Aaron Ross Powell
Today the Washington Post published a front page story about changing intepretations of the Second Amendment. The piece begins with a lecture by professor Don Kates.
In 1977 at a Denver hotel, Don Kates paced a conference room lecturing a small group of young scholars about the Second Amendment and tossing out ideas for law review articles. Back then, it was a pretty weird activity in pursuit of a wacky notion: that the Constitution confers an individual right to possess a firearm.
“This idea for a very long time was just laughed at,” said Nelson Lund, the Patrick Henry professor of constitutional law and the Second Amendment at George Mason University, a chair endowed by the National Rifle Association. “A lot of people thought it was preposterous and just propaganda from gun nuts.”
More than 35 years later, no one is laughing. In 2008, the Supreme Court endorsed for the first time an individual’s right to own a gun in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller. The 5 to 4 decision rendered ineffective some of the District’s strict gun-control laws. And Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion echoed the work of Kates and his ideological comrades, who had pressed the argument that the Second Amendment articulates an individual right to keep and bear arms.
Kates–a liberal, civil rights attorney–published a seminal 1983 Michigan Law Review article arguing for an individual right interpretation of the Second Amendment, the same intepretation the Supreme Court endorsed 25 years later in District of Columbia v. Heller. Kates saw the crucial connection between civil rights and the natural right to self-defense–a connection most of his peers continue to miss.
Over at Libertarianism.org, you can watch one of Kates’s Constitutional jurisprudence changing lectures. Just two weeks back, we posted a talk he gave in 1989 on the history of gun ownership in America and the historical implications of the right to self-defense.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty
Is the financial system of Europe on the verge of a meltdown? I have always maintained that the next wave of the economic crisis would begin in Europe, and right now the situation in Europe is unraveling at a frightening pace. On Monday, European stocks had their worst day in over six months, and over the past four days we have seen the EUR/USD decline by the most that it has in nearly seven months. Meanwhile, scandals are erupting all over the continent. A political scandal in Spain, a derivatives scandal in Italy and banking scandals all over the eurozone are seriously shaking confidence in the system. If things move much farther in a negative direction, we could be facing a full-blown financial crisis in Europe very rapidly. So watch the financial markets in Europe very carefully. Yes, most Americans tend to ignore Europe because they are convinced that the U.S. is “the center of the universe”, but the truth is that Europe actually has a bigger population than we do, they have a bigger economy then we do, and they have a much larger banking system than we do. The global financial system is more integrated today than it ever has been before, and if there is a major stock market crash in Europe it is going to deeply affect the United States and the rest of the globe as well. So pay close attention to what is going on in Europe, because events over there could spark a chain reaction that would have very serious implications for every man, woman and child on the planet.
EuroStoxx (Europe’s Dow) closed today -1% for 2013. France, Germany, and Spain are all lower on the year now. Italy, following ENI’s CEO fraud, collapsed almost 3% from the US day-session open, leaving it up less than 1% for the year. Just as we argued, credit markets have been warning that all is not well and today’s afternoon free-fall begins the catch-down.
In addition, the euro has been dropping like a rock all of a sudden. Just check out this chart which shows what happened to the euro on Thursday. It is very rare to see the euro move that dramatically.
So what is causing all of this?
Well, we already know that the economic fundamentals in Europe are absolutely horrible. Unemployment in the eurozone is at a record high, and the unemployment rates in both Greece and Spain are over 26 percent. Those are depression-level numbers.
But up until now there had still been a tremendous amount of confidence in the European financial system. But now that confidence is being shaken by a whole host of scandals.
In recent days, a number of major banking scandals have begun to emerge all over Europe. Just check out this article which summarizes many of them.
One of the worst banking scandals is in Italy. A horrible derivatives scandal has pushed the third largest bank in Italy to the verge of collapse…
Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI), Italy’s third biggest lender, said on Wednesday losses linked to three problematic derivative trades totaled 730 million euros ($988.3 million) as it sought to draw a line under a scandal over risky financial transactions.
There is that word “derivative” that I keep telling people to watch for. Of course this is not the big “derivatives panic” that I have been talking about, but it is an example of how these toxic financial instruments can bring down even the biggest banks. Monte dei Paschi is the oldest bank in the world, and now the only way it is able to survive is with government bailouts.
Another big scandal that is shaking up Europe right now is happening over in Spain. It is being alleged that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other members of his party have been receiving illegal cash payments. The following summary of the scandal comes from a recent Bloomberg article…
On Jan. 31, the Spanish newspaper El Pais published copies of what it said were ledgers from secret accounts held by Luis Barcenas, the former treasurer of the ruling People’s Party, which revealed the existence of a party slush fund. The newspaper said 7.5 million euros in corporate donations were channeled into the fund and allegedly doled out from 1997 to 2009 to senior party members, including Rajoy.
That doesn’t sound good at all.
So what is the truth?
Could Rajoy actually be innocent?
Well, at this point most of the population of Spain does not believe that is the case. Just check out the following poll numbers from the Bloomberg article quoted above…
According to the Metroscopia poll, 76 percent of Spaniards don’t believe the People’s Party’s denials of the slush-fund allegations. Even more damning, 58 percent of the party’s supporters think it’s lying. All of the Spanish businessmen with whom I discussed the latest scandal expect it to get worse before it gets better. Their assumption that there are more skeletons in the government’s closet indicates what little trust they have in their leaders.
Meanwhile, the underlying economic fundamentals in Europe just continue to get worse. One of the biggest concerns right now is France. Just check out this excerpt from a recent report by Phoenix Capital Research…
The house of cards that is Europe is close to collapsing as those widely held responsible for solving the Crisis (Prime Ministers, Treasurers and ECB head Mario Draghi) have all been recently implicated in corruption scandals.
Those EU leaders who have yet to be implicated in scandals are not faring much better than their more corrupt counterparts. In France, socialist Prime Minister Francois Hollande, has proven yet again that socialism doesn’t work by chasing after the wealthy and trying to grow France’s public sector… when the public sector already accounts for 56% of French employment.
France was already suffering from a lack of competitiveness. Now that wealthy businesspeople are fleeing the country (meaning investment will dry up), the economy has begun to positively implode.
As the report goes on to mention, over the past few months the economic numbers coming out of France have been absolutely frightful…
Auto sales for 2012 fell 13% from those of 2011. Sales of existing homes outside of Paris fell 20% year over year for the third quarter of 2012. New home sales fell 25%. Even the high-end real estate markets are collapsing with sales for apartments in Paris that cost over €2 million collapsing an incredible 42% in 2012.
Today, the jobless rate in France is at a 15-year high, and industrial production is headed into the toilet. The wealthy are fleeing France in droves because of the recent tax increases, and the nation is absolutely drowning in debt. Even the French jobs minister recently admitted that France is essentially “bankrupt” at this point…
France’s government was plunged into an embarrassing row yesterday after a minister said the country was ‘totally bankrupt’.
Employment secretary Michel Sapin said cuts were needed to put the damaged economy back on track.
‘There is a state but it is a totally bankrupt state,’ he said.
So what does all of this mean?
It means that the crisis in Europe is just beginning. Things are going to be getting a lot worse.
Perhaps that is one reason why corporate insiders are dumping so much stock right now as I noted in my article yesterday entitled “Do Wall Street Insiders Expect Something Really BIG To Happen Very Soon?“ There are a whole host of signs that both the United States and Europe are heading for recession, and a lot of financial experts are warning that stocks are way overdue for a “correction”.
For example, Blackstone’s Byron Wien told CNBC the other day that he expects the S&P 500 to drop by 200 points during the first half of 2013.
