Hayden, ThinThread and Trailblazer
NSA managers did not want to adopt the data-sifting component of ThinThread
out of fear that the Trailblazer program would be outperformed and “humiliated,”
an intelligence official said. – Baltimore
Today's story in the Baltimore Sun is enough to make your head spin. Turf wars
is a mild description of this story. Breaking on the same day that General Michael
Hayden goes down to meet the senators on his CIA confirmation, it seems anything but coincidental.
According to the Baltimore Sun, back in the 1990s there was a pilot program to capture
and analyze loads of data without getting stuck up against the Fourth Amendment.
The program was called ThinThread, but was eventually scrapped, with only one
part of it kept intact, the data analysis portion. However, ThinThread had been
judged highly successful, so why didn't it continue?
Enter Trailblazer, a $1.2 billion program, which Hayden ushered in when he
started his illegal NSA program. Because it was Hayden's baby, it received more
political support, but wasn't nearly as effective, lean and targeted at actually sifting
intelligence as ThinThread. You catch where this is going?
Without ThinThread's data-sifting assets, the warrantless surveillance program
was left with a sub-par tool for sniffing out information, and that has diminished
the quality of its analysis, according to intelligence officials.
Sources say the NSA's existing system for data-sorting has produced a database
clogged with corrupted and useless information.
The mass collection of relatively unsorted data, combined with system flaws
that sources say erroneously flag people as suspect, has produced numerous
false leads, draining analyst resources, according to two intelligence officials.
FBI agents have complained in published reports in The New York Times that
NSA leads have resulted in numerous dead ends.
Officials say that after the successful tests of ThinThread in 1998, Taylor
argued that the NSA should implement the full program. He later told the 9/11
Commission that ThinThread could have identified the hijackers had it been
in place before the attacks, according to an intelligence expert close to
the commission. …
The strength of ThinThread's approach is that by encrypting information on
Americans, it is legal regardless of whether the country is at war, according
to one intelligence official.
Officials familiar with Thin Thread say some within NSA were stunned by the
legal flip-flop. ThinThread “was designed very carefully from a legal
point of view, so that even in non-wartime, you could have done it legitimately,”
the official said. …
killed system that sifted phone data legally
Sources say project was shelved in part because of bureaucratic infighting
It's hard to know what to think about all this, but it sure gives one pause.
It makes this statement by General Michael Hayden seem even more quizzical
than it did when he first uttered it earlier today.
“Senators, I believe that the intelligence business has too
much become the football in American political discourse.” –