New Perspective on NSA, and Intelligence Gathering vs Personal Freedom

Intelligence Gathering, the NSA, FBI and CIA, another Perspective

by Ben B.Boothe, Sr. | ‎Tuesday, February 11, 2014, 9:48 AM (CST)

(See article with photos at: http://www.bootheglobalperspectives.com)

I recall with vivid clarity, the night George W. Bush made his AXIS of EVIL speech. Remember, he targeted Iran, Iraq and North Korea, but kept a lingering anger at Cuba, Libya, Syria, Belarus, Burma, and Zimbabwe.

Axis of EvilAxis of Evil

Interesting that Afghanistan was not even mentioned and it has been our longest lingering conflict with “boots on the ground”.

In spite of all of the drama, war, conflict and maneuvering, after all of the billions spent and all of the lives lost, it seems that not much has changed with the Axis of Evil participants. The same groups are still in conflict, none of the nations can boast of significant improvements in lifestyle. It can be argued that Iraq, Iran and North Korea are all just as ‘conflict oriented’ today as they were before George Bush’s wars. We have hopes for the “kind” comments coming out of Iran and can only hope that the radicals of that nation will allow some progress in international relations there.

But, one thing we must hand to former President George W. Bush. The United States remains the freest and most secure nation on earth. Our Glass Buildings Convey Freedom and LightOur Glass Buildings Convey Freedom and Light I was observing images of new corporate buildings in America. Have you ever considered that our newest office buildings are not built like fortresses, like many commercial buildings are designed in less secure nations? Many of our newest buildings are built with free and open glass designs, suggesting openness and freedom from worry about things such as terrorism or attacks.

Consider that our highway system is the most open “free” transportation system in the world. Any person can freely drive from one end of the nation to the other, without road blocks, searches, passes or passport inspections (assuming that the speed limit and basic traffic laws are observed).

Our rail system seems to be almost unguarded it is so free and the aviation system has its TSA security checks but in spite of that, most every American can fly to any city in the USA without being detained.

I believe in personal freedom and personal rights. But I also appreciate the fact that much of our security is “out of sight”. It is refreshing to be in America and not see the halls of every building, airport and bus terminal lined with armed soldiers, like we see in some “autocratic” nations.

So gradually, I have come to appreciate the extremely effective information system of America that has kept us secure and free from being a nation that must live and work in a “bunker mentality”. Most Americans can look out windows from their homes and workplaces and have little or no fear of some religious or political radical attacking them.

Consider our movies and malls. In many nations on earth movies are a security risk and highly guarded.Movies are Guarded and then People Locked InMovies are Guarded and then People Locked In In India, everyone entering a movie theater goes through security as tough at America’s TSA systems. And in India, when the movie starts, everyone is locked in, until it is over, for security reasons. So many bombs have been set off in movie theaters, India considers it a necessity. But in America, people come and go with no thought of fear. Consider our malls. In some nations, every bag going in or out is checked, and people are wanted and checked by metal detectors. Not in our America.

It seems to me, that America is still the “land of the free” and this freedom is no accident. So what if we are observed by dozens of security cameras as we walk and shop. At least we are safe and free. So what if a computer records our telephone calls or internet messages? Have we forgotten that those NSA, FBI and CIA workers are American patriots, working to protect us? And a good job they have done.

So when I see America “running” from the most effective and comprehensive intelligence system in the world, I am concerned. More information, tactics, disclosures of methods, have been disclosed to our friends and enemies in the past 18 months than in our nation’s history. We have lost friends and made new enemies as a result. I feel that when an NSA employee defects to another nation or when an FBI or CIA worker goes to the other side, that it creates more risk for every American.

The Washington Post recently reported that “Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercepts and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.” We hear these things that most Americans have never considered and it sounds outrageous, but in truth, it is what the American people and our leaders have asked for. When we ask for the best security in the world, we must have the best intelligence gathering systems in the world to make it happen. If balance is a key to good government and leadership we must ask the question:

Where Do We Draw A Line on Intelligence Gathering vs Security vs Personal Privacy Rights?

Is it good or is it bad?Is it good or is it bad?The NSA sorts a fraction of those 1.7 billion communications into 70 separate data bases. Do we lose some personal freedom when we consider that every email, every phone call, can be copied, monitored and catalogued? Yes. But the truth and fact of the matter is, that every nation has done that since we had telephones and the internet. Try going to Dubai, Beijing, Russia, Israel or Tehran where the “bugging” is obvious, invasive and often absurd, it is so poorly done. Some have been clumsier about it than we have. Any educated person in America knows that every word he types or speaks into an electronic device could be monitored, but we have known this since Alexander Bell created the telephone. Why do we act so surprised at the reports of data gathering? The first rule of business when I opened my first bank, was that “Just assume that anything you say on a phone is being recorded by someone.” That was more than 40 years ago. Electronic intelligence gathering is a system invented and perfected in the United States, for us, the people. Our nation does it to protect the people, unlike China, Russian or Iran who use it to control the people. There is a difference. We demand security and freedom and this is how we keep security and freedom. Other nations use it to control freedom, especially freedom of speech. So is our right to be secure and fee more important than our right to have privacy? I suggest that personal privacy is a blessing, but even that is lost if we lose the safety and security of our nation to terrorists or foreign powers.

