OOPS! NSA admits it’s drowning in data! Now what?

Isn’t this just the perfect climactic predicament of a technocratic society that values “facts” at the expense of values, perspective and imagination? Data points eventually do tend fill up any space to the point where the entire screen turns black.

My late husband Jeff Joel, who could store massive amounts of info in his enormous brain, once asked me, in exasperation: “Why don’t you ever remember anything?” My response: “Either it changes me or it doesn’t.”

It makes me relieved to realize that much of what I read and hear — and even write, publish! — literally “goes in one ear and out the other.” Hard to hold on to anything. And no reason to hold on, usually. It just clutters the brain.

Let’s face it; we’re at a critical turning point, both personally and nationally. We obviously need to transform in a big way, and we might just begin with education: forget memorization and rote learning of bullshit that hasn’t anything to do with anything except something that’s already dead and gone or never was. DO add in the fibonacci series for mathematics, and, of course, add back in Music and Dance and Art and Recess, and Phys Ed, and especially, remembering our dreams, and, oh yes nature, the natural world! — not just our “back yards,” but free (non-helicoptered) play — at least on foot, or on our bikes, or in the park, and preferably in the forest, the rivers, the wild! — all of which help to balance growing brains to include not just left brain info, but right brain imagination, values, and perspective.

I like to think of thar massive new energy-sucking NSA Utah Data Center as a giant storage facility, much like those that have increasingly dotted the landscape ever since we started to get too much stuff to stuff in our increasingly bigger houses that we bought or built to hold all our stuff. Instead, we rent space in a nearby storage facility (hey, they’re great “investments”! Check this out!), and lock our “extra” stuff in there. Lock it away.

Let’s lock up that godawful Utah Data Center and throw away the key.

Image: NSAgov1.info

Image: NSAgov1.info


Current NSA Officials Admit Agency is drowning in TOO MUCH Info

May 30, 2015


The Problem Isn’t Too Little Spying … It’s Too Much

Former top NSA officials have repeatedly said that the NSA is collecting TOO MUCH information on Americans to be able to stop terror attacks.

The Intercept reports that current mid-level NSA officials confirm that the NSA is gathering TOO MUCH information… and it’s making it impossible to focus:

“We in the agency are at risk of a similar, collective paralysis in the face of a dizzying array of choices every single day,” the analyst wrote in 2011. “’Analysis paralysis’ isn’t only a cute rhyme. It’s the term for what happens when you spend so much time analyzing a situation that you ultimately stymie any outcome …. It’s what happens in SIGINT [signals intelligence] when we have access to endless possibilities, but we struggle to prioritize, narrow, and exploit the best ones.”

The document is one of about a dozen in which NSA intelligence experts express concerns usually heard from the agency’s critics: that the U.S. government’s “collect it all” strategy can undermine the effort to fight terrorism. The documents, provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, appear to contradict years of statements from senior officials who have claimed that pervasive surveillance of global communications helps the government identify terrorists before they strike or quickly find them after an attack.


The documents suggest that analysts at the NSA have drowned in data since 9/11, making it more difficult for them to find the real threats. The titles of the documents capture their overall message: “Data Is Not Intelligence,” “The Fallacies Behind the Scenes,” “Cognitive Overflow?” “Summit Fever” and “In Praise of Not Knowing.” Other titles include “Dealing With a ‘Tsunami’ of Intercept” and “Overcome by Overload?”


[One NSA document], titled “Too Many Choices,” started off in a colorful way but ended with a fairly stark warning: “The SIGINT mission is far too vital to unnecessarily expand the haystacks while we search for the needles. Prioritization is key.”


An amusing parable circulated at the NSA a few years ago. Two people go to a farm and purchase a truckload of melons for a dollar each. They then sell the melons along a busy road for the same price, a dollar. As they drive back to the farm for another load, they realize they aren’t making a profit, so one of them suggests, “Do you think we need a bigger truck?”The parable was written by an intelligence analyst in a document dated Jan. 23, 2012 that was titled, “Do We Need a Bigger SIGINT Truck?” It expresses, in a lively fashion, a critique of the agency’s effort to collect what former NSA Director Keith Alexander referred to as “the whole haystack.” The critique goes to the heart of the agency’s drive to gather as much of the world’s communications as possible: because it may not find what it needs in a partial haystack of data, the haystack is expanded as much as possible, on the assumption that more data will eventually yield useful information.


The author of a 2011 document … stated, “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.”


Another document, written by an intelligence analyst in 2010, bluntly stated that “we are drowning in information. And yet we know nothing. For sure.”

Indeed, top security experts agree that mass surveillance is ineffective … and actually makes us MOREvulnerable to terrorism.

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2 Responses to OOPS! NSA admits it’s drowning in data! Now what?

  1. Meghan O'Flaherty says:

    This is the reason I was never too worried in the first place. I was a librarian for forty years and know all too well the difference between data collection and data retrieval.

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