Friday, March 17, 2006

Reading James Bamford's article "Big Brother Is Listening" in the new issue of The Atlantic made me wonder, as I'm sure it did other readers, whether I'm on anyone's watch lists. I can think of no reason I would be, but as the article notes there is no way to know unless you start to have problems as a result. And there's definitely no way of knowing what search parameters might end up with you being on such a list. For example would the phrase "We're interested in ways to avoid NSA surveillance" cause a computer at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade to flash on some analyst's screen "Hey, guy, you might want to look at this?" Could going to school at some point with someone with a distant connnection to al Qaeda or the IRA subject you to NSA interest? Its disturbing to think of the ways something you've posted on Usenet, written in a blog, or said in jest over the telephone could make you a target. Its also disturbing to think of how overly zealous search criteria could lead to resources being wasted on those who are of no threat to anyone, and lessen those resources applied to legitimate targets.

Speaking of high tech spying I also read an article in Aviation Week & Space Technology about Project Blackstar, an alleged US spaceplane project which may or may not have seen operational use in recent years. What's especially interesting is the idea the mothership for this craft may have been based on the long cancelled B70 Valkyrie trisonic bomber of the early '60s. The cover of the issue and the artwork within certainly made me think of the Valkyrie even before I read the actual article. Not everyone believes the idea is credible, this article from Jeffrey F Bell being an example.

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