American Elephants

The National Security Agency: Cryptoanalysis Is What They Do by The Elephant's Child

Don’t you people read thrillers? The NSA. the National Security Agency ( I’m quoting from Wikipedia here) is a cryptologic intelligence agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the collection and analysis of foreign communications and information systems, which involves information security and cryptanalysis/cryptography.

The NSA is directed by at least a lieutenant-general or vice-admiral. NSA is a key component of the U.S. Intelligence Community, which is headed by the Director of National Intelligence. The Central Security Service is a co-located agency created to coordinate intelligence activities and co-operation between NSA and other U.S. military cryptanalysis agencies. The Director of the National Security Agency serves as the Commander of the United States Cyber Command and Chief of the Central Security Service.

The National Security Agency is divided into two major missions: the Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID), which produces foreign signals intelligence information, and the Information Assurance Directorate (IAD) which protects U.S. information systems.

Surely you know about Bletchley Park and Enigma and Lorenz? Codename Ultra? You have heard of Alan Turing, the father of the computer. How about Magic?

Trying to find patterns in the megadata culled from millions of phone calls, emails and radio messages is what NSA does. Has always done. They really aren’t interested in your illicit phone call to your friend’s husband. If it’s true that agents have logged the phone sex between troops in harm’s way and their wives back home, they need to be disciplined. It’s not their business. If these departments are hiring high school dropouts who have no sense about what is secret and why it is secret, they need to fix their hiring practices.

Again, it is the extraordinary abuse of power demonstrated by IRS intrusion into politics and the written requests of party leaders  to use FBI access to private information for political purposes — including affecting the outcome of the 2012 election, that has cast suspicion on everything done by the federal government. This is pure abuse of power, and those acts destroyed whatever trust existed between American citizens and their government. The senators involved know who they are and their actions should be formally condemned.

Some out there are braying about “secrets,” assuming that we somehow don’t need any secrets. That we shouldn’t be trying to find out the secrets of others, and just mind our own business. The world was never that naive or stupid, fortunately, or we wouldn’t be here today.

“This Does Seem To Be A Tawdry Political Thing” by The Elephant's Child

Good news on the intelligence front has not been particularly plentiful. So when news that a new underwear plot was foiled, too much information was the problem. Former agents from the U.S. intelligence community are blaming the Obama administration for undermining national security and compromising the British intelligence establishment, MI6 and MI5.

Mike Scheur, former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden unit, said that leaking about the nuts and bolts of British involvement was despicable and would make a repeat of the operation difficult. “MI6 should be as angry as hell. This is something that the prime minister should raise with the president, if he has the balls. This is really tragic” Scheur said.”Any information is too much information. This does seem to be a tawdry political thing.”

Robert Grenier, former head of the CIA counter-terrorism centre, in an article for al-Jazeera, said the spies of the US intelligence community “rather than quietly celebrating success are wistfully shaking their heads…As the director of national intelligence launches an investigation, he does so knowing the real culprits—in the White House and on Capitol Hill — are beyond his reach. He added “As for British intelligence, …they must be really unhappy. …The Americans are doing a very good jjob of undermining trust, and the problem starts at the top.”

It was clear that the information from this agent could have gone on for some time, when it was cut off by a leak. His intelligence was helping to target crucial drone strikes within Yemen, including one that killed the man responsible for the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. The leak appears to have frustrated a painstaking and risky operation.

Yemen has been a key target country for the CIA and MI6 in line with the growing strength of Aqap in recent years. But the lead on the ground has been taken by the Saudi intelligence service, the Mabahith, which is best placed to operate in the local environment and exploit links on either side of the border.


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