Seabreeze Partners portfolio manager Doug Kass recently told CNBC that what is happening right now in the financial markets very much reminds him of the stock market crash of 1987…
“I’m getting the ‘summer of 1987 feeling’ in the U.S. equity market,” Kass told CNBC, “which means we’re headed for a sharp fall.”
Toward the end of 2012 and at the very beginning of 2013 we saw markets both in the U.S. and in Europe move up steadily even though the underlying economic fundamentals did not justify such a move.
In many ways, that move up reminded me of the “head fakes” that we have seen prior to many of the largest “market corrections” of the past. Often financial markets are at their most “euphoric” just before a crash hits.
So get ready.
Even if you don’t have a penny in the financial markets, now is the time to prepare for what is ahead.
We all need to learn from what Europe is going through right now. In Greece, formerly middle class citizens are now trampling one another for food. We all need to prepare financially, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically so that we can weather the economic storm that is coming.
Most Americans are accustomed to living paycheck to paycheck and being constantly up to their eyeballs in debt, but that is incredibly foolish. Even in the animal kingdom, animals work hard during the warm months to prepare for the winter months. Even so, we should all be working very hard to prepare during prosperous times so that we will have something stored up for the lean years that are coming.
Unfortunately, if events in Europe are any indication, we may be rapidly running out of time.
View full post on The Economic Collapse
David Ceresne: Watch out when physical market for gold and silver detaches from paper
Submitted by cpowell on Sat, 2013-02-02 15:46. Section: Daily Dispatches
By David Ceresne
Saturday, February 2, 2013
Shortages and volatile markets are forcing the precious metal industry into turbulent times.
How is the precious metal industry adapting? Global mints and refiners have increased premiums on all products.
How are investors reacting? Buying is at an all-time high and premiums are no longer the primary concern. In fact, delivery time on products now is the most important factor for buyers. This shift demonstrates the demand for precious metals, whatever the premium may be.
It’s simple. Relentless demand and shrinking supply are changing the precious metal landscape. We are witnessing a deviance from paper price to physical price. But why?
To understand the changing landscape, we need to analyze the precious metal supply chain. Looking to global mints can let us know what changes must be made.
To start, where are mints getting their metal? It boils down to three sources.
1) Mining companies. Above-ground and easily mineable metals are a thing of the past. Mining companies must dig deeper than ever to extract precious metals. Changing mining conditions and high input costs are affecting the precious metal supply. As mining conditions change and inflation continues to rise, the extraction of metal through mining appears to become less feasible. Political factors also play a role. Laws, politics, and tax rules can slow down or even stop the extraction of precious metals in key markets.
2) Recycled products. It is estimated that 85-95 per cent of world silver output is now disposed of, primarily through industrial applications. Middle-class people all over Europe are trading in their gold and silver for cash, disposing of everything from jewelry to silverware. In North America the story is the same. But much of that supply has already been depleted as people sell personal items to help pay the bills. This causes a big strain on the physical gold and silver markets. People are also liquidating their retirement accounts and selling assets to buy precious metals. Supply is depleting as demand increases.
3) Global trading floors. Mints and refiners will purchase silver and gold from global trading floors. If you have purchased precious metals before, many of your products may have been melted down from large bars into smaller-denominated coins and bars.
But the next time mints ask for metal to melt, will it be there? With current demand for metals, the answer is no. Then what? If there is no silver or gold to procure, we will head toward a "force majeure" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Force_majeure).
At this point the paper price will have no relevance to the physical price. As people rush for the door, dealers will undoubtedly sell. But at what price? This will be for the true markets to decide.
David Ceresne is president of Precious Metal House (http://www.preciousmetalhouse.com/), a coin and bullion dealer in Toronto.
Statistics: Posted by DIGGER DAN — Sun Feb 03, 2013 8:00 am
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By Jim Harper
There’s only a little bit of unfairness in the title I’ve given this post, the suggestion that OMB Watch President and CEO Katherine McFate opposes regulation that has benefits. But she does lament the requirement that the benefits of regulation be shown, which is a sibling of not prioritizing benefits at all.
In a post entitled: “Cost-Benefit Analysis: The Stunning Triumph of a Flawed Tool,” she writes: “It is simply not appropriate to apply cost-benefit analysis to many aspects of policymaking, and the results from such analyses should not be the final determinant of the value of many proposed standards or safeguards.”
It’s not a new argument. And I disagree with it. All aspects of policymaking should be subjected to cost-benefit analysis. All policies should provide us more in benefits than they burden us with costs. Just think how much we’d save on military adventurism…
Here’s the heart of McFate’s complaint:
Many regulatory experts and members of the public interest community believe cost-benefit analysis exaggerates the costs of new rules and underestimates their social benefits. Cost-benefit analyses are heavily dependent on the assumptions built into the quantitative models used and the data on which the models are applied. The data is provided by regulated businesses. If these businesses are resisting the need to change their production processes or business practices to comply with a new standards or regulation, they will tend to overestimate the compliance costs of the rule.
Nothing here undercuts cost-benefit analysis per se. McFate’s complaint is that “the other side” is skewing cost-benefit analysis in its favor.
McFate is right that the benefits of safety and health are harder to quantify than the cost of regulations to deliver them. And she’s right that business ingenuity goes into cutting compliance costs after rules have issued, making initial cost-estimates seem high. But those are reasons for groups like OMB Watch to get better at cost-benefit analysis, not reasons to quit the game.
The federal government has hoovered up control over huge swaths of Americans’ economic and social lives, subjecting manifold organs of society to central control contrary to my preference. If the government’s decisionmaking is not to be guided by cost-benefit analysis, then what? McFate doesn’t say. But she does say:
Americans have a right to safe drinking water, clean air, safe workplaces, safe food, safe drugs, and safe toys. They expect their government to ensure these basic protections. End of story. The value of maintaining and improving the health and safety of the American people? Priceless.
In this romantic, choking swirl of positive rights, we pick up McFate’s view: the United States government should spend any amount of society’s resources on her goals, nevermind whether it makes society better off as a whole. I’ll take cost-benefit analysis.
OMB Watch should focus on making cost-benefit analysis better, rather than giving up on regulation with demonstrable benefits.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty
Hyperinflation Watch – September 16, 2012
Cyclical or Structural?
September 16, 2012 – The US federal government spent $369 billion in August, but only received $179 billion in revenue. The resulting $190 billion deficit was a record for any August and the third highest monthly deficit in the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30th.
Looking at this deficit another way, the federal government borrowed 51.6% of the dollars it spent in August. Consequently, the growth of the national debt continues to accelerate, as illustrated by the green bars in the following chart.
This chart also illustrates that the deficit – the gap between expenditures (red line) and revenue (blue line) – is not narrowing to any significant extent, which is a critically important observation. A persistent gap that is barely shrinking has never happened before.
Normally economic activity revives after a recession, which in turn leads to increased revenue for the federal government, like it did from 2004-2008 when the more rapid growth in revenue almost eliminated the deficit. But not this time. Revenue is increasing, but so are expenditures at almost the same rate.
Consequently, the deficit is not shrinking, which confirms a point I have made repeatedly for two years. The US is confronting a structural problem. It is not a cyclical one that will go away with improved economic activity. Importantly, the failure to address this problem will eventually lead to hyperinflation and the destruction of the dollar.
Mr. Bernanke sees it differently. Here is what he said in his well-publicized Jackson Hole speech on August 31st.
