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April 30, 2015 6:51 pm

NSA Programs Key to Combating Terrorism

avatar by John Bolton

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Senator Bob Corker drafted the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which requires President Obama to submit a final agreement with Iran to both houses of Congress within five days of it being signed. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Congress is poised to decide whether to re-authorize programs run by the National Security Agency that assess patterns of domestic and international telephone calls and emails to uncover linkages with known terrorists. These NSA activities, initiated after al-Qaeda’s deadly 9/11 attacks, have played a vital role in protecting America and our citizens around the world from the still-metastasizing terrorist threat.

The NSA programs do not involve listening to or reading conversations, but rather seek to detect communications networks. If patterns are found, and more detailed investigation seems warranted, then NSA or other federal authorities, consistent with the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, must obtain judicial approval for”¨more specific investigations. Indeed, even the collection of the so-called metadata is surrounded by procedural protections to prevent spying on U.S. citizens.

Nonetheless, critics from the right and left have attacked the NSA for infringing on the legitimate expectations of privacy Americans enjoy under our Constitution. Unfortunately, many of these critics have absolutely no idea what they are talking about; they are engaging in classic McCarthyite tactics, hoping to score political points with a public justifiably worried about the abuses of power characteristic of the Obama administration. Other critics, following Vietnam-era antipathies to America’s intelligence community, have never reconciled themselves to the need for robust clandestine capabilities. Still others yearn for simpler times, embodying Secretary of State Henry Stimson’s famous comment that “gentlemen don’t read each others’ mail.”

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The ill-informed nature of the debate has facilitated scare-mongering, with one wild accusation about NSA’s activities after another being launched before the mundane reality catches up. And there is an important asymmetry at work here as well. The critics can say whatever their imaginations conjure up, but NSA and its defenders are significantly limited in how they can respond. By definition, the programs’ success rests on the secrecy fundamental to all intelligence activities. Frequently, therefore, explaining what is not happening could well reveal information about NSA’s methods and capabilities that terrorists and others, in turn, could use to stymie future detection efforts.

After six years of President Obama, however, trust in government is in short supply. It is more than a little ironic that Obama finds himself defending the NSA (albeit with obvious hesitancy and discomfort), since his approach to foreign and defense issues has consistently reflected near-total indifference, except when he has no alternative to confronting challenges to our security. Yet if harsh international realities can penetrate even Obama’s White House, that alone is evidence of the seriousness of the threats America faces.

In fact, just in the year since Congress last considered the NSA programs, the global terrorist threat has dramatically increased. ISIS is carving out an entirely new state from what used to be Syria and Iraq, which no longer exist within the borders created from the former Ottoman Empire after World War I. In already-chaotic Libya, ISIS has grown rapidly, eclipsing al-Qaeda there and across the region as the largest terrorist threat. Boko Haram is expanding beyond Nigeria, declaring its own caliphate, even while pledging allegiance to ISIS. Yemen has descended into chaos, following Libya’s pattern, and Iran has expanded support for the terrorist Houthi coalition. Afghanistan is likely to fall back under Taliban control if, as Obama continually reaffirms, he withdraws all American troops before the end of 2016.

This is not the time to cripple our intelligence-gathering capabilities against the rising terrorist threat. Congress should unquestionably reauthorize the NSA programs, but only for three years. That would take us into a new presidency, hopefully one that inspires more confidence, where a calmer, more sensible debate can take place.

John R. Bolton, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, was the United States ambassador to the United Nations from August 2005 to December 2006. This article was originally published by the Boston Herald.

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  • Ilya Geller

    The Era of Absolute Privacy is coming! The NSA is absolutely harmless.

    I discovered and patented how to structure any data: Language has its own Internal parsing, indexing and statistics. For instance, there are two sentences:

    a) ‘Fire!’
    b) ‘Dismay and anguish were depicted on every countenance; the males turned pale, and the females fainted; Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle grasped each other by the hand, and gazed at the spot where their leader had gone down, with frenzied eagerness; while Mr. Tupman, by way of rendering the promptest assistance, and at the same time conveying to any persons who might be within hearing, the clearest possible notion of the catastrophe, ran off across the country at his utmost speed, screaming ‘Fire!’ with all his might.’

    Evidently, that the phrase ‘Fire!’ has different importance into both sentences, in regard to extra information in both. This distinction is reflected as the phrase weights: the first has 1, the second – 0.02; the greater weight signifies stronger emotional ‘acuteness’.
    First you need to parse obtaining phrases from clauses, for sentences and paragraphs.
    Next, you calculate Internal statistics, weights; where the weight refers to the frequency that a phrase occurs in relation to other phrases. After that data is indexed by common dictionary, like Webster, and annotated by subtexts.
    This is a small sample of the structured data:
    confusion – signify – : 333321
    speaking – done – once : 333112
    speaking – was – both : 333109
    To see the validity of technology – pick up any sentence.

    Do you have a pencil?

    All other technologies, used by all current companies, depend on spying, on quires, on SQL, all of them. They all use External statistics, only my technology gets statistics internally, form text itself.
    Being structured information will search for users based on their profiles of structured data. Each and every user can get only specifically tailored for him information: there is no any privacy issue, nobody ever will know what the user got and read. (By the way – no spam!)

    My technology exploits the Laws of Nature, which determine the inner construction of all Languages: I came from Analytic Philosophy, from Internal Relations Theory.

    The profiles of structured data can only be used: and where the NSA will use them? How? Listen, the NSA is our Government, we can control both. And I personally killed commercial spying. Sleep nice, your privacy is protected.

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