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back to article NSA: 'Dozens of attacks' prevented by snooping

The National Security Agency has defended its slurping of phone records and other business data on the grounds the information contained has helped it fight terrorism. In a congressional hearing on cybersecurity and government surveillance on Tuesday, NSA Director General Keith Alexander said the NSA's data slurping had let it …

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"NSA's "intent" to get specific figures on the number of attacks prevent out in the next week."

Because they need a week to make them up.

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WTF?

Re: "NSA's "intent" to get specific figures on the number of attacks prevent out in the next week."

I know right... A system whose sole purpose is to prevent terrorist attacks and they don't know instantly how many attacks it has prevented? Fucking McDonalds knows how many hamburgers they make in a day and these toolbelts don't even know if they are accomplishing their mission of saving the country. National Security Agency my ass.

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Meh

Re: "NSA's "intent" to get specific figures on the number of attacks prevent out in the next week."

They don't need a week to make up numbers, they need a week to change the definition of a terrorist attack, so that they can actually claim to have prevented any.

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Re: "NSA's "intent" to get specific figures on the number of attacks prevent out in the next week."

'People Created or Saved' argument... Been there, IRS got the t-shirt.

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Re: "NSA's "intent" to get specific figures on the number of attacks prevent out in the next week."

Eh, eh and a half.

First, I personally know of a half dozen attacks planned.

Of those, six precisely were apprehended after attempting to purchase their supplies (explosives and other needed things to make the explosives go boom) from FBI informants.

Strangely enough, there was no NSA involvement until after.

And yes, I'd know about NSA activity more than FBI activity, I'm retired military.

I have a few concerns. The General speaking to Congress said he had no idea about how to spy on the White House.

Let us see, the NSA provides crypto keys to all of the DoD. DISA runs comms for the White House. DISA uses crypto keys provided by the NSA and backed up by the NSA in case it has to be decrypted later.

WOW! That makes great fertilizer! After a long bit of compost, it's still steaming.

Add to that the fact that he's both Cyber Command's commander and the NSA director, uh huh.

His "we stored, but did not look" is meaningless, it's another Winston Televiewer argument.

Didn't work out well for him in Nineteen Eighty Four.

Be well and truly ready to become "Airstrip One". :(

Honestly, considering current case law and what is currently accepted, I'm getting off of this continent.

After profitably liquidating my assets.

I'm also a big enough of a prick to register for my military pension and have it automagically transferred through a few hollow trees to me, wherever I end up.

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Re: "NSA's "intent" to get specific figures on the number of attacks prevent out in the next week."

*MY* response to him would've been, "SHOW ME THE AUDIT RECORDS OF DELETION".

He could take a trillion years and not show them.

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Re: "NSA's "intent" to get specific figures on the number of attacks prevent out in the next week."

Bleh, they redefine what a terrorist is daily. No need for a week.

It's far too well practiced since 9-11.

Funny thing is, the US performed the same response as it did for Pearl Harbor.

Attack someone else that didn't attack them. THEN attack the attacker.

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Re: "NSA's "intent" to get specific figures on the number of attacks prevent out in the next week."

Are these the same saves we are unable to hear the details of vs the actual attacks we've witnessed? Like, err, the Boston one?

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Meh

Then let me see

Then LET ME SEE the evidence because I am sure as hell not going to take your word for it.

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Stop

Re: "NSA's "intent" to get specific figures on the number of attacks prevent out in the next week."

"Fucking McDonalds knows how many hamburgers they make in a day"

Surely you're not comparing that to the NSA not releasing figures.

They have to operate covertly without people knowing exactly what they do, who they are and how they operate. If their methods were all public knowledge then those they are trying to stop would know exactly how to circumvent them.

If a bomber goes on a mission and gets run over by a car, that could be put down to bad luck and they would probably carry on again using similar methods. What if that was an intelligence driven 'hit'? They have stopped an event and have their methods sill in place to continue monitoring.

Yes it is much better to stop the root cause but that isn't always possible. You need sneaky hard people do do the dirty work against sneaky dangerous people.

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Holmes

Re: "NSA's "intent" to get specific figures on the number of attacks prevent out in the next week."

Nice made up narrative. It's about as convincing as holy mass. Feel free to personally donate all your life savings to this new saviour, but the rest of us want some evidence to justify both methods and budgets.

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@bitmap animal

I'm saying there is no reason they shouldn't know when asked exactly how many attacks they've stopped. All I can see evidence of are the attacks they failed to stop.

I understand the need for secrecy, but there are plenty of questions that could be answered without compromising anything.

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Re: "NSA's "intent" to get specific figures on the number of attacks prevent out in the next week."

Well they defiantly helped things in Boston.

and the data given to GCHQ certainly helped prevent the recent attack on a soldier in London.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "NSA's "intent" to get specific figures on the number of attacks prevent out in the next week."