“In light of the policy actions the FOMC has taken to date, as well as the economy’s natural recovery mechanisms, we might have hoped for greater progress by now in returning to maximum employment. Some have taken the lack of progress as evidence that the financial crisis caused structural damage to the economy, rendering the current levels of unemployment impervious to additional monetary accommodation. The literature on this issue is extensive, and I cannot fully review it today. However, following every previous U.S. recession since World War II, the unemployment rate has returned close to its pre-recession level, and, although the recent recession was unusually deep, I see little evidence of substantial structural change in recent years.” [emphasis added]
Note how Mr. Bernanke relies on precedent to defend his point of view. He believes that economic activity will grow just like it has after “every previous U.S. recession since World War II” because unemployment will fall as it always has, even though unemployment remains stubbornly high. Not only does he thereby imply that so-called black-swans – which are rare events – exist, he clearly refuses to believe that we may already be in one. To see the “evidence of substantial structural change” he says is missing, all Mr. Bernanke needs to do is look at the deficit gap so clearly illustrated in the above chart.
It is not the first time Mr. Bernanke has relied on ‘what is supposed to happen’ instead of what is actually happening. The following is from a CNBC interview on July 1, 2005.
“INTERVIEWER: Tell me, what is the worst-case scenario? We have so many economists coming on our air saying ‘Oh, this is a bubble, and it’s going to burst, and this is going to be a real issue for the economy.’ Some say it could even cause a recession at some point. What is the worst-case scenario if in fact we were to see prices come down substantially across the country?
BERNANKE: Well, I guess I don’t buy your premise. It’s a pretty unlikely possibility. We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So, what I think what is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize, might slow consumption spending a bit. I don’t think it’s gonna drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though.” [emphasis added]
Just a few months before, Doubleday published The Collapse of the Dollar and How to Profit From It, the book I co-authored with John Rubino. Here is what we said on page 164 after providing our analysis of the housing market: “To put it bluntly, by virtually every measure, today’s housing market is a classic financial bubble.” The housing bubble was apparent not only to John and me, but also the dozens of others who understand the fundamental economic principles of the Austrian School. Apparently, that does not include Mr. Bernanke.
In conclusion, don’t put your faith on the pronouncements of any central planner. Rely instead on your own common sense, which hopefully has been well grounded by insights from parents or grandparents who lived through the collapse of the German Reichsmark, Serbian dinar, Argentine austral or any of dozens of other currency collapses. If you did not have that opportunity to learn from relatives who experienced a currency collapse firsthand, then I recommend that you read Mises, Rothbard and the other Austrian School scholars published at Mises.org.
Once you do, then decide for yourself whether the problem facing the US is cyclical or structural. Common sense and experience are telling me that it is structural.
Sadly, policymakers are doing little if anything about it. So we need to prepare for the consequences. The best way to do that of course is to own physical gold and silver.
Statistics: Posted by DIGGER DAN — Tue Sep 18, 2012 1:05 am
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Watch Out for a Silver Breakout Higher
August 20, 2012
An old melody advises us to look for the silver lining whenever dark clouds appear in the blue. There is economic and political upheaval all over the world, especially in the South China Seas. This may directly affect the world’s supply of industrial metals such as graphite, rare earths, molybdenum and tungsten.
Today we direct our attention to an area where silver is shining. Poor man’s gold may come into prominence shortly and provide our subscribers with possible profits.
The silver battlefield is filled with bulls and bears fighting for dominance. Recently, the poor man’s gold has dropped to the $26 area. The struggle continues between the opposing sides. The bulls and bears are keeping their eye on this critical support level at 2011 lows.
We sense that the bulls will prevail at this mark. The reasons to buy silver now is compelling. The US dollar may have already reached an interim top as investors realize that the employment situation in the US is still a concern and that the Federal Reserve will need to implement some form of QE3 to devalue the dollar to pay off soaring deficits and promote inflation possibly announced at the end of this month in Jackson Hole.
The bears disagree and claim that silver will be pushed back beneath this level as silver plunges to new lows as the Fed continues to keep its trigger off of the QE3 bazooka and wait until after the election. Silver is holding the line making a rounded bottom. Notice the rounding bottom signaling a potential breakout as sellers become exhausted.
On the supply side, silver production comes mainly from Peru and Mexico where miners are facing significant challenges including violence. Newmont is having to deal with violent protests in Peru which reminds us of what Fortuna Silver had to deal with in Mexico. Right now, Pan American Silver is suspending investment in its flagship Navidad Project due to the rising resource nationalism in Argentina. Pan American paid $500 million for the asset in 2009. This project may be the richest undeveloped silver deposit in the world.
Similarly, Bolivia and Evo Morales is considering nationalizing South American Silver’s (SAC.TO) large undeveloped silver project amidst violent indigenous protests. The company describes it as "one of the world’s largest undeveloped silver deposits." The company is planning to invest over $50 million into the project. At the same time the Bolivian peasants have violently kidnapped five workers from the project.
Such turmoil in Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Bolivia may add to the world’s already existing shortage of silver. This supply crunch is combined with rising political uncertainty in Egypt, Syria and Iran and economic malaise in the EU and the United States which is causing investment demand for silver to rise exponentially.
All signs are pointing to a possible global inflation which could propel silver prices higher. We have record deficits in the US where many citizens are looking to protect their savings from a potential devaluation to pay down record debts. With the recent Obamacare Supreme Court Ruling entitlement spending could soar.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan said in 2010 that "Only politically toxic cuts or rationing of medical care, a marked rise in the eligible age for health and retirement benefits…or significant inflation… can close the deficit."
Remember, in response to Keynesian pump-priming inflation threatens to make silver increasingly attractive as a safe haven. There is always the presence of increased industrial demand for the poor man’s gold. Silver is being used increasingly in high tech applications from batteries to solar panels.
Last month the silver ETF’s added 293 metric tons of this valuable metal to their holdings which represents their highest inflows since September. The bears claim that silver’s proximity to the $26 line is a negative signal and are pushing below their 50 and 200 day moving averages on the way to $18.
Recall that silver is volatile and moves up or down more than other commodities such as gold. On the other hand, QE3 if it is implemented will encourage monetary easing internationally and thus will boost silver prices.
After QE2 we called the silver breakout to the day on Aug. 25, 2010.
Silver soared from $18 to close to $50 outpacing other commodities. If QE3 is carried out, silver could experience a similar type of move. In such an event, the specter of inflation may trigger silver’s rapid ascent into new all-time highs. We regard silver as a long term holding which may be ready to move into new all-time highs past $50 depending in part on the Fed’s next move.
[This position is consistent with those of Paul Carter in his Pressure continues to build under the price of silver.]
Statistics: Posted by DIGGER DAN — Mon Aug 20, 2012 8:36 pm
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Watch this interview to David Morgan on FOX news
-Is $2500 because of this global currency mess or Inflation?
-Your typical cycle is about 17 years. Where are we now in this cycle?
Answer: About 12 years into the cycle, so we have about another 5 years+ in the cycle
-What would you tell people to buy- gold, silver, or copper?
Answer: Just gold and silver…I think both gold and silver are going to move up by the end of year…$1700-$1750 by end of year…$2500 at a minimum during this cycle (adjusted for inflation)
Statistics: Posted by DIGGER DAN — Wed Jul 04, 2012 1:47 am
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Worried It’s Alzheimer’s? 8 Symptoms to Watch For
Applying the word "Alzheimer’s" to someone close to you can be uncomfortable, even if the signs, or symptoms, have been adding up for some time. It’s much easier to gloss over strange behavior: "Oh, Mom’s just getting older. "Or to rationalize: "Well, we all forget things sometimes."
