door stop. I think this 3 volume collection you are referring to would be a door stop for Fort Knox!

A dinosaur zoo in 1990 (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25763525)

I visited the NSA many times from 1986 to 1990 - I found their computer systems to be abysmal. After several tours, and it was obvious that the whole place had a 1960's mindset towards computing. Namely, get the biggest, fastest, and most expensive computers, then build your own software around them.

  Yes, they had the very first Cray and CDC supercomputers - each had a homebrew operating system, written in house, and practically undocumented. Horribly expensive to maintain your own custom operating system, and lots of downtime.

    Lots and lots of antique 9-track (and 7 track!) vacuum-column tapedrives, even into the 1990's. Several management types proudly said, "we have acres of computers". Literally, a dinosaur zoo.

  They seemed allergic to microcomputers - the IBM PC had been out for several years and I didn't see one there until 1988.

  I lectured about Unix (with several hundred people in the audience). From the questions, it was obvious that practically nobody knew anything about it. No knowledge about TCP/IP or BIND. Several people expressed surprise and interest in the (then obvious) idea of salting a password file.

    I came away with the sense that NSA was 5 to 10 years behind the times. It was quite disillusioning to realize that they spent money prodigiously, yet all the cool stuff was at the universities.

    Maybe things have changed - a river of money has flowed into Ft. Meade over the past 10 years. But I've become quite skeptical of the wonderful claims made about NSA, especially by those who work there.

If you haven't been to NSA in nearly two decades (4, Interesting)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763717)

...and even then, only did so as a guest/contractor, then you have no idea about what is going on at NSA currently.

Computing under DOD has always been an exercise in maintaining extreme reliability, sometimes at the cost of (perceived) modernization. Many enterprise organizations still use several-year-old, proven systems because that's what's reliable and that's what works. And what ignorant managers proudly attest to in any organization is usually separated by a gulf from reality.

But you're right: things have changed. There's a lot of old technology all over the military and the IC, but there is also a lot of conventional modern -- and even "bleeding edge" -- gear. The mindset has drastically changed from "must be built here" to the extensive use of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions. And that was already happening in the mid- to late-1990s.

Funny you should mention universities -- academia is simultaneously a fantastic dinosaur zoo of its own, and simultaneously a breeding ground for some of the most exciting and groundbreaking work. NSA has long had this same duality. If you saw the NSA of the last 10-15 years, you'd be surprised at the technology in play -- warts and all.

Re:A dinosaur zoo in 1990 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25764619)

Hahahaha ok - wow. They were either fucking with you or you were talking to the real low end of the NSA. The NSA is "said to be the largest employer of mathematicians in the United States and perhaps the world."

Several people expressed surprise and interest in the (then obvious) idea of salting a password file.

This is ridiculous. This statement simply confirms that the people you were talking to were either the idiots of the NSA or deliberately trying to mislead you. I gather you are not a cryptographer, but maybe you have heard about differential cryptanalysis. Bruce Schneier and Steven Levy both give you a pretty good overview of its history in their books, but I'll just give you a quick quote from Wikipedia:

In 1994, a member of the original IBM DES team, Don Coppersmith, published a paper stating that differential cryptanalysis was known to IBM as early as 1974, and that defending against differential cryptanalysis had been a design goal. According to author Steven Levy, IBM had discovered differential cryptanalysis on its own, and the NSA was apparently well aware of the technique. IBM kept some secrets, as Coppersmith explains: "After discussions with NSA, it was decided that disclosure of the design considerations would reveal the technique of differential cryptanalysis, a powerful technique that could be used against many ciphers. This in turn would weaken the competitive advantage the United States enjoyed over other countries in the field of cryptography."

In fact, according to the unclassified documents and writings of many people in the NSA, it is estimated that the NSA may have developed differential cryptanalysis up to 10 years before IBM's team did.

The NSA was embroiled in some controversy concerning its involvement in the creation of the Data Encryption Standard (DES), a standard and public block cipher algorithm used by the U.S. government and banking community. During the development of DES by IBM in the 1970s, the NSA recommended changes to some details of the design. There was suspicion that these changes had weakened the algorithm sufficiently to enable the agency to eavesdrop if required, including speculation that a critical componentâ"the so-called S-boxesâ"had been altered to insert a "backdoor" and that the reduction in key length might have made it feasible for NSA to discover DES keys using massive computing power. It has since been observed that the S-boxes in DES are particularly resilient against differential cryptanalysis, a technique which was not publicly discovered until the late 1980s, but which was known to the IBM DES team.

It is now hypothesized by many that the reason the NSA switched around the S-boxes was not to create a backdoor, but to make the DES standard more resistant to differential cryptanalysis.

