Total Information Awareness is now possible thanks to Microsoft and the NSA’s new Texas Cryptology Center in San Antonio, Texas:
“No longer able to store all the intercepted phone calls and e-mail in its secret city, the agency has now built a new data warehouse in San Antonio, Texas,” writes author James Bamford in the Shadow Factory, his third book about the NSA. “Costing, with renovations, upwards of $130 million, the 470,000-square-foot facility will be almost the size of the Alamodome. Considering how much data can now be squeezed onto a small flash drive, the new NSA building may eventually be able to hold all the information in the world.” …
The new facility is a potential boon to the local economy since it’s reportedly going to employ around 1,500 people, but questions remain about whether there will be adequate oversight to prevent civil-rights violations like Uncle Sam’s recent notorious warrantless wiretapping program. The NSA would suggest the facility’s ability to sort through surveillance data is one of America’s top defenses against terrorist threats, but the NSA’s presence comes with concerns that abuse of its secretive power could see the agency become akin to the “Thought Police” of 1984, George Orwell’s classic novel depicting the nightmare of a total surveillance society — and all for nothing. Even as the facility is completed, a new government-backed report has concluded that data surveillance is an ineffective method for identifying potential terrorists or preventing attacks.
So just what will be going on inside the NSA’s new San Antonio facility? Bamford describes former NSA Director Mike Hayden’s goals for the data-mining center as knowing “exactly what Americans were doing day by day, hour by hour, and second by second. He wanted to know where they shopped, what they bought, what movies they saw, what books they read, the toll booths they went through, the plane tickets they purchased, the hotels they stayed in… In other words, Total Information Awareness, the same Orwellian concept that John Poindexter had tried to develop while working for the Pentagon’s [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency].”
The new NSA facility is just a few miles from Microsoft’s data center of the same size. Bamford says that under current law, NSA could gain access to Microsoft’s stored data without even a warrant, but merely a fiber-optic cable.
“What the Microsoft people will have will be just storage of a lot of the email that is being sent. They keep this email — I don’t know why — and there should be some legislation saying how long it should be kept,” said Bamford in a phone interview last week. “The post office doesn’t keep copies of our letters when we mail letters; why should the telecom companies or the internet providers keep copies of our email? It doesn’t make sense to me. But there’s no legislation. So they need a place to store it, and that’s where they’re storing all this stuff.”
I had no idea Microsoft worked so closely with the NSA to parse our email. We’re in for a reckoning as a total lack of privacy — in public or at home — is the new standard for ordinary behavior in America.