Only a qualified physician can conclude with high certainty that a living person has Alzheimer’s disease. But the following eight symptoms are strongly associated with the disease. If you detect these signs in someone, it would be wise to seek a medical evaluation.
Alzheimer’s symptom #1: Memory lapses
1.Does the person ask repetitive questions or retell stories within minutes of the first mention?
2.Does he forget the names of recent acquaintances or younger family members, such as grandchildren?
3.Are memory lapses growing progressively worse (such as affecting information that was previously very well known)?
4.Are they happening more frequently (several times a day or within short periods of time)?
5.Is this forgetfulness unusual for the person (such as sudden memory lapses in someone who prided herself on never needing grocery lists or an address book)?
Everyone forgets some things sometimes. But the person may have Alzheimer’s disease if you notice these kinds of lapses.
Having problems with memory is the first and foremost symptom noticed. It’s a typical Alzheimer’s symptom to forget things learned recently (such as the answer to a question, an intention to do something, or a new acquaintance) but to still be able to remember things from the remote past (such as events or people from childhood, sometimes with explicit detail). In time, even long-term memories will be affected. But by then other Alzheimer’s symptoms will have appeared.
Alzheimer’s symptom #2: Confusion over words
1.Does the person have difficulty finding the "right" word when he’s speaking?
2.Does she forget or substitute words for everyday things (such as "the cooking thingamajig" for pot or "hair fixer" for comb)?
3.Of course it’s normal for anyone to occasionally "blank" on a word, especially words not often used. But it’s considered a red flag for Alzheimer’s if this happens with growing frequency and if the needed words are simple or commonplace ones.
This can be a very frustrating experience for the speaker. He may stall during a conversation, fixating on finding a particular word. She may replace the right word with another word. This substitute could be similar enough that you could guess at the meaning ("hair dryer" instead of "hairdresser"), especially early on in the disease process. Or it could be completely different ("bank" instead of "hairdresser") or nonsensical ("hairydoo").
Alzheimer’s symptom #3: Marked changes in mood or personality
1.Is the person who’s usually assertive more subdued (or vice versa)? Has the person who’s reserved become less inhibited (or vice versa)?
2.Does she withdraw, even from family and friends, perhaps in response to problems with memory or communication?
3.Has he developed mood swings, anxiety, or frustration, especially in connection with embarrassing memory lapses or noticeable communication problems?
4.Has she developed uncharacteristic fears of new or unknown environments or situations, or developed a distrust of others, whether strangers or familiar people?
5.Do you see signs of depression (including changes in sleep, appetite, mood)?
Mood shifts are a difficult sign to link decisively to Alzheimer’s disease because age and any medical condition may spark changes in someone’s mood, personality, or behavior. In combination with other Alzheimer’s symptoms, however, changes such as those described above may contribute to a suspicion of the disease.
A person with Alzheimer’s may also become restless and/or aggressive, but usually in later stages of the disease.
Alzheimer’s symptom #4: Trouble with abstract thinking
1.How well does the person handle relatively simple mathematical tasks, such as balancing a checkbook?
2.Is he having trouble paying bills or keeping finances in order, tasks he previously had no problem completing?
3.Does she have trouble following along with a discussion, understanding an explanation, or following instructions?
Abstract thinking becomes increasingly challenging for someone with Alzheimer’s, especially if the topic is complex or if the reasoning is sequential or related to cause and effect.
Alzheimer’s symptom #5: Difficulty completing familiar activities
1.Has the person begun to have trouble preparing meals?
2.Is she less engaged in a hobby that once absorbed her (bridge, painting, crossword puzzles)?
3.Does he stop in the middle of a project, such as baking or making a repair, and fail to complete it?
4.Has she stopped using a particular talent or skill that once gave her pleasure (sewing, singing, playing the piano)?
5.Activities with various different steps, however routine and familiar, can become difficult to complete for a person with Alzheimer’s. Your parent might become distracted or lose track of where he is in the process, feeling confused. Or he might just lose interest altogether and leave a project unfinished.
Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia is especially suspect when the difficult or abandoned activity is something the person formerly delighted in and excelled at, or used to engage in frequently.
Alzheimer’s symptom #6: Disorientation
1.Has the person begun to be disoriented in new or unfamiliar environments (such as a hospital or airport), asking where he is, how he got there, or how to get back to a place he recognizes?
2.Has she become disoriented in an environment she knows well?
3.Does he wander off and get lost in public (or get lost when driving or after parking)?
4.Does she lose track of the time, day, month, or year? For example, after being reminded about a future doctor’s appointment over the phone, she may start getting ready for the appointment right away. Or she may have trouble keeping appointments and remembering other events or commitments.
These examples of disorientation are all typical Alzheimer’s symptoms, more so in later stages of the disease but sometimes early on as well.
Alzheimer’s symptom #7: Misplacing items
1.Does the person "lose" items often?
2.Do they turn up in unusual places (such as finding a wallet in the freezer)?
Losing track of glasses, keys, and papers happens to most adults sometimes, whether due to age or just a busy lifestyle. However, it may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s if this behavior escalates and if items are sometimes stored in inappropriate or unusual places, and your parent doesn’t remember having put them there.
Alzheimer’s symptom #8: Poor or impaired judgment
1.Has the person recently made questionable decisions about money management?
2.Has he made odd choices regarding self-care (such as dressing inappropriately for the weather or neglecting to bathe)?
3.Is it hard for her to plan ahead (such as figuring out what groceries are needed or where to spend a holiday)?
Difficulty with decision-making can be related to other possible symptoms of Alzheimer’s, such as lapses in memory, personality changes, and trouble with abstract thinking. Inappropriate choices are an especially worrisome sign, as your parent may make unsound decisions about his safety, health, or finances.
Many of these Alzheimer’s symptoms go unnoticed for a long time. That’s because they’re often subtle or well concealed by the person (or a spouse), who may be understandably freaked out by the changes he’s noticing in his own behavior. Some patterns of behavior take time to make themselves obvious.
If you suspect Alzheimer’s, keep track of what you’re noticing. Ask others who know your loved one what they think. Encourage the person to see a doctor.
Statistics: Posted by DIGGER DAN — Sat Apr 14, 2012 2:32 am
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The spring air in the small, sand-dusted town has a soft haze to it, and clumps of green-gray sagebrush rustle in the breeze. Bluffdale sits in a bowl-shaped valley in the shadow of Utah’s Wasatch Range to the east and the Oquirrh Mountains to the west. It’s the heart of Mormon country, where religious pioneers first arrived more than 160 years ago. They came to escape the rest of the world, to understand the mysterious words sent down from their god as revealed on buried golden plates, and to practice what has become known as “the principle,” marriage to multiple wives.
Today Bluffdale is home to one of the nation’s largest sects of polygamists, the Apostolic United Brethren, with upwards of 9,000 members. The brethren’s complex includes a chapel, a school, a sports field, and an archive. Membership has doubled since 1978—and the number of plural marriages has tripled—so the sect has recently been looking for ways to purchase more land and expand throughout the town.
But new pioneers have quietly begun moving into the area, secretive outsiders who say little and keep to themselves. Like the pious polygamists, they are focused on deciphering cryptic messages that only they have the power to understand. Just off Beef Hollow Road, less than a mile from brethren headquarters, thousands of hard-hatted construction workers in sweat-soaked T-shirts are laying the groundwork for the newcomers’ own temple and archive, a massive complex so large that it necessitated expanding the town’s boundaries. Once built, it will be more than five times the size of the US Capitol.
