back to article Want to sit in Picard's chair while spying on THE WORLD? We can make it so – ex-NSA man

National Security Agency director Keith Alexander apparently sold the concept of surveillance to members of Congress using an operations centre styled on the bridge of the starship Enterprise from much-loved sci-fi series Star Trek. According to "a former administration official" who spoke to Foreign Policy magazine, General …

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  1. bluefin333
    Coat

    Massive Protection Screen...

    I think they were called 'Shields' in Star Trek or did you mean the far more mundane Projection Screen?

    1. Don Jefe
      Joke

      Re: Massive Protection Screen...

      The protection screen could be referring to shields or the deflector array. Two different things on a Federation Starship. One (shields) are a passive defense mechanism, the other is an active system used to deflect things out of the ships path and/or open rifts in subspace.

  2. kring
    Happy

    "The facility was known as the Information Dominance Center"

    I want one too, sounds awesome - does it come with missiles and S.W.A.T?

    1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

      Information Dominance Center

      I wonder what Dr. Freud would have made of that.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Information Dominance Center

        I guess it could have been worse - he could have asked to borrow Cheyenne Mountain or somewhere similar and installed a white fluffy cat, a pool with a few sharks (laser beams under R&D) and an overlarge plot device (spaceship, missile/rocket, weapon of mass destruction of your choice etc).

        But then again I guess that's too 20th century perhaps for the modern cyber-era.

  3. Hutch!
    Meh

    Tax Dollars Hard at Work

    At least my government is having a little fun on my dime while spying on me, good to know that my tax dollars are spent very well...

    1. mhenriday
      Pint

      Re: Tax Dollars Hard at Work

      But consider : every dollar that is spent on this boyhood dream writ large means one less dollar being spent on spying on you and everybody else 'round the world. Couldn't they have made that chair of solid gold or platinum or something of the sort ?...

      Henri

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  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Captain Worn-Spook Fucktard?

    OK... I'm going...

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Don Jefe

    Sci-Fi

    From dystopian works about government micromanagement of its citizens through lies, deceit and misinformation to a futuristic journey of exploration managed centrally from a quasi-military Federation controlled by an English speaking council of elite rulers; man the NSA has all the sci-fi bases covered.

    Where are my teleporters you cocksuckers? Your priorities are all wrong!

  8. Simon Harris Silver badge
    Alien

    If they want a UK office...

    There's always Tony Alleyne's flat...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U67CJqLUjA0

    Looks like he won't be needing it anymore since he's been put away for bolding downloading images he shouldn't have.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Picard? More like the Ferengi.

    Even the Borg have more style.

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: Picard? More like the Ferengi.

      "Make It a Snow Den."

    2. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: Picard? More like the Ferengi.

      "Even the Borg have more style."

      Borg? Sounds Swedish!

      Don't they kit out their cubes from Ikea?

      1. Thorne

        Re: Picard? More like the Ferengi.

        "Don't they kit out their cubes from Ikea?"

        The whole cube comes flatpack.....

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So begins the NSA big PR blitz to win back hearts & minds?

    Bless.

  11. Potemkine Silver badge

    A cube would fit better than the Entreprise

    "Lower your firewalls and surrender your data.

    We will add your technological distinctiveness to our own.

    Your culture will adapt to service us.

    Resistance is futile."

    1. Michael 28
      Joke

      Re: A cube would fit better than the Entreprise

      I think dilbert has prior art on this.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A cube would fit better than the Entreprise

        And who do you think created Dilbert?

        It was a suibtle way of releasing information

  12. Jerky Jerk face

    "Its the president is hailing us, he probably wants to know why our datacenter uses so much power" - coms girl

    "Main screen" - captain NSA spy master

  13. Marco van de Voort

    Paramount

    They simply handed the architect anything related to "Star Trek" and "Paramount" from their database.

  14. sabroni Silver badge
    WTF?

    Grow the fuck up.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Where's the fun in that ?

      1. sabroni Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Where's the fun in that ?

        Is that what you pay taxes for? So some overpaid prick can pretend he's Picard? If this was someone's private project then fair play, but this is the biggest bunch of privacy invading dickheads there are abusing tax payers money to play star ships. Excuse me if I don't see the funny side.....

        1. Don Jefe
          Happy

          Re: Where's the fun in that ?