To present an analogy, it was as though the US government had secretly developed the theory of special relativity 10 years before Einstein wrote his paper and had managed to keep it all hush-hush during that time.

You can say all you want about NSA bureaucracy and its secrecy and many of its really stupid decisions but saying that the people working there are stupid or uninformed just makes you look bad.

P.S. I do not work for the NSA, but my girlfriend does. The fact that she can never tell me anything about what she's doing is one of the things I hate about the NSA.

Re:A dinosaur zoo in 1990 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25764915)

i've done some work for the DOD, trust me, they haven't changed....

Who cares? (4, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763725)

'If you are performing an operation that violates a statute like FISA, it's going to come out. It always comes out.'

So what? Nobody is going to jail over it. Political coups facilitated by such activities are not reversed. Prosecutions stemming from them are not overturned. Ill-gotten gains from such information illegally used for profit are not confiscated.

So 50 years later documents are declassified and people are identified who broke the law back then. They're all dead by now.

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25764397)

Quite a few of the people who were involved in the Johnson and Nixon administrations are alive and well and often still work in government.

Re:Who cares? (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25764797)

Like good old Mr. [redacted].

FISA compliant operations. (1)

LoyalOpposition (168041) | more than 5 years ago | (#25763765)

If you are performing an operation that violates a statute like FISA, it's going to come out," he says in an interview. "It always comes out.

Mr. Johnson went on to explain that there were no operations that violate a statute like FISA that have not been revealed. It's futile to look for operations that violate a statute like FISA, as all of them have been revealed. No unrevealed operations violating a statue like FISA remain. All unrevealed operations comply with all statutes like FISA.

-Loyal

Re:FISA compliant operations. (1)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 5 years ago | (#25764175)

Believe it or not, everything someone says, just because they are affiliated with NSA, isn't always all propaganda or misinformation.

Hint: no one has found operations that are allegedly in violation of any law by "looking for them" from the outside. They've all been leaked to the media. And the legality of the various operations is anything but clear cut [slashdot.org] , and will likely be a subject of legal debate for years to come.

NSA doesn't just invent things to do on its own. Intelligence agencies serve one primary purpose [intelligence.gov] , and that is to conduct intelligence activities in response to its customers, the ultimate customer being the President, necessary for the conduct of foreign relations and the protection of the national security of the United States.

If you choose to politicize everything, then no doubt you ascribe the worst possible intent and overt malice to any activities with which you take issue. Unfortunately, the truth is often far more nuanced -- and elusive -- than the paranoid oversimplification by breathless bloggers would have you believe. Conspiracy theories are much more fun to dabble in, though, aren't they? Facts are, after all, quite boring.

Re:FISA compliant operations. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25764559)

Hint: no one has found operations that are allegedly in violation of any law by "looking for them" from the outside. They've all been leaked to the media.

While Mark Klein [wikipedia.org] may have technically "leaked" his knowledge (whatever that verb is supposed to mean), he most certainly was doing his looking from "outside" NSA. I believe history will vindicate him as a brave patriot to whom all Freedom/freedom-loving citizens are indebted.

Conspiracy theories are much more fun to dabble in, though, aren't they? Facts are, after all, quite boring.

Perhaps you aren't familiar with a writer by the name of Mark Twain who once observed "Truth [wikipedia.org] is stranger [wikipedia.org] than fiction [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:FISA compliant operations. (3, Interesting)

copponex (13876) | more than 5 years ago | (#25766203)

Believe it or not, everything someone says, just because they are affiliated with NSA, isn't always all propaganda or misinformation.

Correct. It is also always what they want you to hear. The chief enemy of every state is it's own people, because that's the most likely entity that will end their rule.

As far as intelligence agencies and "nuanced" truth, you only have to look at Operation AJAX. We quite simply overthrew a democratic government so we could have better access to oil. If you think any modern conflict is any different, I can only ascribe it to purposeful ignorance.

Even from an intelligence standpoint, the NSA and CIA are nearly useless. They didn't predict the collapse of the Soviet Union. They missed 9/11 by a mile. When they were trying to discover whether Ho Chi Minh was taking orders from Russia or China, the most they found was a single Russian newspaper at a Vietnamese Embassy. Their end analysis? The Vietcong were so loyal they didn't even need to receive orders, they "just knew" what their communist masters wanted. I think they call it "groupthink," though political malice seems like a much easier explanation.

They are just unaccountable agencies with no oversight that serve the interests of the ruling party, and as a side benefit inject technology into private industry for the benefit of the same power center. Everything they touch is propaganda, and they have no constitutional authority to exist. So, they shouldn't. One thing has not changed since the dawn of time: concentration of power in a centralized fashion leads to corruption and misery, whether it's in a government, corporation, or your local PTA. If you cover that up with secret budgets and unaccountable violence, you shouldn't be surprised that the results are so bad.