Rather than Bibles, prophets, and worshippers, this temple will be filled with servers, computer intelligence experts, and armed guards. And instead of listening for words flowing down from heaven, these newcomers will be secretly capturing, storing, and analyzing vast quantities of words and images hurtling through the world’s telecommunications networks. In the little town of Bluffdale, Big Love and Big Brother have become uneasy neighbors.
The NSA has become the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever.
Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.
But “this is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”
For the NSA, overflowing with tens of billions of dollars in post-9/11 budget awards, the cryptanalysis breakthrough came at a time of explosive growth, in size as well as in power. Established as an arm of the Department of Defense following Pearl Harbor, with the primary purpose of preventing another surprise assault, the NSA suffered a series of humiliations in the post-Cold War years. Caught offguard by an escalating series of terrorist attacks—the first World Trade Center bombing, the blowing up of US embassies in East Africa, the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, and finally the devastation of 9/11—some began questioning the agency’s very reason for being. In response, the NSA has quietly been reborn. And while there is little indication that its actual effectiveness has improved—after all, despite numerous pieces of evidence and intelligence-gathering opportunities, it missed the near-disastrous attempted attacks by the underwear bomber on a flight to Detroit in 2009 and by the car bomber in Times Square in 2010—there is no doubt that it has transformed itself into the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever created.
In the process—and for the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration—the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens. It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net. And, of course, it’s all being done in secret. To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever.
UTAH DATA CENTER
When construction is completed in 2013, the heavily fortified $2 billion facility in Bluffdale will encompass 1 million square feet.
1 Visitor control center
A $9.7 million facility for ensuring that only cleared personnel gain access.
Designated space for technical support and administrative personnel.
3 Data halls
Four 25,000-square-foot facilities house rows and rows of servers.
4 Backup generators and fuel tanks
Can power the center for at least three days.
5 Water storage and pumping
Able to pump 1.7 million gallons of liquid per day.
6 Chiller plant
About 60,000 tons of cooling equipment to keep servers from overheating.
7 Power substation
An electrical substation to meet the center’s estimated 65-megawatt demand.
Video surveillance, intrusion detection, and other protection will cost more than $10 million.
Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Conceptual Site plan
A swath of freezing fog blanketed Salt Lake City on the morning of January 6, 2011, mixing with a weeklong coating of heavy gray smog. Red air alerts, warning people to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary, had become almost daily occurrences, and the temperature was in the bone-chilling twenties. “What I smell and taste is like coal smoke,” complained one local blogger that day. At the city’s international airport, many inbound flights were delayed or diverted while outbound regional jets were grounded. But among those making it through the icy mist was a figure whose gray suit and tie made him almost disappear into the background. He was tall and thin, with the physique of an aging basketball player and dark caterpillar eyebrows beneath a shock of matching hair. Accompanied by a retinue of bodyguards, the man was NSA deputy director Chris Inglis, the agency’s highest-ranking civilian and the person who ran its worldwide day-to-day operations.
A short time later, Inglis arrived in Bluffdale at the site of the future data center, a flat, unpaved runway on a little-used part of Camp Williams, a National Guard training site. There, in a white tent set up for the occasion, Inglis joined Harvey Davis, the agency’s associate director for installations and logistics, and Utah senator Orrin Hatch, along with a few generals and politicians in a surreal ceremony. Standing in an odd wooden sandbox and holding gold-painted shovels, they made awkward jabs at the sand and thus officially broke ground on what the local media had simply dubbed “the spy center.” Hoping for some details on what was about to be built, reporters turned to one of the invited guests, Lane Beattie of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. Did he have any idea of the purpose behind the new facility in his backyard? “Absolutely not,” he said with a self-conscious half laugh. “Nor do I want them spying on me.”
For his part, Inglis simply engaged in a bit of double-talk, emphasizing the least threatening aspect of the center: “It’s a state-of-the-art facility designed to support the intelligence community in its mission to, in turn, enable and protect the nation’s cybersecurity.” While cybersecurity will certainly be among the areas focused on in Bluffdale, what is collected, how it’s collected, and what is done with the material are far more important issues. Battling hackers makes for a nice cover—it’s easy to explain, and who could be against it? Then the reporters turned to Hatch, who proudly described the center as “a great tribute to Utah,” then added, “I can’t tell you a lot about what they’re going to be doing, because it’s highly classified.”
And then there was this anomaly: Although this was supposedly the official ground-breaking for the nation’s largest and most expensive cybersecurity project, no one from the Department of Homeland Security, the agency responsible for protecting civilian networks from cyberattack, spoke from the lectern. In fact, the official who’d originally introduced the data center, at a press conference in Salt Lake City in October 2009, had nothing to do with cybersecurity. It was Glenn A. Gaffney, deputy director of national intelligence for collection, a man who had spent almost his entire career at the CIA. As head of collection for the intelligence community, he managed the country’s human and electronic spies.
Within days, the tent and sandbox and gold shovels would be gone and Inglis and the generals would be replaced by some 10,000 construction workers. “We’ve been asked not to talk about the project,” Rob Moore, president of Big-D Construction, one of the three major contractors working on the project, told a local reporter. The plans for the center show an extensive security system: an elaborate $10 million antiterrorism protection program, including a fence designed to stop a 15,000-pound vehicle traveling 50 miles per hour, closed-circuit cameras, a biometric identification system, a vehicle inspection facility, and a visitor-control center.
Inside, the facility will consist of four 25,000-square-foot halls filled with servers, complete with raised floor space for cables and storage. In addition, there will be more than 900,000 square feet for technical support and administration. The entire site will be self-sustaining, with fuel tanks large enough to power the backup generators for three days in an emergency, water storage with the capability of pumping 1.7 million gallons of liquid per day, as well as a sewage system and massive air-conditioning system to keep all those servers cool. Electricity will come from the center’s own substation built by Rocky Mountain Power to satisfy the 65-megawatt power demand. Such a mammoth amount of energy comes with a mammoth price tag—about $40 million a year, according to one estimate.
Given the facility’s scale and the fact that a terabyte of data can now be stored on a flash drive the size of a man’s pinky, the potential amount of information that could be housed in Bluffdale is truly staggering. But so is the exponential growth in the amount of intelligence data being produced every day by the eavesdropping sensors of the NSA and other intelligence agencies. As a result of this “expanding array of theater airborne and other sensor networks,” as a 2007 Department of Defense report puts it, the Pentagon is attempting to expand its worldwide communications network, known as the Global Information Grid, to handle yottabytes (1024 bytes) of data. (A yottabyte is a septillion bytes—so large that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude.)
It needs that capacity because, according to a recent report by Cisco, global Internet traffic will quadruple from 2010 to 2015, reaching 966 exabytes per year. (A million exabytes equal a yottabyte.) In terms of scale, Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, once estimated that the total of all human knowledge created from the dawn of man to 2003 totaled 5 exabytes. And the data flow shows no sign of slowing. In 2011 more than 2 billion of the world’s 6.9 billion people were connected to the Internet. By 2015, market research firm IDC estimates, there will be 2.7 billion users. Thus, the NSA’s need for a 1-million-square-foot data storehouse. Should the agency ever fill the Utah center with a yottabyte of information, it would be equal to about 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.
The data stored in Bluffdale will naturally go far beyond the world’s billions of public web pages. The NSA is more interested in the so-called invisible web, also known as the deep web or deepnet—data beyond the reach of the public. This includes password-protected data, US and foreign government communications, and noncommercial file-sharing between trusted peers. “The deep web contains government reports, databases, and other sources of information of high value to DOD and the intelligence community,” according to a 2010 Defense Science Board report. “Alternative tools are needed to find and index data in the deep web … Stealing the classified secrets of a potential adversary is where the [intelligence] community is most comfortable.” With its new Utah Data Center, the NSA will at last have the technical capability to store, and rummage through, all those stolen secrets. The question, of course, is how the agency defines who is, and who is not, “a potential adversary.”