          You're correct. This is simply a waste of money; possibly an effective moral booster though... Maybe that's how they justified it?

          Anyway. I think there was some confusion about the intended target of your original comment. I know I couldn't tell if it was for the NSA or for us Commentards. Precision man, precision! Lack of target discrimination is what led to all this NSA mess to begin with you know :)

  15. Brian Miller

    "massive protection screen on the forward wall"

    What, nobody remembers the big screen at the front of the bridge with the blinky lights underneath it? The one that alternated between views of stars, space ships, and video conferencing with allies and aliens? *That* big projection screen from Star Trek? The one that gets spoofed with the crew playing PacMan and Pong on it, etc?

    I always wondered why they didn't cover the whole front of the bridge with a big screen.

    1. Suricou Raven

      Re: "massive protection screen on the forward wall"

      I never really saw the point of having a front view of the stars flying past while warping. I just assumed it was a screensaver. Same one we use now, just in higher resolution.

  16. stucs201

    Right actor. Wrong character

    Wouldn't Cerebro be more appropriate?

  17. Dom 3

    reminds me.

    Visited UUnet's Cambridge HQ once. Just off the entrance hall was the NOC. Which was arranged Houston Mission Control stylee, with big screens up front showing 24 hour news. Struck me as slightly unnecessary, and quite possibly a *bad* way of arranging staff in a NOC.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: reminds me.

      Tell me about it, I reckon it was that room that buggered my eyesight up.

      12 hours and you couldn't focus on anything further than 30 feet away. Or it could have been all the episodes of South Park we streamed during the evening :P

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    https://www.belvoir.army.mil

    Fort Belvoir's web page gives a "This Connection is Untrusted." warning when you connect...

    1. Don Jefe

      You need to download then unzip 'NSA Unidirectional Permissions Manager' in order to establish a trusted connection to the site. Once you've unzipped it run 'Hoover.exe' and follow the on screen prompts. Installing the Yahoo! toolbar is optional and I recommend declining. It is simply too intrusive.

    2. Suricou Raven

      I imagine the NSA trusts only themselves as a certificate signing authority, as they know how easy the others are to bribe/threaten/infiltrate.

    3. Jamie Jones Silver badge
      Happy

      " https://www.belvoir.army.mil

      Fort Belvoir's web page gives a"This Connection is Untrusted." warning when you connect..."

      hee hee. "This certificate isn't from a trusted authority. Issued by organisation: US Government"

      1. Darryl

        Wow, that's not even a hee hee... More like a pithy commentary on the world of modern government.

  19. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
    Facepalm

    The worst thing about this is that he went for TNG, not TOS.

    1. Herby Silver badge

      Bad choice of commander!

      Should have picked Kirk, not Picard.

      Kirk had all the right moves ("Poker, not Chess Mr. Spock!").

      Yes, I did watch the series when it was "first run" Thursday nights in the 60's.

  20. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Seek and ye shall find. Ask IT and all shall give given for are we not here to server the future?*

    Peruse the bridge and control centre in all of its vain glory here ..... http://cryptome.org/2013/09/info-dominance.pdf

    * Or is that just the just remit of a few who be more than just just and a few?

  21. Erik N.
    Joke

    I'm sure he thought it was just a typo when the dedication plate read ISS Enterprise.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shades of another Alexander?

    It looks like General Alexander had dreams similar to that other megalomaniac, Al the Great!

    Total information dominance smacks of a ver controlled oriented guy, and his "sayings" make him sound a bit over the top!

  23. i like crisps
    Meh

    Thanks, Davy Boy...

    When the Porn Filters go live do you think any 'Flags' would

    go up if i typed in ' Information-Dominance-center' ?

  24. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Nothing creepy about the term "Information Dominance Center"....

    That's right up there with the GCHQ's "Mastering the Internet". I guess the NSA and other alphabet agencies really do by their nature attract people with fascistic tendencies. And these nimrods hold our freedom in their hands and get to pull their crap behind a legal veil of secrecy.

    And thanks for spending my tax money bringing in a Hollywood set designer to turn otherwise perfectly useful conference space into a half-assed version of the Enterprise's bridge. It's not like the government doesn't have millions of other places that money could have been spent to actually improve some lives. But as long as a bunch of self-important fuckwits got to say "Make it so!" to their daydreams of galactic conquest, I guess it's OK!!