In the USA this huge capacity for gathering and storage of data is increasing. The NSA (according to Fox News) is building a “Data Center in Utah that could hold 5 zettabytes of data, the biggest data bank in the world.”

So now, the NSA reportedly has approximately 40,000 employees, who constantly obtain, study and categorize data. Some call it the “Nerd capital of the world”. The agency has huge funding that buys considerable energy and effort which is going to increase. This coupled with some of the most powerful computers on earth, creates an ability to organize information “relationships” that could indicate trends, plans or habits. Their computers are so big and so numerous that one NSA campus alone uses as much electricity as the entire city of Annapolis.

The NSA facilities are significant and impressive as this image of the NSA location at Fort Mead demonstrates.NSA CampusNSA Campus And this is just one of many facilities. We see spider type gathering computer systems at work on our monitors originating all around the world and suspect that some to those are NSA facilities, or institutions with government contracts. Some are corporations such as Google, and some are foreign nations at work gathering data. Some are one nation’s intelligence system, snooping on another nation’s system as they monitor each other. But no system on earth can compare with the scope and power of the National Security Agency. The FBI and CIA certainly are significant players, but the NSA wrote the book on electronic intelligence gathering. Russia and Israel both spend considerable effort monitoring American communications, one to oppose us, the other to continue to get more money from us.

China is probably the king of intelligence and communication gathering in Asia. I was working in Asia once when an official informed me that my hotel room in China was bugged. I laughed and said: “If those guys don’t have anything better to do than listen to me snoring and watching TV they must be pretty hard up.” Thousands of people in China monitor telephone calls and computer emails. Most people don’t have “state secrets” worth their time to listen but the fact that they do it seems to intimidate the people. Russian people seem to have the same reaction. People in America, so far, are not intimidated by data collection, probably most simply figure that the government that we elect and hire to keep us secure is on our side. It would seem to me that the people who really get mad about monitoring are the ones who have secrets that they are afraid will be exposed. There is no doubt that criminals and giant corporations often may have issues that break the law, or do things harmful to the USA, are opposed to “monitoring”. Certainly the “Do Nothing” Congress of the USA may have elected officials as corrupt as they are useless. So they would be opposed to having their secrets monitored.

But humor aside there are serious spies and terrorists who we need to keep an eye and ear on. But it is implausible that any government agency of the USA would have an interest in the petty affairs of everyday Americans. It is plausible to figure that 99.9% of the data that they mine is put in “inconsequential” files.

Americans know that the NSA, FBI and CIA all have considerable intelligence gathering capability. Perhaps the 1/10 of 1 % of the secrets that these agencies gather are potentially harmful to our nation. As for me, I am glad that we have people willing to protect our nation and the first line of defense is information. That seems preferable than stressing armed soldiers walking the streets and breaking into homes searching for something as happens in some nations. If you don’t want to be bothered about intelligence gathering, just live and work as straightforward as you can and demand that your employees do the same. Be thoughtful and enlightened citizens, work hard and strive to elect honest leaders. Corporate business leaders must teach their employees to learn discretion and simple common sense in our public and electronic communications. No doubt there is an “eye watching you” as the old time church song said. It is truer now than ever. But that eye is not the eye of God. In the USA it is often the eye of our fellow citizens trying to protect America and Americans, who love this nation and hope to be monitoring people who abide by its laws. But to complicate things more, foreign nations are also monitoring electronic communications. Our Global Perspectives articles, critical of other nations have sometimes attracted server attacks and we have seen the effects of their “pinging” attacks on our system. Often a nation is the only entity that can create enough volume to bring a system down. But software can identify the “web crawlers” that are monitoring web sites and scooping up information 24 hours per day, and the sources of many internet snoopers are in nations hostile to U.S. interests.

Most Americans don’t need to create “walls” to secure your systems, or encrypt your conversations of your everyday life. Most Americans are simply trying to raise families, make a living and survive. More and more of the biggest secrets are never spoken aloud on an electronic device anyway. The most important secrets are whispered in an ear or carried by a courier. “Non technology” communication is becoming more prevalent with those who carry the huge secrets. Ironic how that technology eventually forces us backwards in communication isn’t it?

So, my point:

Ours is the most powerful society with the most freedoms of any nation on earth.

That freedom is often preserved and maintained by our government and our intelligence agencies.

Our lives should be lived intelligently, with moderation and with discretion, always seeking ‘More Light’.

Alas beware of those folks who are paranoid about government snooping, they may be the ones with secrets.

Copyright © 2003 – 2014 Ben B. Boothe, All rights reserved. Ben B. Boothe and Associates, LLC.

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About benboothe

Business Executive, bank founder and president of banks for 20 years, as well as International World Bank consultant. Ran for US Congress and for Mayor of Ft.Worth. Publisher of: Global Perspectives (http://bootheglobalperspectives.com) and owner of several businesses. One of our businesses does appraisals and another environmental consulting. Wind-Inc., distributes Wind Turbines.
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