Quantum Bayesian Networks

June 19, 2010

Ultra-Secret NSA Computer Farms

Filed under: Uncategorized — rrtucci @ 8:18 am

I’ve previously touched upon the future use of quantum computers by guvernmental snoops. See, for example, the following blog posts:

In those blog posts I argued that spy agencies will want to use QCs to do MCMC (Markov Chain Monte Carlo). They will not want QCs for doing quantum cryptography, which is snakeoil. Nor will they want QCs for breaking RSA codes by means of Shor’s algorithm. Shor’s algorithm is wonderful, but I doubt spy agencies will have many opportunities to use it. It’s quite likely that by the time quantum computers are available, the world will no longer be using RSA, having replaced it by post-quantum cryptography.

In a future blog post, I will argue that QCs will consume much less energy than classical computers to perform certain calculations. If this is true, then another reason for spy agencies to want QCs is to save money on their electric bill. I’m not joking. This is a really important consideration for them. Read on to see why.

Check out this excellent review article:

Who’s in Big Brother’s Database? by James Bamford, The New York Review of Books, Nov 5, 2009,

of the fascinating non-fiction book:

The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency“, by Matthew M. Aid.

Excerpts from the review article:

At a million square feet, the mammoth $2 billion structure will be one-third larger than the US Capitol and will use the same amount of energy as every house in Salt Lake City combined.

It’s being built by the ultra-secret National Security Agency …to house trillions of phone calls, e-mail messages, and data trails: Web searches, parking receipts, bookstore visits, and other digital “pocket litter.”

Lacking adequate space and power at its city-sized Fort Meade, Maryland, headquarters, the NSA is also completing work on another data archive, this one in San Antonio, Texas, which will be nearly the size of the Alamodome.

Just how much information will be stored in these windowless cybertemples?

As the sensors associated with the various surveillance missions improve,” says the report, referring to a variety of technical collection methods, “the data volumes are increasing with a projection that sensor data volume could potentially increase to the level of Yottabytes (10^24 Bytes) by 2015.”

Once vacuumed up and stored in these near-infinite “libraries,” the data are then analyzed by powerful infoweapons, supercomputers running complex algorithmic programs..

But even third-world cryptography can be daunting. During the entire war in Vietnam, writes Aid, the agency was never able to break the high-level encryption systems of either the North Vietnamese or the Vietcong.

In the 1950s, as over 100,000 heavily armed North Korean troops surged across the 38th parallel into South Korea, the codebreakers were among the last to know”…”the Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA), the NSA’s predecessor, didn’t even have a Korean-language dictionary.

Another major surprise came in the 1960s when the Soviet Union was able to move large numbers of personnel, large amounts of equipment, and many ballistic missiles to Cuba without the NSA hearing a peep.

More recently, the NSA was unaware of India’s impending nuclear test in 1998, the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, and the 1998 bombing of two of America’s East African embassies. The agency first learned of the September 11 attacks on $300 television sets tuned to CNN, not its billion-dollar eavesdropping satellites tuned to al-Qaeda.

Where does all this leave us? Aid concludes that the biggest problem facing the agency is not the fact that it’s drowning in untranslated, indecipherable, and mostly unusable data, problems that the troubled new modernization plan, Turbulence, is supposed to eventually fix. “These problems may, in fact, be the tip of the iceberg,” he writes. Instead, what the agency needs most, Aid says, is more power. But the type of power to which he is referring is the kind that comes from electrical substations, not statutes. “As strange as it may sound,” he writes, “one of the most urgent problems facing NSA is a severe shortage of electrical power.” With supercomputers measured by the acre and estimated $70 million annual electricity bills for its headquarters, the agency has begun browning out, which is the reason for locating its new data centers in Utah and Texas. And as it pleads for more money to construct newer and bigger power generators, Aid notes, Congress is balking.

The issue is critical because at the NSA, electrical power is political power. In its top-secret world, the coin of the realm is the kilowatt. More electrical power ensures bigger data centers.
….
Rather than give the NSA more money for more power—electrical and political—some have instead suggested just pulling the plug. “NSA can point to things they have obtained that have been useful,” Aid quotes former senior State Department official Herbert Levin, a longtime customer of the agency, “but whether they’re worth the billions that are spent, is a genuine question in my mind.”

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2 Comments »

  1. Sounds like fiction to me…
    My family who worked at NSA recently retired, says it’s nothing but a big joke, security is top notch against outsiders, but it’s like a public library for employee who access them in regular basis, once you’re in, you… basically are in…, especially for employee who has second agenda and open a “private” tunnel to the outsiders…

    Comment by Anonymous — May 1, 2012 @ 7:20 am


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