    (Sorry for the playground language, but this kind of

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Nothing creepy about the term "Information Dominance Center"....

      At least we can be confident that the UK-equivalent won't have been built at great expense by a Hollywood set designer. The Tardis console under GCHQ will have been bodged together by a couple of blokes in a shed one weekend.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's start

    Let's start by firing every clown who ever sat in that chair as too juvenile for government employment. The retired ones should have their pensions clawed back.

    And then they tell us there's no money to pay teachers an affordable wage.

    Thieves and scoundrels all.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Let's start

      That's one of the worst, most dangerous, ideas I've ever heard. You might as just declare jihad on yourself and detonate an "Anti-Freedom" bomb in your own house. Paying teachers more would only incentivize proficient subject matter experts to enter the education field.

      Capable professionals teaching young people with impressionable minds how to think critically and assess and manage risk is the path to a non-ideological, non-dogmatic nation of racially tolerant citizens who support and participate in sustainable agriculture and effective conservation of nonrenewable resources. Who wants that?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let's start

      By voting for slightly more intelligent persons for the Senate. One small step at a time, one giant leap for the USA. You know, the more money they are able to use for their campaign the more corrupt they probably are.

  26. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Hollywood-spook feedback loop

    These people obviously aren't going to stop their trillion $/£/€ nonsense willingly. Hopefully it'll reach a point where it gets too much for the laws of common-sense and explodes in a shower of shit.

  27. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Clearly the EVIL enterprise from an alternate timeline.

    I suppose pointy beards and dark blue uniforms with lots of scouts' logos as well as well-maintained leather boots were mandatory? Oh, and the women have to wear revealing yet martial outfits for some reason.

  28. moiety

    Painting himself as the good guy really is worryingly delusional. White cat and Blofeld ambience would have been more appropriate.

    1. Captain DaFt

      Unlike life in popular fiction...

      Nobody ever sees him/herself as an evil bad guy.

      It's always "I'm the Good Guy, everyone that opposes me is Evil!"

      Ah hell, This explains it better than I can:

      http://mrmagundi.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/on-goodness-and-niceness/

      "‘It’s more important to be good than to be nice’ neatly summarizes the beliefs of Pol Pot, of Robespierre, of nearly every terrorist there ever was; and I’m sure that, translated into Latin, it was the official motto of the Spanish Inquisition. All the misery in the world is caused by people hell-bent on being good at all costs.”

      1. John Savard Silver badge

        Re: Unlike life in popular fiction...

        C. S. Lewis might have had something to say about that. People can be nice on the surface and still have bad intentions. It depends how you define 'nice' and 'good', really: as long as you file respecting the rights of others under 'good', then putting good first won't get you in that kind of trouble.

  29. Graham Marsden
    Happy

    There was a line...

    ... in one of Tom Clancy's stories about the Security Services complaining that TV Shows and Movies had better control centres than they got in real life...

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: There was a line...

      Well, traditionally functional command centers have been fairly awful. My internship was with a company that serviced shipboard systems and as such we regularly ended up in harbor control centers, which are really complicated places. Since those days I've been in many control centers for several different industries and they're all about the same.

      They are universally spartan, densely packed with bulky, massively shielded equipment with lots of dials, knobs and buttons no one in the room knows the purpose of and are either overwhelmingly beige or that sickly green that was globally fashionable in official facilities in the 60's and 70's.

      There seems to be a direct correlation between the effectivnesss of the business being done and the quantity of comforts and amenities. So I suppose it does make perfect sense that the NSA has a fancy control center: They really suck at their job.

  30. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    The secret addiction of *all* politicians is *power*

    And that office was designed to convince his (nominal) superiors that they were in "control" of the internet.

    Complete BS but you can believe it was exactly what they needed to hear to give him the big $$

    He played those ass clowns like a f**king Stradivarius.

    Hasn't stopped the shoot-em-up at the Washington Naval Yard, did it?

  31. Kernel

    "Make it so"

    I suspect that the phrase that so many associate with Captain Picard, "Make it so", doesn't actually originate with Star Trek TNG.

    The author Patrick O'Brian (1914~2000) puts it into the mouth of his Napoleonic era character, Royal Navy captain Jack Aubrey. The historical detail in the books of this series appears to be well researched, so I'm going to suggest the the writers of Star Trek adopted this from RN tradition, rather than inventing it.