"Funny thing is, the US performed the same response as it did for Pearl Harbor."

Isn't their a tin-foil hat argument that both events were allowed to happen to justify America's entry into the war?

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Facepalm

Re: "It's dozens of terrorist events that these have helped prevent,"

Colour me skeptical.

Is that like the dozens of WMDs found in Iraq?

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Re: "NSA's "intent" to get specific figures on the number of attacks prevent out in the next week."

>If a bomber goes on a mission and gets run over by a car,

That would explain America's appaling road safety record. If those 30-40,000 deaths were all actually CIA hits on terrorists

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Re: @bitmap animal

Actually there is. One that's not very pleasant, but very real. The information is compartmentalized and for operational purposes, they don't need to know how many they've stopped, only an estimate on how degraded they are keeping the enemy. So even though you know a bunch of attacks have been stopped, you don't have that number at hand. And given the red tape monster, getting the connectors in place to pull those numbers into one location in just one week is moving at a pretty good clip.

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Facepalm

Re: @bitmap animal

The head of any agency should know at all times if his leadership is guiding the agency in a successful manner. He obviously does not have access to even the most basic metrics so he absolutely cannot state that he is succeeding in his mission. He doesn't know! That is a management failure on many levels.

If nothing else the NSA should put some analytical and reporting upgrades in their next budget request. I thought management dashboards were standard fare a decade ago...

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Happy

'Dozens of attacks' prevented by snooping

NSA: "Hey, would we lie to you?"

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Joke

Re: "NSA's "intent" to get specific figures on the number of attacks prevent out in the next week."

""Fucking McDonalds knows how many hamburgers they make in a day"

Surely you're not comparing that to the NSA not releasing figures.

They have to operate covertly without people knowing exactly what they do, who they are and how they operate. If their methods were all public knowledge then those they are trying to stop would know exactly how to circumvent them."

Ok... And how about the NSA?

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NSA

Isn't it strange how this NSA, which a few years ago was almost unheard of, and which is supposed to be top-secret and virtually non-existent, has become such a hot topic of conversation? Everybody seems to know what they are up to, and discussions are raging across millions of armchairs connected around the world by TV and the Internet, about something which none of us really knows anything about...Now they even have their little PR machine. And this from the organisation which is supposedly the "dark matter" of US intelligence spending, accounting for xxx% of their expenditure...and making the mighty CIA look like a lapdog...oh whatever. It's surreal.

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Re: NSA

They have an exit off the Interstate just outside DC marked NSA ONLY and you can see the complex from the highway. I drive by several times a week and laugh at how the super secret guys are out in the open but the FBI and CIA complexes are tucked away in the woods.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: NSA

The CIA has a clearly marked exit off the George Washington Parkway in Virginia. In fact, I think their sign is bigger than the NSA's.

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Happy

Re: NSA

Yep. The George Bush Center for Intelligence. My wife laughs every time we go by. You can't see the complex from the GW though, just the sign.

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404
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Re: NSA

What is up with the digital building signs the Feds are using now? Did a double-take when I saw the NSA's, freaking Vegas in DC now?

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Re: NSA

Way, way, way back, when I joined the military, there were still two secret organizations, the NSA and NRO.

Eventually, both became public, generations later.

Today, they're commonplace knowledge.

One ponders what exists that isn't public knowledge today.

I only know of one that I can divulge, the Fractious Agency Recognizing TartS, which is a central agency in NATO. ;)

It's a covert organization that supports the morale of the men and a few women.

Or something. :P:p

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Re: NSA

That's probably just a dummy building, to absorb the first bomb sent their way. I expect the real offices are well hidden somewhere out West (or North).

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Anonymous Coward

$80 Billion divided by HOW many attacks prevented? Mmmm!

Based on comments about two of the major attacks defeated by PRISM, and all the rest of the snooping programs, it looks like old-fashioned feet on the ground (by Britain's MI5 no less!) found the perps, and NSA just did some backup.

Now maybe NSA can get some better examples, but is suspect that their methodology only works after the perps are already known.

They certainly didn't find the nutcase who was planning to burn through the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge with a propane torch. In fact it's claims like this, where the perp should have been sectioned, and the informant quized on how much he organized of the "crime" that make you wonder if most of our $80 Billion is spent on a ritual dance with the occasional incitement to felony thrown in.

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Re: $80 Billion divided by HOW many attacks prevented? Mmmm!

Under the math, societal acceptance of summary execution would be cheap.

A return to the days in Texas under Judge Roy Bean.

Who pocketed every penny of fines on top of ignoring anything even vaguely resembling the Constitution.

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Re: $80 Billion divided by HOW many attacks prevented? Mmmm!

"It's dozens of terrorist events that these have helped prevent," Alexander said.

