The NSA: Looking for a needle in a needle stack #Snowden

It isn’t that hard to find a needle in a haystack. You just wave your fingers around until you get stuck and bleed. But a needle in a needlestack is much harder.  Picture what would happen to your fingers as you waved them around in there.   Now, the problem with a needle in a Needle Stack is that you can’t tell one from the other.  You would have to pick up every single needle, get out your magnifying glass, and discern, from subtle distinguishing characteristics, which needle was the right one.  In the process, you would most likely spend too much time.  Then your boss would say, “haven’t you found that needle yet?” and you would be sorely tempted to pick just any old Needle and declare it to be The One.  So your performance evaluation and your bonus wouldn’t suffer.

And that is what the  NSA is doing when it collects all the data in the world from all the people in the world, and tries to store it under a mountain in Utah.

Sadly, the NSA admitted this in Congressional hearings  Wednesday.

The NSA, it seems, admits to collecting data from “3 hops.” What does that mean?  Well, it means that if a student in the U.S. signs up to take an online college class, and that student just happens to have a cousin in some other country (any other country, apparently), and emails that cousin, then the student is “Hop 1.”

Said student signs into his online class at the University of Any State, let’s say, for example purposes.

Zap!  The other students in the online class, and the teacher, become Hop 2.  They are now all under NSA surveillance.  He then logs into his Facebook account, where he has 75 friends.  And his email account, where 40 people have contacted him over the last 4 years.  Now 145 people are all Hop 2.

Each of those 145 people, then logs into their Facebook accounts., their other classes or workplaces, and their email accounts.  They have an average of 75 Facebook friends, 40 contacts, and 30 other classmates or work colleagues,  each.  Now 21,025 people are all flagged as “potential terrorists,” available to be watched and followed.  One more hop, and the entire United States is on the list.

And we all know, as Jim Clapper explained, the NSA lies. Even to Congress. So we can be assured it is likely to be four hops. The whole country.

Now the thing is, this data is not a haystack with some needles in it.  This data is a needlestack with needles in it.  It’s “metadata,” meaning it all looks alike until you pick it up and examine it closely.  In a pattern.  If you’re a regular person, coming to work at your desk job at the NSA every day, (or one of the defense contractors hired by the NSA), all you see is meaningless babble.  So you have to look more closely.  That’s where patterning software comes into play.

Patterning software.  What’s that?

It’s how you can be set up as a target for a pre-crime, just like in Minority Report.  It’s how each employee can select a Needle and discern whether that Needle in the NeedleStack is The One. More  in next post.



  1. One of the needles, I’ve been following concerns the freedom of the press and journalists becoming listed as possible terrorists. Chris Hedges, Naomi Wolfe and others have been involved in a lawsuit against section # 1021 in the National Defense act. The permanent injunction against this section was recently nullified by a federal court.
    Could authors also be included as terrorists for their writings or is this thought too far a stretch of my imagination?

    1. Ms. Young · · Reply

      Of course journalists are followed, lest they reveal some kind of truth, which seems taboo these days.

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