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[Some notes regarding the NSA getting into the library database business
and what, if any, privacy threats this might entail.]

From Sun Oct 16 23:54:26 EDT 1994

Article: 40201 of
From: (David K. Merriman)
Subject: Friendly neighborhood NSA
Sender: (UseNet news admin)
Message-ID: <>
Date: Sat, 1 Oct 1994 05:23:26 GMT
Lines: 56
Organization: Texas Metronet, Internet for the Individual 214-705-2901 (info)
X-Newsreader: Trumpet for Windows [Version 1.0 Rev B final beta #4]
Xref: eff alt.privacy:19457

Adv. Network Tech.
Education Libraries


PROJECT: Digital Librarian
CONTACT NAME: Norma Davila
PHONE #: 301/688-7353
START DATE: ongoing

The "Digital Librarian" links together the libraries where
information of any type (books, texts, pictures, audio, video,
multi-media, etc.) is stored to the librarians who assist the
users in navigating through these storehouses of knowledge. This
project brings these ideas to the desktop by allowing a user to
gain access to any number of information sources, independent of
the originating development of the sources. The information
sources can be anything from databases to online reference
materials to online training materials. The user interacts with
these sources through one common interface.

In addition, this project enhances textual material searches by

providing a hypertext link capability for a user to navigate a
document in a more meaningful way. Instead of just paging
through a document one page at a time, the system can bring the
user to the place in the document where the information is
located. In the future, natural language and artificial
intelligence techniques will be exercised to increase user
efficiency in searching through the library storehouses of




Out of the kindness of it's heart, the NSA is going to build us all a nice, new,
improved WWW!

Isn't that just *too* kind of them?

I wonder why I have this feeling I'd better not turn my back on them.....

From Sun Oct 16 23:54:37 EDT 1994

Article: 40255 of
From: (Timothy C. May)
Subject: Re: Friendly neighborhood NSA
Message-ID: <>
Organization: NETCOM On-line Communication Services (408 261-4700 guest)
X-Newsreader: TIN [version 1.2 PL1]
References: <> <>
Distribution: inet
Date: Sun, 2 Oct 1994 05:02:31 GMT
Lines: 37

Dr. David Chaos ( wrote:

: Why is an intelligence agency designing library search engines? We fund

: many other, more qualified agencies, to do just that? Unless, of course,
: there is some overriding national security issue in data retrieval. Hmmmm,
: must be those feelthy terrorists/drug dealers/child pornographers that NSA
: has been warning us about.
: There isn't any possibility that, while doing a school research project, your
: child pulls up data on hydrogen bombs, and his name appears in some NSA
: computer? Nawwww the NSA would never spy on U.S. citizens and monitor their
: data retrievals. Too farfetched, even for them, right?

The FBI did just this with their "Library Awareness Program," in the
mid- to late-1980s. They contacted school librarians and suggested to
them that records be kept of information requests which fit certain

Caveats: I have no idea how widespread the program was, wha material
was targetted, etc. Carl Kadie often comments on matters involving
this system, so perhaps if he sees this post he'll comment.

The LAP met with resistance from librarians, their professional

organizations, etc., and some guidelines were issued for libraries to
follow. Basically, they repudiated censorship or cooperation with law
enforcement in such matters.

I have no idea how this applices to the "Information Superhighway

Bookmobiles" the Feds plan to run, but I'm opposed to the NII/GII crap
on general principles anyway.

--Tim May
Timothy C. May | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money, | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
408-688-5409 | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
W.A.S.T.E.: Aptos, CA | black markets, collapse of governments.
Higher Power: 2^859433 | Public Key: PGP and MailSafe available.
Cypherpunks list: with body message of only:
subscribe cypherpunks. FAQ available at in pub/tcmay

From Sun Oct 16 23:55:04 EDT 1994

Article: 40318 of
From: Mike Tighe <tighe@convex.COM>
Subject: Re: Friendly neighborhood NSA
Date: 3 Oct 1994 09:40:14 -0500
Organization: Engineering, Convex Computer Corporation, Richardson, Tx USA
Lines: 24
Distribution: inet
Message-ID: <36p54e$>
References: <> <>

Dr. David Chaos <> writes:

>David K. Merriman <> writes:
>>Out of the kindness of it's heart, the NSA is going to build us all a nice, new,
improved WWW!
>>Isn't that just *too* kind of them?
>Why is an intelligence agency designing library search engines? We fund
>many other, more qualified agencies, to do just that? Unless, of course,
>there is some overriding national security issue in data retrieval. Hmmmm,
>must be those feelthy terrorists/drug dealers/child pornographers that NSA
>has been warning us about.

I do not think it is to far-fetched to think that if you are collecting all

of those signals, you might want to save them in a database and refer to
them later. And since the NSA and its predecessors have been collecting
signals since about WWII, they might know a thing or two about database
management, and are actually more qualified than other agencies.

Not that I think they should have any role in developing technologies for
use in the public sector.
Mike Tighe, (214) 497-4206

From Sun Oct 16 23:56:14 EDT 1994

Article: 40354 of
Path: eff!!MathWorks.Com!!!usenet
From: Dr. David Chaos <>
Subject: Re: Friendly neighborhood NSA
Date: Tue, 4 Oct 94 02:11:35 -0500
Organization: Delphi ( email, 800-695-4005 voice)
Lines: 18
Distribution: inet
Message-ID: <>
References: <> <>
X-To: Sean Donelan <>

Sean Donelan <> writes:

>I have no first-hand knowledge how competant NSA's librarians are,

>but a competant intelligence agency should have lots of experience
>organizing, searching and finding information. Collecting intelligence
>information is useless if you can't find the important nuggets later.
I think we may have drifted a bit here. As a previous poster and yourself have
pointed out, the NSA is likely quite competent to design database systems. My
point had little to do with their competency. It had more to do with the
the propriety of them doing so for public access.

As the Clipper chip was put forth as a "public service", I am a wee bit
suspicious when NSA wants to do me, John-Q-Public, a favor. As we were so
fond of saying in medical school "BOHICA!!", which translated means, "Bend
over, here it comes again". I believe that expression is appropriate here.

Dr. David Chaos

From Sun Oct 16 23:56:56 EDT 1994

Article: 40373 of
From: (Barak Pearlmutter)
Subject: Re: Friendly neighborhood NSA
In-Reply-To: Dr. David Chaos's message of Tue, 4 Oct 94 02:11:35 -0500
Message-ID: <>
Sender: (NeTnEwS)
Reply-To: Barak Pearlmutter <>
Organization: Siemens Corporate Research, Princeton (Plainsboro), NJ
References: <> <>
<> <>
Date: Tue, 4 Oct 1994 20:11:27 GMT
Lines: 20

About six months ago, I heard a talk by an NSA scientist about his
wonderful new textual database search technique, which he felt would
revolutionize the field. Of course he had patented it.

The idea is to hash all the n-grams in a document, and represent the
document as the resultant vector of normalized counts (emphirical
probabilities.) Then do hierarchical clustering, searches, etc, on
these vectors.

In the talk, he mentioned that this method was much superior to

everything else the NSA has, which is all **manually assisted**. He
also desperately wanted to find civilian applications and licensees,
and said that the NSA is under intense pressure to commercialize their

My guess is that (1) this library initiative part of this effort,

perhaps in fact this particular technique, which I doubt found much
industrial interest, and (2) their software is not as far advanced
beyond the mainstream as many conjecture. (In this case, it would not
even stand up to peer review.)



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