I wonder what he suffers from. Does he have a diagnosis?

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Big Brother

A non-defense

You can justify anything by saying 'it _helps_ fight terrorism'.

The question is whether this is an effective way of fighting terrorism and whether it is worth the cost.

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Re: A non-defense

Indeed!

Let's try one out for a bit, then another.

Bombarding Sol to force its shutdown would eliminate terrorism.

Thermonuclear bombardment of the *entire* planet would eliminate terrorism.

Think that would fly for even a quarter news cycle?

Now, ask yourself *why* US media outlets are shutting up after AP had its phone records seized. Then, consider who OWNS the US media. THEN, consider who PAYS FOR CAMPAIGNS in the US.

The last two elections cost in excess of eight billion dollars. Doing the math shows it didn't come from the citizens, but from corporations who now have equal rights to citizens.

Next SCOTUS decision is that a corporation has the same vote as the number of employees totally, regardless of nationality or citizenship or something.

Yes, this US veteran has that dim a view of his government and is planning to liquidate and depart soon.

To either a nation I can control or more probably, a nation that respects it's Constitution and the rights of the populace.

I have no desire to reside in a land of cowards.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A non-defense

@Wzrd1 - Cowardice is a bit harsh. Afraid ? Sure. Surprisingly so I'd say. Never lived in a culture moe governed by fear. Sad really.

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Re: A non-defense

"To either a nation I can control or more probably, a nation that respects it's Constitution and the rights of the populace."

Let me know when you find such a place, I'll meet you there and you can buy me a liquidated beer :)

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Black Helicopters

Security Service 101. (Pay attention, James...!)

...Now maybe NSA can get some better examples, but is suspect that their methodology only works after the perps are already known....

This is all a giant budget-justifying exercise after the loss of the Russians as major justifiers of funding when the Cold War ended.

For those of you who seem poorly informed, a typical Security Service MO follows this path...

1 - pick up someone a little dodgy in a Muslim area by asking the local police for names - perhaps get them picked up for a minor crime.

2 - 'persuade' them to act as an 'agent'. Forgetting the charge is very helpful here.

3 - get them to report on anyone they know who is discussing terrorism. This will, of course, pick up all sorts of people, including people that the agent lied about in order to have something to write down.

4 - bug their phones and watch them. This is where the justification for GCHQ and PRISM comes from. Depending on what people say when they're drunk, you can soon have lots of low-grade evidence that there is a terrorist threat of any level you want.

5 - If you need an arrest, get your agent to encourage some of the stupidest hot-heads to think that they could be Jihadis. Provide them with some incriminating literature. Suggest that you can find a bomb for them to put under a bridge...

6 - After delivering a dummy bomb/lots of castor oil seeds/WHY, arrest them in a dawn raid with armed police and full press coverage. Charge them with being a sleeper cell for Al-Queda and have them locked up forever.

7 - start again by bugging their friend's phones. Some of their friends should be really pissed off, and might well be encouraged to be the next on your list...

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Re: Security Service 101. (Pay attention, James...!)

Erm, you obviously didn't pay attention to the timeline involved in the end of the cold war and now.

I was military during the cold war and through its end long enough to know the difference.

Can't argue with your point #2, it's well established. Dammit.

#3 would only reap the ENTIRE PLANET that uses telephones, including the US. Not really worth the effort to dispatch, as it was dead on delivery.

Can argue that George Orwell made point #4 an essential in his warning that is now an instruction manual.

For #4, I only recall how the NSA and NRO bragged how they'd be able to monitor every living human in the planet in half a decade. That was fifteen years ago, but only rather recently did OBL manage to get to be found.

For #5, just look up the court records. It worked by agent provocateur or more commonly and annoyingly, by US citizen seeking specific weapons that an informant tipped off the FBI. Doesn't make *their* point, interestingly enough, but the US populace doesn't pay attention to facts, only opinion voiced in the press that agrees with their superior, erm, party.

For #6, there are far too many areas that I'd go with that action, others, I'd suggest other, more transparent means. I and my teams *did* work alongside and parallel with SAS and other teams. Still, there needs to be transparent oversight that doesn't divulge classified information. It isn't *that* hard unless one is attempting trial by press!

For #7, nonsense. Just move toward putting televiewers inside of every party member's home on Airstrip One.

Or something.

The *reality* is, DENOUCEMENT is the key. Denounce thy neighbor and get along OK or better.

Something Stalin and Hitler knew all too well, but the US populace has forgotten.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Security Service 101. (Pay attention, James...!)

...Erm, you obviously didn't pay attention to the timeline involved in the end of the cold war and now. I was military during the cold war and through its end long enough to know the difference...

Oh, I was paying very close attention to the politics inside the UK security apparatus during the early 90's, because of my job. But I wouldn't exactly have called myself 'military'...

