Har precis läst James Bamfords bok Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency från 2002. Den är väl värd att läsa om man vill förstå vad signalspaning går ut på, oavsett vilken inställning man har i sakfrågan. Bamford går igenom NSA historia, organisation och arbetssätt på ett detaljerat sätt. Utifrån boken kan man nog få en positiv bild av NSA och dess arbete. Nu har författaren relativt nyligen skrivit en ny bok där jag anar en mer kritisk inställning, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America.
Hittade via Bruce Schneier en intervju med Bamford där vissa resonemang även kan vara relevanta för FRA-debatten, nämlingen att FRA ska användas för något annat än organisation ursprungligen var skapad.
The problem is that NSA was never designed for what it's doing. It was designed after World War II to prevent another surprise attack from another nation-state, particularly the Soviet Union. And from 1945 or '46 until 1990 or '91, that's what its mission was. That's what every piece of equipment, that's what every person recruited to the agency, was supposed to do, practically — find out when and where and if the Russians were about to launch a nuclear attack. That's what it spent 50 years being built for. And then all of a sudden the Soviet Union is not around anymore, and NSA's got a new mission, and part of that is going after terrorists. And it's just not a good fit. They missed the first World Trade Center bombing, they missed the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, they missed the attack on the U.S. embassies in Africa, they missed 9/11. There's this string of failures because this agency was not really designed to do this. In the movies, they'd be catching terrorists all the time. But this isn't the movies, this is reality.
The big difference here is that when they were focused on the Soviet Union, the Soviets communicated over dedicated lines. The army communicated over army channels, the navy communicated over navy channels, the diplomats communicated over foreign-office channels. These were all particular channels, particular frequencies, you knew where they were; the main problem was breaking encrypted communications. [The NSA] had listening posts ringing the Soviet Union, they had Russian linguists that were being pumped out from all these schools around the U.S.
Then the Cold War ends and everything changes. Now instead of a huge country that communicated all the time, you have individuals who hop from Kuala Lampur to Nairobi or whatever, from continent to continent, from day to day. They don't communicate [electronically] all the time — they communicate by meetings. [The NSA was] tapping Bin Laden's phone for three years and never picked up on any of these terrorist incidents. And the [electronic] communications you do have are not on dedicated channels, they're mixed in with the world communication network. First you've got to find out how to extract that from it, then you've got to find people who can understand the language, and then you've got to figure out the word code. You can't use a Cray supercomputer to figure out if somebody's saying they're going to have a wedding next week whether it's really going to be a wedding or a bombing.
So that's the challenge facing the people there. So even though I'm critical about them for missing these things, I also try in the book to give an explanation as to why this is. It's certainly not because the people are incompetent. It's because the world has changed.
I think the problem is more serious than people realize. I talked to the people at Fort Gordon [in Georgia], which is the main listening post for the Middle East and North Africa. What was shocking to me was the people who were there were saying they didn't have anybody [at the time] who spoke Pashtun. We're at war in Afghanistan and the main language of the Taliban is Pashtun.
The answer here is to change our foreign policy so that we don't have to depend on agencies like NSA to try to protect the country. You try to protect the country by having reasonable policies so that we won't have to worry about terrorism so much. It's just getting harder and harder to find them.
Det finns även flera passager om varför han blivit mer kritisk.
Question: I’m struck by the fact that you sound genuinely surprised and upset, still, about the warrantless eavesdropping program.
Well, I was very surprised. I had defended the agency in a number of places.
Question: But, as you write in The Shadow Factory, the agency had been caught spying on Americans before in the ’70s with Project Shamrock.
I agree, but I didn’t know the people back then. I knew the people this time. I trusted that Hayden was going to follow the law. I talked to a lot of people there, and that was the impression I got. The mid-’70s was the worst time in NSA’s history, the first time a director had to sit in front of an open hearing of Congress and get blasted and humiliated, and all these horror stories came out about eavesdropping on all the telegrams entering and leaving the country [as part of Project Shamrock]. The FISA court got set up as a new safeguard, the buffer between NSA and the public. Everyone I talked to from then on said those were the horror days, we don’t want to relive them, we’re going to keep as far from the edge as possible.
I didn’t think that was going to change after 9/11 — you still had the [FISA] court there, you still had laws, the Constitution. That’s why when I read the reports and talked to people who indicated that they had decided to bypass the court ... I mean, that’s illegal. There is no other word for it. The FISA act says if you want to eavesdrop on what they call a “U.S. person,” you get a warrant from the FISA court. You don’t bypass it. That’s a felony. You can get five years in prison.
I think the thing that bothers me most was how easy it was to take this huge agency and turn it against the law. How easy it was, how few people knew. If it wasn’t for two reporters from the New York Times, we still might not know about it, if you think about it that way.