Well, I wouldn’t pose the question if the answer was no.
It’d be one thing if the NSA’s massive sweep of our phone records was actually helping catch terrorists. But what if it’s not working at all? A leading practitioner of the kind of analysis the NSA is supposedly performing in this surveillance program says that “it’s a waste of time, a waste of resources. And it lets the real terrorists run free.”
So I called Valdis Krebs, who’s considered by many to be the leading authority on social network analysis — the art and science of finding the important connections in a seemingly-impenetrable mass of data. His analysis of the social network surrounding the 9/11 hijackers is a classic in the field.
Here’s what Krebs had to say about the newly-revealed NSA program that aims to track “every call ever made”: “If you’re looking for a needle, making the haystack bigger is counterintuitive. It just doesn’t make sense.”
“Certain people are more suspicious than others,” he adds. They make frequent trips back-and-forth to Afghanistan, for instance. “So you start with them. And you work two steps out. If none of those people are connected, you don’t have a cell. Because if one was there, you’d find some clustering. You don’t have to collect all the data in the world to do that.”
Now, there are other opinions on this, and the Defense Tech article has a couple. But those opinions advocate the “Google” method, which is getting everything. Yes…everything. Are we really ready for that?
Actually I am. Yes, let me say here and now, I’d love for all my communications to go through the magical terrorism catching machine. And while they’re at it, please, take a look at all my purchases and emails and blog posts. Of course, let’s put a few cameras in my house too. Just to make sure nothing untoward is going on. Oh, and let’s not forget the toilet cam. You never know what nefarious things are going down in the loo.
Because hey, if I don’t have anything to hide, why would I mind? Why would any of us? Don’t you want to catch the terrorists?