The NSA’S SPY NETWORK
Once it’s operational, the Utah Data Center will become, in effect, the NSA’s cloud. The center will be fed data collected by the agency’s eavesdropping satellites, overseas listening posts, and secret monitoring rooms in telecom facilities throughout the US. All that data will then be accessible to the NSA’s code breakers, data-miners, China analysts, counterterrorism specialists, and others working at its Fort Meade headquarters and around the world. Here’s how the data center appears to fit into the NSA’s global puzzle.—J.B.
1 Geostationary satellites
Four satellites positioned around the globe monitor frequencies carrying everything from walkie-talkies and cell phones in Libya to radar systems in North Korea. Onboard software acts as the first filter in the collection process, targeting only key regions, countries, cities, and phone numbers or email.
2 Aerospace Data Facility, Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado
Intelligence collected from the geostationary satellites, as well as signals from other spacecraft and overseas listening posts, is relayed to this facility outside Denver. About 850 NSA employees track the satellites, transmit target information, and download the intelligence haul.
3 NSA Georgia, Fort Gordon, Augusta, Georgia
Focuses on intercepts from Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Codenamed Sweet Tea, the facility has been massively expanded and now consists of a 604,000-square-foot operations building for up to 4,000 intercept operators, analysts, and other specialists.
4 NSA Texas, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio
Focuses on intercepts from Latin America and, since 9/11, the Middle East and Europe. Some 2,000 workers staff the operation. The NSA recently completed a $100 million renovation on a mega-data center here—a backup storage facility for the Utah Data Center.
5 NSA Hawaii, Oahu
Focuses on intercepts from Asia. Built to house an aircraft assembly plant during World War II, the 250,000-square-foot bunker is nicknamed the Hole. Like the other NSA operations centers, it has since been expanded: Its 2,700 employees now do their work aboveground from a new 234,000-square-foot facility.
6 Domestic listening posts
The NSA has long been free to eavesdrop on international satellite communications. But after 9/11, it installed taps in US telecom “switches,” gaining access to domestic traffic. An ex-NSA official says there are 10 to 20 such installations.
7 Overseas listening posts
According to a knowledgeable intelligence source, the NSA has installed taps on at least a dozen of the major overseas communications links, each capable of eavesdropping on information passing by at a high data rate.
8 Utah Data Center, Bluffdale, Utah
At a million square feet, this $2 billion digital storage facility outside Salt Lake City will be the centerpiece of the NSA’s cloud-based data strategy and essential in its plans for decrypting previously uncrackable documents.
9 Multiprogram Research Facility, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Some 300 scientists and computer engineers with top security clearance toil away here, building the world’s fastest supercomputers and working on cryptanalytic applications and other secret projects.
10 NSA headquarters, Fort Meade, Maryland
Analysts here will access material stored at Bluffdale to prepare reports and recommendations that are sent to policymakers. To handle the increased data load, the NSA is also building an $896 million supercomputer center here.
Before yottabytes of data from the deep web and elsewhere can begin piling up inside the servers of the NSA’s new center, they must be collected. To better accomplish that, the agency has undergone the largest building boom in its history, including installing secret electronic monitoring rooms in major US telecom facilities. Controlled by the NSA, these highly secured spaces are where the agency taps into the US communications networks, a practice that came to light during the Bush years but was never acknowledged by the agency. The broad outlines of the so-called warrantless-wiretapping program have long been exposed—how the NSA secretly and illegally bypassed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was supposed to oversee and authorize highly targeted domestic eavesdropping; how the program allowed wholesale monitoring of millions of American phone calls and email. In the wake of the program’s exposure, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which largely made the practices legal. Telecoms that had agreed to participate in the illegal activity were granted immunity from prosecution and lawsuits. What wasn’t revealed until now, however, was the enormity of this ongoing domestic spying program.
For the first time, a former NSA official has gone on the record to describe the program, codenamed Stellar Wind, in detail. William Binney was a senior NSA crypto-mathematician largely responsible for automating the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network. A tall man with strands of black hair across the front of his scalp and dark, determined eyes behind thick-rimmed glasses, the 68-year-old spent nearly four decades breaking codes and finding new ways to channel billions of private phone calls and email messages from around the world into the NSA’s bulging databases. As chief and one of the two cofounders of the agency’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center, Binney and his team designed much of the infrastructure that’s still likely used to intercept international and foreign communications.
He explains that the agency could have installed its tapping gear at the nation’s cable landing stations—the more than two dozen sites on the periphery of the US where fiber-optic cables come ashore. If it had taken that route, the NSA would have been able to limit its eavesdropping to just international communications, which at the time was all that was allowed under US law. Instead it chose to put the wiretapping rooms at key junction points throughout the country—large, windowless buildings known as switches—thus gaining access to not just international communications but also to most of the domestic traffic flowing through the US. The network of intercept stations goes far beyond the single room in an AT&T building in San Francisco exposed by a whistle-blower in 2006. “I think there’s 10 to 20 of them,” Binney says. “That’s not just San Francisco; they have them in the middle of the country and also on the East Coast.”
The eavesdropping on Americans doesn’t stop at the telecom switches. To capture satellite communications in and out of the US, the agency also monitors AT&T’s powerful earth stations, satellite receivers in locations that include Roaring Creek and Salt Creek. Tucked away on a back road in rural Catawissa, Pennsylvania, Roaring Creek’s three 105-foot dishes handle much of the country’s communications to and from Europe and the Middle East. And on an isolated stretch of land in remote Arbuckle, California, three similar dishes at the company’s Salt Creek station service the Pacific Rim and Asia.
The former NSA official held his thumb and forefinger close together: “We are that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”
Binney left the NSA in late 2001, shortly after the agency launched its warrantless-wiretapping program. “They violated the Constitution setting it up,” he says bluntly. “But they didn’t care. They were going to do it anyway, and they were going to crucify anyone who stood in the way. When they started violating the Constitution, I couldn’t stay.” Binney says Stellar Wind was far larger than has been publicly disclosed and included not just eavesdropping on domestic phone calls but the inspection of domestic email. At the outset the program recorded 320 million calls a day, he says, which represented about 73 to 80 percent of the total volume of the agency’s worldwide intercepts. The haul only grew from there. According to Binney—who has maintained close contact with agency employees until a few years ago—the taps in the secret rooms dotting the country are actually powered by highly sophisticated software programs that conduct “deep packet inspection,” examining Internet traffic as it passes through the 10-gigabit-per-second cables at the speed of light.
The software, created by a company called Narus that’s now part of Boeing, is controlled remotely from NSA headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland and searches US sources for target addresses, locations, countries, and phone numbers, as well as watch-listed names, keywords, and phrases in email. Any communication that arouses suspicion, especially those to or from the million or so people on agency watch lists, are automatically copied or recorded and then transmitted to the NSA.
The scope of surveillance expands from there, Binney says. Once a name is entered into the Narus database, all phone calls and other communications to and from that person are automatically routed to the NSA’s recorders. “Anybody you want, route to a recorder,” Binney says. “If your number’s in there? Routed and gets recorded.” He adds, “The Narus device allows you to take it all.” And when Bluffdale is completed, whatever is collected will be routed there for storage and analysis.