    1. Don Jefe
      Joke

      Re: "Make it so"

      O'Brian was the Transport Engineer onboard Picard's Enterprise; he would definitely be an authority on the matter!

  32. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Facepalm

    This is the best they can come up with?

    All the sheeple shrieking and bleating "The NSA iz awfulz, dey iz like watching uz, they iz sooooo bad, dey... um... well, dey... er.... DEY COPIED STAR TREK!" LMAO.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: This is the best they can come up with?

      Matt Bryant in his impersonation of a particularly twisted version of Eadon. Doesn't see the forest, doesn't see the trees.

      Bryant. I mean brilliant.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Destroyed All Braincells Re: This is the best they can come up with?

        "....Bryant. I mean brilliant." Oh, sorry, did you think that the matter was "really DOING eeeeeevil"? Truly you are a sad and bitter little man, even if you provide plenty of unintentional amusement.

    2. mhenriday
      FAIL

      Re: This is the best they can come up with?

      Mr Bryant's intelligence and maturity are adequately reflected in his orthographical skills, as evinced in his post above. Quelle surprise !...

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: henri Re: This is the best they can come up with?

        "Mr Bryant's intelligence and maturity....." Ah, poor ickle Henri is still sulking from his last debunking. I see it so scarred him he has stopped even trying to post an opinion (no great loss). Maybe it will cheer him to note that the Fwench have been fingered as supplying software to ze nasty NSA (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/09/17/nsa_vupen/) - who knew the Fwenchies could write useful code! Then again, maybe not, as he probably wants to baaaah-lieve that only Ze Man does that nasty eavesdropping, not those cultured Fwenchies, n'est pas?

  33. sisk Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Our tax dollars at work.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So bad, so embarrassing

    My grandfather was a US Marine who landed in Japan, lost his best friend in at Iwo Jima, and contracted cancer after visiting Ground Zero. I am truly ashamed that this guy actually works for the same taxpayer.

  35. stephajn

    Am I the only one...

    ....that noticed that the picture they posted is from Star Trek TOS and not TNG? If Picard is sitting in the chair of THAT Enterprise then something seriously wrong has happened.

    Just me flexing my Trekkie muscles.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

      Re: Am I the only one...

      Well, they did get Picard and Kirk together for Star Trek: Generations....

  36. William Donelson

    Not the bridge of Enterprise, but with a "Captain Kirk" chair...

    http://gyazo.com/497de8735e01e473483dfd995c4f3e39

    http://gyazo.com/fc04a0a8605bd36c3121cd81a67b67ba

    Amazing fun building this...

  37. Winter is Coming!

    Seriously, Enterprise D had way better ergonomics than this monkey imitation. What a sad reproduction this is. The most interesting thing is the set for STNG probably cost a lot less. Besides where are the touch interfaces that inspired all our lovely tablets and surface? Of course, for all of you complaining about what would be the point of the chair and screen. At least the boss wouldn't be sitting in his office playing on an iPad while everybody else is scrambling in Red Alert. I'd take that anyday over where I'm at!

    1. dssf

      Info Dominance Center...

      Ahh, Section 31 strikes again, hahha. Maybe they should invoke Reed Alert:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHyWYA1Nvq8&feature=youtube_gdata_player

      However, I think the Voyager Astrometrics Lab or 1701-D Stellar Cartography room would be better, even moreso if the perch overlooking planets or Intertubes nodes and pipes below could be built.

      Maybe even better:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQC7U7i-KdY&feature=youtube_gdata_player

      Crewman Daniels' temporal commission holo-encyclopedia

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Beer room

    The Startrek look was tried before for the operations room of Project Cybersyn by the Chiliean government under Allende. The CIA helped dismantle that one.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Beer room

      The CIA helped build it too. Only fair they help take it down.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Beer room

        Project Cybersyn was a British-Chilean project and had nothing to do with the CIA. It was designed to help the failing economy under the democratically elected Allende government.

        The CIA were doing everything they could to topple Allende. Part of the reason the Chilean economy was failing was that the USA were deliberately calling in all their debts. They also covertly supported opposition groups.

        The CIA succeeded, Allende shot himself before being captured during the coup, and Chile was subsequently ruled by a ruthless dictator while thousands were killed, tortured or went 'missing'.

        So much for the 'special relationship'.

