Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

US spies left behind by computer revolution

------- Forwarded message follows ------- Date sent: Mon, 29 Nov 1999 13:21:50 +0000 From: Ian Brown <> Organization: Department of Computer Science, University College London To: Subject: US spies left behind by computer revolution Send reply to:

FROM IAN BRODIE IN WASHINGTON The Times, 29 November 1999.

AMERICA'S super-secret National Security Agency, which electronically eavesdrops on targets around the world, is being overwhelmed by high-volume flows of e-mail, fibre-optic transmissions and unbreakable digital codes, says a caustic assessment published today.

As a result, the sprawling NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, near Washington, nicknamed the "Puzzle Palace", is said to be suffering from an intelligence gap that has left its spies caught out in the cold.

Its failure to prepare for the high-tech computer revolution has already created unwelcome surprises for America's national security officials, says Seymour Hersh, writing in The New Yorker.

Mr Hersh, a seasoned investigative journalist, reports that a recent spectacular failure was the NSA's inability to detect any signs of increased activity or communications around Pokharan, India, when the Indians set off their first round of nuclear tests last year. Equally alarming, North Korea, with the help of funds from the United Nations, has bought encrypted mobile phones from Europe, high-speed switching gear from Britain and an up-to-date dialling service from the US, creating a system that the NSA cannot readily read.

An advisory group formed by the Senate intelligence committee to investigate the NSA has delivered a harsh judgment. One member said: "We told them that unless you totally change your intelligence collection system, you will go deaf. You've got ten years."

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