The NSA’s New Super Computer Facilities

nsa_aerialThe extent and depth of the NSA’s snooping has been the subject of much scrutiny and controversy of late. And it seems that the more we come to learn about the issue, the worse it gets. In addition to the extensive access the NSA seems to have to our personal data, there’s also the staggering amount of power that is being concentrated in so fe hands, coupled with a serious lack of oversight. Worse yet, it appears the NSA is showing no signs of slowing down.

Just two months ago, the Army Corps of engineers began breaking ground on a new supercomputing facility in Fort Meade, Maryland – the center of the NSA’s cyber operations. Known as the High Performance Computing Center-2, this $860 million data center will span more than 600,000 square feet of space, including 70,000 square feet of technical space. The center is expected to be completed in 2016.

NSA_supercomputerBut worse yet is the fact that this is not the only center being built, nor it is even the largest. In addition to the Fort Meade facility, the NSA is also building a massive data center in Utah, a project that will feature up to 1 million square feet of facilities and cost a hefty $1.5 billion. The computers alone will take over 100,000 square feet and the facility will require its own electrical substation to power all the air conditions required.

In truth, the Fort Meade location is only necessary because of the planned facility being built in Utah. Once it is up and running, the NSA will need a separate location where analysts can look over the growing amounts of processed information and material, and in turn make reports and provide recommendations for policy-makers.

cyberwarfare1Of course, the purpose of these facilities go beyond the mere analysis and storage of information. In addition, the Utah Data Center will also employ new code-breaking capabilities. Given the extent to which modern, high-value information is encrypted – everything from commerce to diplomacy to personal information – the center will be employing the latest code-cracking tools developed by the NSA.

Naturally, the NSA’s tightly-controlled PR department has stated that the purpose of these centers is to protect national security networks and provide U.S. authorities with intelligence and warnings about cyber threats, as part of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI). However, this has done little to allay fears, and seems like the same song being played on repeat.

hackers_securityAs always, the NSA’s stated objective do not address the growing awareness that the NSA has and continues to conduct cyber attacks in foreign countries. As Snowden’s testimony and recent revelations about the US super-secret Cyber Command revealed, American agencies have been conducting far more than just defensive operations in recent years.

All of these efforts began in earnest during the 1990’s and expanded greatly after September 11th, 2001. Much of this has had to do with the staggering increase in the amount of data being transmitted and shared on a daily basis, and not just the issue of terrorism. But what is disturbing is the near-total removal of oversight that began after 9/11 and has continued unabated ever since.

Despite promises that the era of warrantless surveillance was at an end, all attempts to resolve the issue have become marred by what is meant by “electronic surveillance”. In the meantime, the NSA continues to enjoy some rather broad freedoms to monitor and process the information we transmit. And as those abilities continue to grow, we can only hold our breaths and pray they mean it when they say “innocent people need not be worried”.


Revenger Assignments: The Tyrene Code!

superheroes_civil-war-by-leinilyuMorning fellow superheroes! Here are your homework assignments for the coming mission. As you have been made aware, we have a matter of stolen artwork that may or may not contain clues to a matter of national security. Since this mission contains several potential threads, we will be forced to divide into teams. I do hope people approve of the following division of teams and objectives…

Team #1: Track the first stolen painting
As my friend in securities used to say, “if you want to find a hot item, go to where the hot market”. There’s only place in town that deals with precious items such as artwork, cultural artifacts and rare items can be fenced. The shipping district in the western burb of Craigflower Hill, where a man named Arthur Goehner runs stolen goods out of an abandoned storage facility.

Word around the campfire is that Goehner comes from a long line of people who cut their teeth moving stolen and precious goods from one country to another, usually during times of war (hint, hint). He needs to be taken aside and made to offer up any and all information he might have on who stole Tyrene’s painting and whether or not they tried to move it.

Judgement: Muscle and no-nonsense interrogation
Bonfire: Intimidation
Freedom Fighter: Ass-kicking and flight

Team #2: Steal the second painting from the Art Museum
The second painting needs to be procured from the Art Museum before the thieves in question decide to steal it as well. In this case, we need tact, stealth, and flexibility. In short, this mission calls for a light touch, otherwise we might find ourselves in some hot water!

Atrum Auditor: Disable the Security feeds, presense any problems
Erotica Girl: Distract the guards should they be alerted, and take them down!
Pax: Teleport through the building’s walls, let the other team members in to retrieve the artwork

Team #3: Procure the third from the Old Lady
Next, we need to get our hands on the only other painting created by Tyrene. This mission is also of particular importance, and requires some serious tact and maybe even diplomacy. As a result, I’m sending in the superheroes who specialize in being unseen and dealing with more sensitive cases.

Styka: Use invisibility to beat the ladies security and sense her presence
Convince the old lady to part with her precious object should she become aware of our presence

Team #4: Meet with the NSA Source
A final team, led by me, will meet with the high level-source from the National Security Agency. Based on our last conversation, he has information vital to our mission and will only pass it on to me. He said “come alone”, and as far as he knows, I will be!

Me: Meet with the informant and get the info
Dark Angel: Backup and overwatch should things turn hairy
Veiled Tsunami: Backup and telepathy to scan my informant

Well, that’s everyone. You have your homework assignments, people. Let’s make it happen!