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: Beer room

          The CIA played both sides of everything in their South American adventures in dictatorship development. One hand undermined the current administrations, one hand propped them up, and both hands got together on the weekends to create, manage and exploit 3rd parties which picked up any scraps their work during the week dropped.

          There's a bunch of reasons, based on past abuse by the CIA, why the South Americans don't trust the gringos. We've fucked them so hard and mercilessly in the past it will be hard to ever truly fix the situation. But hey! At least they figured it out before they were all slaughtered. US dealings with Native North Americans had given them somewhat of a blueprint for what to expect...

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            Re: Beer room

            "There's a bunch of reasons, based on past abuse by the CIA, why the South Americans don't trust the gringos. We've fucked them so hard and mercilessly in the past it will be hard to ever truly fix the situation."

            True. This "position paper" from 1983 outlines the situation.

            Of course a lot has changed in 30 years.

            You can't smoke in a US govt building.

            1. Don Jefe
              Thumb Up

              Re: Beer room

              I think you've hit on a grand idea! All future government policy should be set to music video. That way even younger people who might not want, or be able, to trawl through pages of bureaucratic gibberish can still understand what's happening.

              There could even be interactive public shows where the losing video (and policy) gets voted off. Democracy in the 21st century :)

              1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
                Unhappy

                Re: Beer room

                "I think you've hit on a grand idea! All future government policy should be set to music video. That way even younger people who might not want, or be able, to trawl through pages of bureaucratic gibberish can still understand what's happening."

                Exactly. Of course at the time I guess they figured it was just the annoyed comments of someone whose bloodstream was very familiar with the products of the international drugs trade.

                Thirty years and $Terra of taxpayers money has changed what?

                In 2031 I wonder what the bill for The War Against Terror will be, and what actual benefits it will have shown?*

                Unless of course you mfg bulk data storage products or network DPI equipment of course.

  39. I don't always drink beer

    Another Bozo in the Security Circus

    Meanwhile, we put up with the Boston bombing, the Fort Hood shooting, the attempted bombing of an airliner in Detroit, so on and so forth while being groped at the airport by the TSA. The next president should initiate criminal investigations regarding fraud, waste, and abuse.

  40. DropBear Silver badge
    Devil

    Wrong franchise

    How could they possibly got it so wrong?!? What they were supposed to copy was the Death Star control room, from Star Wars - at least that would have been appropriate; and hey, fantasizing about force chockes is even neater than about hot cups of Earl Grey, innit...?

    1. Don Jefe
      Happy

      Re: Wrong franchise

      The Death Star worked as designed.

      The Enterprise(s) was always prone to internal systems failures, underutilized/incorrectly utilized as a result of being a pawn in expansionist Earth-centric politics and commanded by a succession of delusional madmen who claimed to hold certain principals as sacred, but were regularly 'forced' to ignore those principals to meet the needs of the moment.

      I think the Enterprise was a good choice to copy.

      *I'm a big Star Trek fan. But neutral analysis of the Federation and its policies show many heavy biases glossed over with fancy technology and busty, tightly attired female crewmen :)

      1. Don Jefe
        Alert

        Re: Wrong franchise - Franchise Opportunity!!!

        Holy shit! Here's the pitch:

        Starfleet: Trek Support - Follow the adventures of the unsung hero's that keep Starfleet's cutting edge starships boldly going where no one has gone before. Watch as highly skilled techs answer late night subspace emergency transmissions to solve mission critical problems onboard starships throughout the galaxy. Replicator not working? Sonic showers peeling the skin of the helmsman? Holodeck vaginas sandy? Unknown virus causing pop-ups on the main screen? Watch the action as malformed system patches are rolled back while still keeping life support, propulsion, shield and weapons systems online and ready for action!

        Starfleet: Trek Support Always there. Always ready.

  41. gaz 7

    if yu could, you would

    come on how many of you have not dreamed about being able to get away with doing somthing like this?

    Be honest. I'd love a network operations center like that

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: if yu could, you would

      Of course many people dream of a work environment like that. It is simply good management to make your staff feel special.

      There are certainly scads of other moral boosting things going on there. It sure does help explain why ~20,000 US Citizens were comfortable with spying on and betraying their countrymen and the founding principals of the country they are supposed to be protecting. They were made to feel very important; nobody wants to lose that feeling.

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