According to Binney, one of the deepest secrets of the Stellar Wind program—again, never confirmed until now—was that the NSA gained warrantless access to AT&T’s vast trove of domestic and international billing records, detailed information about who called whom in the US and around the world. As of 2007, AT&T had more than 2.8 trillion records housed in a database at its Florham Park, New Jersey, complex.
Verizon was also part of the program, Binney says, and that greatly expanded the volume of calls subject to the agency’s domestic eavesdropping. “That multiplies the call rate by at least a factor of five,” he says. “So you’re over a billion and a half calls a day.” (Spokespeople for Verizon and AT&T said their companies would not comment on matters of national security.)
After he left the NSA, Binney suggested a system for monitoring people’s communications according to how closely they are connected to an initial target. The further away from the target—say you’re just an acquaintance of a friend of the target—the less the surveillance. But the agency rejected the idea, and, given the massive new storage facility in Utah, Binney suspects that it now simply collects everything. “The whole idea was, how do you manage 20 terabytes of intercept a minute?” he says. “The way we proposed was to distinguish between things you want and things you don’t want.” Instead, he adds, “they’re storing everything they gather.” And the agency is gathering as much as it can.
Once the communications are intercepted and stored, the data-mining begins. “You can watch everybody all the time with data- mining,” Binney says. Everything a person does becomes charted on a graph, “financial transactions or travel or anything,” he says. Thus, as data like bookstore receipts, bank statements, and commuter toll records flow in, the NSA is able to paint a more and more detailed picture of someone’s life.
The NSA also has the ability to eavesdrop on phone calls directly and in real time. According to Adrienne J. Kinne, who worked both before and after 9/11 as a voice interceptor at the NSA facility in Georgia, in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks “basically all rules were thrown out the window, and they would use any excuse to justify a waiver to spy on Americans.” Even journalists calling home from overseas were included. “A lot of time you could tell they were calling their families,” she says, “incredibly intimate, personal conversations.” Kinne found the act of eavesdropping on innocent fellow citizens personally distressing. “It’s almost like going through and finding somebody’s diary,” she says.
In secret listening rooms nationwide, NSA software examines every email, phone call, and tweet as they zip by.
But there is, of course, reason for anyone to be distressed about the practice. Once the door is open for the government to spy on US citizens, there are often great temptations to abuse that power for political purposes, as when Richard Nixon eavesdropped on his political enemies during Watergate and ordered the NSA to spy on antiwar protesters. Those and other abuses prompted Congress to enact prohibitions in the mid-1970s against domestic spying.
Before he gave up and left the NSA, Binney tried to persuade officials to create a more targeted system that could be authorized by a court. At the time, the agency had 72 hours to obtain a legal warrant, and Binney devised a method to computerize the system. “I had proposed that we automate the process of requesting a warrant and automate approval so we could manage a couple of million intercepts a day, rather than subvert the whole process.” But such a system would have required close coordination with the courts, and NSA officials weren’t interested in that, Binney says. Instead they continued to haul in data on a grand scale. Asked how many communications—”transactions,” in NSA’s lingo—the agency has intercepted since 9/11, Binney estimates the number at “between 15 and 20 trillion, the aggregate over 11 years.”
When Barack Obama took office, Binney hoped the new administration might be open to reforming the program to address his constitutional concerns. He and another former senior NSA analyst, J. Kirk Wiebe, tried to bring the idea of an automated warrant-approval system to the attention of the Department of Justice’s inspector general. They were given the brush-off. “They said, oh, OK, we can’t comment,” Binney says.
Sitting in a restaurant not far from NSA headquarters, the place where he spent nearly 40 years of his life, Binney held his thumb and forefinger close together. “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state,” he says.
There is still one technology preventing untrammeled government access to private digital data: strong encryption. Anyone—from terrorists and weapons dealers to corporations, financial institutions, and ordinary email senders—can use it to seal their messages, plans, photos, and documents in hardened data shells. For years, one of the hardest shells has been the Advanced Encryption Standard, one of several algorithms used by much of the world to encrypt data. Available in three different strengths—128 bits, 192 bits, and 256 bits—it’s incorporated in most commercial email programs and web browsers and is considered so strong that the NSA has even approved its use for top-secret US government communications. Most experts say that a so-called brute-force computer attack on the algorithm—trying one combination after another to unlock the encryption—would likely take longer than the age of the universe. For a 128-bit cipher, the number of trial-and-error attempts would be 340 undecillion (1036).
Breaking into those complex mathematical shells like the AES is one of the key reasons for the construction going on in Bluffdale. That kind of cryptanalysis requires two major ingredients: super-fast computers to conduct brute-force attacks on encrypted messages and a massive number of those messages for the computers to analyze. The more messages from a given target, the more likely it is for the computers to detect telltale patterns, and Bluffdale will be able to hold a great many messages. “We questioned it one time,” says another source, a senior intelligence manager who was also involved with the planning. “Why were we building this NSA facility? And, boy, they rolled out all the old guys—the crypto guys.” According to the official, these experts told then-director of national intelligence Dennis Blair, “You’ve got to build this thing because we just don’t have the capability of doing the code-breaking.” It was a candid admission. In the long war between the code breakers and the code makers—the tens of thousands of cryptographers in the worldwide computer security industry—the code breakers were admitting defeat.
So the agency had one major ingredient—a massive data storage facility—under way. Meanwhile, across the country in Tennessee, the government was working in utmost secrecy on the other vital element: the most powerful computer the world has ever known.
The plan was launched in 2004 as a modern-day Manhattan Project. Dubbed the High Productivity Computing Systems program, its goal was to advance computer speed a thousandfold, creating a machine that could execute a quadrillion (1015) operations a second, known as a petaflop—the computer equivalent of breaking the land speed record. And as with the Manhattan Project, the venue chosen for the supercomputing program was the town of Oak Ridge in eastern Tennessee, a rural area where sharp ridges give way to low, scattered hills, and the southwestward-flowing Clinch River bends sharply to the southeast. About 25 miles from Knoxville, it is the “secret city” where uranium- 235 was extracted for the first atomic bomb. A sign near the exit read: what you see here, what you do here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here. Today, not far from where that sign stood, Oak Ridge is home to the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and it’s engaged in a new secret war. But this time, instead of a bomb of almost unimaginable power, the weapon is a computer of almost unimaginable speed.
In 2004, as part of the supercomputing program, the Department of Energy established its Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility for multiple agencies to join forces on the project. But in reality there would be two tracks, one unclassified, in which all of the scientific work would be public, and another top-secret, in which the NSA could pursue its own computer covertly. “For our purposes, they had to create a separate facility,” says a former senior NSA computer expert who worked on the project and is still associated with the agency. (He is one of three sources who described the program.) It was an expensive undertaking, but one the NSA was desperate to launch.
Known as the Multiprogram Research Facility, or Building 5300, the $41 million, five-story, 214,000-square-foot structure was built on a plot of land on the lab’s East Campus and completed in 2006. Behind the brick walls and green-tinted windows, 318 scientists, computer engineers, and other staff work in secret on the cryptanalytic applications of high-speed computing and other classified projects. The supercomputer center was named in honor of George R. Cotter, the NSA’s now-retired chief scientist and head of its information technology program. Not that you’d know it. “There’s no sign on the door,” says the ex-NSA computer expert.
At the DOE’s unclassified center at Oak Ridge, work progressed at a furious pace, although it was a one-way street when it came to cooperation with the closemouthed people in Building 5300. Nevertheless, the unclassified team had its Cray XT4 supercomputer upgraded to a warehouse-sized XT5. Named Jaguar for its speed, it clocked in at 1.75 petaflops, officially becoming the world’s fastest computer in 2009.