...The *reality* is, DENOUCEMENT is the key. Denounce thy neighbor and get along OK or better....

Reasonably well presented by the BBC's 'A Lesson from History', I think. The lesson is:

Denounce your neighbour FIRST - before he does it to you....

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Re: Security Service 101. (Pay attention, James...!)

"For those of you who seem poorly informed, a typical Security Service MO follows this path..."

Interestingly enough, that's more or less identical to what happened under the Catholic (not just Spanish!) Inquisition. Or, of course, the Protestant dispensations of places like Salem and many others.

Informers had a financial motive to find disliked, lonely people who seemed a little different - especially if they had some property. They denounced those people to the Inquisition, which arrested them and tortured them until they confessed to anything and everything. Then it only remained to torture them for the names of the next few candidates, before burning them alive. (For the good of their souls, of course). Then the Inquisition split the spoils with the informers; rinse and repeat.

The most curious part of the whole thing was how little it had to do with religion.

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Re: Security Service 101. (Pay attention, James...!)

"Denounce your neighbour FIRST - before he does it to you...."

How very similar to the State Department's policy of getting the USA's retaliation in first.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Security Service 101. (Pay attention, James...!)

...Interestingly enough, that's more or less identical to what happened under the Catholic (not just Spanish!) Inquisition. Or, of course, the Protestant dispensations of places like Salem and many others....

Or Walsingham's fitting up of Catholics under Good Queen Bess in the late 1500s,

Or the denunciations to the Committee of Public Safety during the French Revolution in the 1790s,

Or the Okhrana's way of supporting the Czar during the 1800s - who simply morphed into the VCheka in 1917...

This is hardly news. It's the way humans end up operating if you give them these sorts of tasks and then say that, because of secrecy, you will allow no outside audit of their activities. But that the THREAT has always got to be there, otherwise their funding will be cut...

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Then surely the NSA could justify tying everyone up in their homes all day?

My feeling is that doing so would substantially decrease the crime rate?

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Re: Then surely the NSA could justify tying everyone up in their homes all day?

Not here. I've worked with and reported to NSA personnel. I know what and how they do many, many things.

They're far from the CIA working overseas or even the CIA in the 1960's ignoring their charter.

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Anonymous Coward

Just remember

Pretty much every 'terrorist' plot 'discovered' by the FBI is setup by the FBI. Strangely almost all the real plots are discovered the old fashioned way - someone notices something strange, the regular police investigate within the parameters of the law, and the plot is foiled. Or, as was the case with 9/11, a member of the public raises very credible suspicions and then the FBI higher ups ignore the intel - both the terrorists training to be pilots having no interest in learning takeoffs and landings, or the famous "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US" presidential briefing.

The successful attacks are almost always characterized by being done by loners (i.e. the Unibomber). When they don't talk there's no metadata to scoop up. Worse, scooping up lots of data gives you false confidence that you'll detect plots so you probably don't bother with the old fashioned field work either.

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Re: Just remember

Actually, *every* instance was either that or some moron attempting to light either an explosive sandal or explosive diaper.

But that is two. Add in three for the Yemen printer bombing attack.

Then, consider the two initially, then add in well reported cases where idiot was recruited or accepted a suggestion. Idiot then stupidly looked about for boom making things. Idiot eventually found an FBI informant.

Said idiot then attempts a purchase of said boom making things.

Said suspect then is arrested.

From my own count, from one who pays very close attention to the subject, there are far less than suggested by the General.

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NSA New Proposals

If we implant chips into everybody's heads monitoring for illegal thoughts, we can stop even more attacks.

Safety at the cost of freedom...

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Re: NSA New Proposals

Silly talk!

If we summarily execute everyone upon first evidence of thought, such as attempts to speak, we'd be free from all attacks, if our borders (or is it the American "boarders" or some other illiterate shit?).

Honestly, after serving nearly 28 years in the military, this shit makes me want to actually pick up my gun.

Then, put it in my mouth and pull the trigger.

This is NOT the nation our Constitution says we should be.

This is Stalin's dream.

Hence, why I don't use that gun for anything more than target practice and competition.

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Anonymous Coward

Let 'em die

Authorities should scale back their surveillance activities for a few months and allow some terrorists to kill a bunch of gullible people. Then and probably only then would the general public get a grip on reality.

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Re: Let 'em die

The reality being:

WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

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Re: Let 'em die

"WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH."

Hmmm, thanks for the reminder. The thing is, when you come to think about it, we have already accomplished the first and last of those three tenets. It's just the second that still needs a little work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Let 'em die

"Authorities should scale back their surveillance activities for a few months" - who's to say then won't SAY the are doing that then manufacture some scenario where they can justify being reinstated (and then some)?

I’m not paranoid I know the pot plant in the corner has a spy cam and is watching me...

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