Spy General Alexander

I read a good article at the Washington Post about General Alexander, head of NSA, titled, “For NSA chief, terrorist threat drives passion to ‘collect it all’ observers say”.  A good quote:

“He is the only man in the land that can promote a problem by virtue of his intelligence hat and then promote a solution by virtue of his military hat,” said one former Pentagon official, voicing a concern that the lines governing the two authorities are not clearly demarcated and that Alexander can evade effective public oversight as a result.

A dangerous position to create.  Let’s hope no one exploits it.

Another one:

“Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, his approach was, ‘Let’s collect the whole haystack,’ ” said one former senior U.S. intelligence official who tracked the plan’s implementation. “Collect it all, tag it, store it. . . . And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it.”

Aka, Total Information Awareness.

Another one:

In January, he was on a cybersecurity panel in Munich when someone brought up Twitter’s announcement that 250,000 of its accounts had been hacked. “I didn’t do it,” Alexander said. “I was here. I have an alibi.” Then, turning to a fellow panelist, an official from the Chinese tech company Huawei, he quipped: “Do you?”

There’s a lot going on in that one, seems to me.

Another one [emphasis added]:

At a private meeting with financial industry officials a few years ago, Alexander spoke about the proliferation of computer malware aimed at siphoning data from networks, including those of banks…

His proposed solution: Private companies should give the government access to their networks so it could screen out the harmful software. The NSA chief was offering to serve as an all-knowing virus-protection service, but at the cost, industry officials felt, of an unprecedented intrusion into the financial institutions’ databases.

As I said over in NSA Snowden and other Codewords, I don’t disagree, necessarily.  Network awareness is a very important element in prevention of active (malware) attacks.  What people may not want to understand is that distributed networks on the scale of the internet or organizations that shrink the globe into a single system of systems may require realities for the maintenance of it and its nodes’ health that do not jive with all angles of some fundamental individual rights.  For instance, I said in that previously linked article that the problem with the NSA’s actions is that they are unconstitutional in the spirit that most people think of the constitution.  And even if secret courts make secret rulings, it will remain unconstitutional in spirit to the majority (apparently) of americans.  But sometimes I wonder, how can radical privacy work in a world with escalating technological skyhooks, WMDs and human psychology?  It could only even possibly work with a far more mature population than exists today.  America’s in its late 70’s, still innovating at some boundaries but stiff as hell, within.

It would be easier if the fourth amendment simply used the word privacy.  But it doesn’t, really.  The word “effects”, I believe, is typically assumed to mean physical objects.  I understand the word to be more energetic in nature.  My effects radiate outward and I wish to be secure in them.  But not all my effects can be secure.  I can’t both wish to be seen and be secure in all my effects.

Then there’s that unreasonable word “unreasonable”.  Who’s going to define that?  Apparently everyone understood it.  But actually, I bet they didn’t think of it in a way that it needs to be thought of these days.  Maybe they believed foreign spies and ne’er-do-wells (terrorists) should be secure in their effects as well?  I don’t know.  More could have been scribed on the subject.

I can see “reasonable” covering a national cyber defense umbrella.

Do I agree?

Dunno.

Since the nation does truly depend on a national infrastructure that is itself susceptible to attack, then really those in charge could easily believe that they have the mandate, the responsibility, the duty, the job description to guard the pasture invasively, sheep baaing be damned.

It either has happened or will.  Snowdendocs may say as much.  I’m sure the companies (will) know on some level.

What I’d really like to see is for people to realize that something needs to be built that cohesively spans the internet and builds a vast context with which to “understand” what is going on well enough to be able to identify what shouldn’t be.

Sort of like how the Obama campaign developed a very refined suite of software to manage the campaign, the NSA has been refining a toolkit aimed at protecting the nation, or, alternatively, foiling attempts to upset the nation, or, alternatively, preemptively disrupting disruptive networks.

Open source the beast.  No doubt someone would fork it.  Another would account for that.  A vast self-balancing ecosystem could fashion itself.

The danger with either the Alexanderian reality or my flight of fancy is how the protector is to be protected and trusted.  How do you prevent auto-immune diseases?  How can we know a bunch of ninja hjackers aren’t silently using the system for their own purposes?

How can a system keep growing into its blind spot(s?)?

That’s a good mantra from the inside out for an AI.

Information, only if information is also understood.

The ultimate way for the thing to work is by understanding the intent of the players with the ability to pierce cloaked intent, two things done underneath a single salient surface.

That is equivalent to strong AI.  On the way there, patterns will be analyzed and transformed and correlated and interrelated.

Anyway, I thought I had something to say.  What was it?

Oh yeah.

Illuminating Alexandeer in our headlights with all the incumbent reflexively over-compensatory reactions could rip wide open a hole that had been somewhat patched before it was really widely appreciated.  It could even be a strategy engineered by a foreign player to weaken the covertly built strength by exposing the secret’s unpopular angles.  Who?  I’m sure as hell not qualified to even hazard a guess.

Maybe Snowden himself, or if he was recruited, someone down that rabbit hole.  There’s absolutely no reason to believe the story we’ve been told.  It’s as likely a total fabrication as it is the simple truth.

He doesn’t seem to be doing so well in that Moscow “airport”, judging by the looks of him.  But there’s makeup even for subtle effects like those.

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