Spying on Americans for Surveillance Sake is a Scandal

The scandal—and it is a scandal not a controversy—involving the Obama administration’s directive ordering the National Security Agency (NSA) to literally seize the telephone records of millions of Americans, according to at least one whistleblower, is the “tip of the iceberg.”

One of the best books concerning NSA surveillance is James Bamford’s Shadow Factory, where the author spotlights intrusive initiatives designed to capture the data of those abroad as well as American citizens.

One of these intrusive technologies is called “word spotting,” by which software supplied by Nexidia Inc. makes 8,000 hours of searchable audible data available each day.  The second and much more Orwellian NSA program was dubbed “Trailblazer,” which uses algorithms—computer generated data collected from “telephone calls, credit card transactions, social network sites, cellular telephone geo-location, Amazon book purchases, and E-Z toll passes,” to make it possible to not only discern where an individual is but what they are doing while they are at a particular location.

Bamford’s book, which was authored is 2008, is, by technological standards, yesterday’s news.  An even more intrusive spy program—one that began during the Bush administration, but expanded under President Obama—seeks to record and catalog all electronic communications and transactions.  In order to store this mountain of digital information, the U.S. government is spending $2 billion to complete the Utah Data Center, a 900,000 square foot facility with 25,000 square feet of high-tech servers. The program, called “Stellar Wind,” is the result, claims former NSA employee turned whistleblower William Binney, of the NSA installing cable tapping gear at the nation’s fiber optic nerve centers.


“According to Binney,” Bamford writes, “one of the deepest secrets of the Stellar Wind program—again, never confirmed until now—was that the NSA gained warrantless access to AT&T’s vast trove of domestic and international billing records, detailed information about who called whom in the US and around the world. As of 2007, AT&T had more than 2.8 trillion records housed in a database at its Florham Park, New Jersey, complex.”

Under this new initiative, the NSA uses keyword detection to monitor all electronic communications, such as e-mails, digital telephone calls, faxes, text messages, instant messages, and Web streamed communications. Once a keyword is detected from a device, all communications emanating from a machine or an IP address are recorded and stored, even telephone conversations.  Under a liberal interpretation of the Patriot Act, data storage and cataloging is no longer considered eavesdropping, which is why a court order from a FISA court is not needed until an agency seeks to actually listen to the recorded telephone conversations.  Even encrypted data—codes that the NSA does not yet have the ability to decipher—are collected in the hopes that, somewhere in the future, the agency will have the capabilities to decrypt these messages.

With this data in hand, under the auspices initiated by Trailblazer, it is possible to now watch what a target of NSA surveillance is actually typing in real time.  One of the components of the FBI’s $1.2 billion Next Generation Identification (NGI) network is the identification and cataloging of an individual’s key stroke rhythms. And where would the FBI gather such data? From the installation of individual key stroke recording devices as well as a data base from another agency with the ability to record key strokes.

In an effort to educate the public, SF is now offering The State of Surveillance—a new hour-and-a-half program that explains government surveillance initiatives. Whether it is the use of drones or the NSA’s intrusive domestic spying, those in attendance are in for a real eye-opening experience. I also discussed the NSA and other government surveillance initiatives in my latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. I & II, available at Amazon.com.

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest print edition only book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at Amazon.com.


If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit www.badgerwordsmith.com and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

(c) Copyright, Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

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