Meanwhile, over in Building 5300, the NSA succeeded in building an even faster supercomputer. “They made a big breakthrough,” says another former senior intelligence official, who helped oversee the program. The NSA’s machine was likely similar to the unclassified Jaguar, but it was much faster out of the gate, modified specifically for cryptanalysis and targeted against one or more specific algorithms, like the AES. In other words, they were moving from the research and development phase to actually attacking extremely difficult encryption systems. The code-breaking effort was up and running.
The breakthrough was enormous, says the former official, and soon afterward the agency pulled the shade down tight on the project, even within the intelligence community and Congress. “Only the chairman and vice chairman and the two staff directors of each intelligence committee were told about it,” he says. The reason? “They were thinking that this computing breakthrough was going to give them the ability to crack current public encryption.”
In addition to giving the NSA access to a tremendous amount of Americans’ personal data, such an advance would also open a window on a trove of foreign secrets. While today most sensitive communications use the strongest encryption, much of the older data stored by the NSA, including a great deal of what will be transferred to Bluffdale once the center is complete, is encrypted with more vulnerable ciphers. “Remember,” says the former intelligence official, “a lot of foreign government stuff we’ve never been able to break is 128 or less. Break all that and you’ll find out a lot more of what you didn’t know—stuff we’ve already stored—so there’s an enormous amount of information still in there.”
The NSA believes it’s on the verge of breaking a key encryption algorithm—opening up hoards of data.
That, he notes, is where the value of Bluffdale, and its mountains of long-stored data, will come in. What can’t be broken today may be broken tomorrow. “Then you can see what they were saying in the past,” he says. “By extrapolating the way they did business, it gives us an indication of how they may do things now.” The danger, the former official says, is that it’s not only foreign government information that is locked in weaker algorithms, it’s also a great deal of personal domestic communications, such as Americans’ email intercepted by the NSA in the past decade.
But first the supercomputer must break the encryption, and to do that, speed is everything. The faster the computer, the faster it can break codes. The Data Encryption Standard, the 56-bit predecessor to the AES, debuted in 1976 and lasted about 25 years. The AES made its first appearance in 2001 and is expected to remain strong and durable for at least a decade. But if the NSA has secretly built a computer that is considerably faster than machines in the unclassified arena, then the agency has a chance of breaking the AES in a much shorter time. And with Bluffdale in operation, the NSA will have the luxury of storing an ever-expanding archive of intercepts until that breakthrough comes along.
But despite its progress, the agency has not finished building at Oak Ridge, nor is it satisfied with breaking the petaflop barrier. Its next goal is to reach exaflop speed, one quintillion (1018) operations a second, and eventually zettaflop (1021) and yottaflop.
These goals have considerable support in Congress. Last November a bipartisan group of 24 senators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to approve continued funding through 2013 for the Department of Energy’s exascale computing initiative (the NSA’s budget requests are classified). They cited the necessity to keep up with and surpass China and Japan. “The race is on to develop exascale computing capabilities,” the senators noted. The reason was clear: By late 2011 the Jaguar (now with a peak speed of 2.33 petaflops) ranked third behind Japan’s “K Computer,” with an impressive 10.51 petaflops, and the Chinese Tianhe-1A system, with 2.57 petaflops.
But the real competition will take place in the classified realm. To secretly develop the new exaflop (or higher) machine by 2018, the NSA has proposed constructing two connecting buildings, totaling 260,000 square feet, near its current facility on the East Campus of Oak Ridge. Called the Multiprogram Computational Data Center, the buildings will be low and wide like giant warehouses, a design necessary for the dozens of computer cabinets that will compose an exaflop-scale machine, possibly arranged in a cluster to minimize the distance between circuits. According to a presentation delivered to DOE employees in 2009, it will be an “unassuming facility with limited view from roads,” in keeping with the NSA’s desire for secrecy. And it will have an extraordinary appetite for electricity, eventually using about 200 megawatts, enough to power 200,000 homes. The computer will also produce a gargantuan amount of heat, requiring 60,000 tons of cooling equipment, the same amount that was needed to serve both of the World Trade Center towers.
In the meantime Cray is working on the next step for the NSA, funded in part by a $250 million contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It’s a massively parallel supercomputer called Cascade, a prototype of which is due at the end of 2012. Its development will run largely in parallel with the unclassified effort for the DOE and other partner agencies. That project, due in 2013, will upgrade the Jaguar XT5 into an XK6, codenamed Titan, upping its speed to 10 to 20 petaflops.
Yottabytes and exaflops, septillions and undecillions—the race for computing speed and data storage goes on. In his 1941 story “The Library of Babel,” Jorge Luis Borges imagined a collection of information where the entire world’s knowledge is stored but barely a single word is understood. In Bluffdale the NSA is constructing a library on a scale that even Borges might not have contemplated. And to hear the masters of the agency tell it, it’s only a matter of time until every word is illuminated.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sat Mar 17, 2012 1:04 pm
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Felix Zulauf – Watch Out for These Events in 2012
With people having concerns about the viability of the financial system, continued turmoil in Europe and serious concerns about the United States, today King World News interviewed one of the greats, Felix Zulauf, of Zulauf Asset Management. Because of mounting worries around the world, KWN wanted to ask Zulauf what investors should expect in 2012. This is what Zulauf had to say about the coming year, “I think the periphery goes into depression. When you look at a country like Greece, it’s now been in recession for three years. GDP is probably down 15% from the top. The stock market is down 90%, which is the equivalent of 1929 to 1932 in the US. This is depression-like.”
“More and more economies will fall into that situation. That creates the problem of people revolting. Right now we have new governments not elected by the voters, the citizens of those countries, but implanted as technocrats by the EU center, by Brussels. So they will be very disliked and I think you will see some revolutions starting or intensifying next year.
Then I expect next year one country, probably three, will exit the euro. That will make 2012 very interesting because there are no rules on how to exit the euro. A country exiting the euro means the next day, when they exit, their banking system is bust. That means the banking system has to be immediately nationalized in a new currency.
They introduce a new currency, they nationalize the banking system, and then, of course, the government is also bust. Then the government will default. That’s what you have to expect next year. I think Greece will do so and Portugal and Ireland are candidates also.
Then it will depend on how that crisis is managed as to whether the crisis can be turned around and terminated or whether it will intensify and drag on into 2013 and force Italy and Spain out of the Eurozone as well. (This will have the effect of) creating turmoil in the financial markets and weakening the European and most likely the world economy (even) further
“…Let’s go back to what I said, one country exiting (the euro) and then you have chaos. Obviously that country will default. Not only the government, but also the private sector will default to a large extent. That means the banks in the remaining European countries will have to take huge losses, much more losses than the recent stress tests used.
That would mean you have to expect more nationalization of banks in several of the European countries to stabilize the system. This means the governments that have to nationalize banks, they don’t have the money. They have to go into debt and that means the debt levels go even higher.
So you can expect the bond markets will not be very quiet in their trading next year. It will be a very wild situation that I see coming for next year.”
When asked if that will lead to a healthy cleansing of the system or a collapse, Zulauf stated, “Well, I hope for the first and I fear for the latter.”
In this interview, Felix Zulauf goes into great detail about what people should expect in 2012. The legendary money manager and two decade Barron’s Roundtable panelist also discusses systemic collapse, as well as what investors should be doing with their money right now and much more. The extraordinary KWN audio interview with Felix Zulauf will be released this weekend and you can listen to it by CLICKING HERE
Statistics: Posted by DIGGER DAN — Sat Dec 10, 2011 2:18 am
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