Saturday, December 21, 2013

WSJ: NSA's Business Model Is Questioned

In How Game Theory and the Immune System Can Inform Us on the NSA Public/Private Phone Record Debate the argument was made that:
...The NSA's mission to provide intelligence for our national defense/'immune' system is made more complex by burdening it with the restrictions of 'privacy'.  Contrary to the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence's arguments, we can allocate resources to service providers to keep customer information private (relative to the government) behind a barrier; yet readily accessible (à la NexisLexis-style business-to-business access) when authorized by the FISA Court.  Like the immune system's Blood-Brain-Barrier, some costs are worth paying for the benefits when developing an optimal defense strategy that has to take into account competing interests.
The Wall Street Journal is now reporting that implementing this strategy was already tested and proven in 1999 with a program called ThinThread.  What's more, it turned out to be "too cheap" to implement (emphasis added):
...The current NSA model relies largely on amassing as much data as it can obtain and trying to sort through it all later.

In its place, the presidentially appointed review panel suggested a drastic and fundamental change..."Software that would allow...intelligence agencies more easily to conduct targeted information acquisition rather than bulk-data collection."

The panel proposed a feasibility study. but form NSA officials say such a transition is certainly doable. "That's exactly what we did," says form NSA official Ed Loomis. "It's not only feasible--the government threw away the software that did it."...

...ThinThread was also handicapped because it was too cheap. With a $3 million price tag, the program couldn't compete with a $4 billion program called Trailblazer that was backed by major contractors...


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