Biggest Failure?? (2, Funny)

hemp (36945) | more than 5 years ago | (#25764101)

In the lead-up to the Cuban Missile Crisis, NSA and military spies missed the Soviets transferring a battery of offensive missiles to Cuba. That "marked the most significant failure" by government eavesdroppers to warn national leaders since World War II, Mr. Johnson wrote.

I guess 9/11 won't be included until Volumn 4 due out in 2058.

Re:Biggest Failure?? (1)

Phrogman (80473) | more than 5 years ago | (#25764373)

I believe these volumes only cover the NSA up until 1989, so missing out on 9/11 predictions is probably not their fault. Unless you want to blame the Men who stared at goats [wikipedia.org] for failing to psychically predict the attack, and that was an US Army operation anyways.

Re:Biggest Failure?? (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#25764623)

Urm, think that should be modded 'insightful', rather than 'funny' guys..

Re:Biggest Failure?? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#25764763)

I'm more interested in their biggest success. What has the NSA actually done for us to justify its existence?

Re:Biggest Failure?? (2, Informative)

ElAurian (133656) | more than 5 years ago | (#25766039)

The Cuban Missile Crisis was VASTLY more significant an intelligence failure than 9/11. There's no comparison!

Simply put: If the Cuban Missile Crisis had gone south, billions of people would have been dead in a few short years. (After nuclear winter set in, and all the crops died.)

9-11 involved the destruction of some buildings in one city, and the deaths of thousands of people.

There's no comparison.

Re:Biggest Failure?? (4, Interesting)

Sanat (702) | more than 5 years ago | (#25766543)

I was in the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was a systems analyst for the minuteman missiles systems which carry nukes.

I was a member of the Combat Targeting team made up of three team members and our job was to program the missile's computer with target data and other information and to aim/align its guidance system optically to true north.

The half finished missile sites in Montana were taken away (literally commandeered) from Boeing and new missiles postured for use adding a larger quantity of nukes than the USSR had counted on facing.

The Strategic Air Command (SAC) was at its finest with the B47's ready and the B52's ready as well.

This was a time to remember.

we assumed we were going to die but did not know much about what was going on (all portable radios were confiscated) so just did our jobs to the best of our abilities.

Probably the NSA is going to look me up for sharing this.

 

Re:Biggest Failure?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25768615)

  How about building special hydrolic systems for missile systems, in the middle of the desert, for couple of month, that was suppose to be compact enough to be placed in the "regular" sized wagon, yet fast enough, without breaking, to bring the missile up into a firing position in couple of a seconds! Mind you beside the hydrolic system with the missile itself, must fit into the rail cart. And the fun of having this old geezer come out, and tell us that what was build is shit, and we have to start all over again. Oh, and no one could leave that place. Summers are fun. Oh, and you can tell a difference, but hey -- none of your business how. Old times.

paranoid enough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25768853)

Probably the NSA is going to look me up for sharing this.

like the software hasn't already tagged all of us, for reading this thread... it's got enough of the key words.
besides... it's not that big of a deal...

I was under direct surveillance back in the 90's [member of the "A" list, one of us hacked the NSA inter-office mail system, during the unabomber incident...], and I'm still free[ish]. I recently visited ORNL and didn't have any problems, even though I was within walking distance of Y-12 [just in case there weren't enough key words... this aught to do it.], and the security was easier to handle there than at the friggin airport [e.g. they didn't make a fuss about the size of my tooth-paste tube, &c.].

Get over it. You're under surveillance whether you like it, or not. Freedom is an illusion that we cherish... as long as we are allowed to.

Re:Biggest Failure?? (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 5 years ago | (#25778349)

Posts like this are what makes Slashdot truly interesting. The fact that you can read what Hans Reiser says, Bruce Perens, or people that were actually involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
I've actually wondered what other huge names read this site, read the comments/jokes about them, and just chuckle. Obama, if you're reading this, leave a message anonymously.

Re:Biggest Failure?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25783753)

I won

Missed eveything none the less (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25765083)

Most significant events, they had no clue.

Is google scanning it and putting it online? (1)

Ginsu2000 (556427) | more than 5 years ago | (#25765541)

Come on google!

CUM (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25766281)

internal feuds (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#25766961)

Sounds like any other company to me.

silly hacker names (1)

griffman99h (671362) | more than 5 years ago | (#25770219)

sheesh. Leave it to some NSA hacker geek at DARPA to use the handle [redacted].

I mean come on, be original for once.

:P

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