Tuesday, February 14, 2006

21% of American's are terror suspects!


If you didn't already know that opinion polls are about as useless as a looking for a conservative on the UW campus, then maybe this will prove it to you. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll released today found that 21% of those polled said it very likely or somewhat likely their conversations had been wiretapped. So you ask yourself, why does this 21% think they have been wired tapped? They are in fact terror suspects? They're on an FBI or Homeland Security watch list? They have broken the law before or partake in legally questionable activities? Or 210 of 1000 randomly called adults across the US actually believe the government taps every single phone line and cell transmission in the country, all the time every day! Pretty much any one of these reasons these 210 would have for their answer is scary, but lets assume its the last one!

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), there are 190 million main telephone lines in the United States as of 2002. In 2003 the FCC estimated that those lines accounted for about 80 billion hours of phone calls. Of course, cell phones usage minutes have surpassed land lines by a wide margin but I couldn't find an exact number. There is around 200 million cell subscribers in the US, with around 400 million individual cell phones. Worldwide the total is around 1.5 Billion cells phones. We will just assume the cell phone usage, in terms of minutes, is equal to the land lines...so another 80 Billion hours. We won't even consider foreign cell phones used within the US. Then you need some compute intensive software that can evaluate voice transmissions of land line and cell quality audio (meaning not so good, so it must have enhancement algorithms which are also compute intensive). The software must also account for accents and different pronunciations of words. You must store all the audio you haven't yet scanned for hits. And keep in mind you can't just search for a word at a time. Finding just the word "bomb" in a conversation would give too many false positives (like "she was the bomb" or "I had the chocolate bomb for desert") so you need to search for phrases and combinations of words. And all this "listening" to be useful must alert someone to a HIT fairly quickly else its meaningless. How quick? You could argue and hour, a day, of the conversation happening. But a week, or a month, or longer and it becomes useless. Take 160 Billion yearly hours of audio and the amount of audio you must scan this way daily is 438,000,000 hours! Keep in mind you are going to execute something between a few hundreds thousand and a million lines of software code against this audio. It can't possibly run real time because the same audion snippet might branch to other parts of code and be run again as the pattern matching is done. This of course assumes that you have every carrier (land and cell) working with the government so as to push all this audio to the computers that do this work. The other option would be that the government has a 2nd wire for all 190 land lines going to their own equipment, as well as hundreds of thousands of cell antennas around the US along with special equipment to capture all the cell transmissions. In either case you couldn't involve that many people (govt or private people), or that much equipment, without a lot of people spilling the beans on this vast conspiracy! My 24 years of computer industry experience says the US government couldn't do this if they used every piece of hardware from every government agency together let alone just the NSA or all security related agencies...Nope, sorry, just not possible.

7 comments:

Scott said...

Good job there Tiny. It's nice to see that those math classes are paying off.

What I'd like to read is the justification from someone, anyone, who can honestly convey their argument that during a time of war, a time of "Homeland Security, that they have a problem with our government monitoring telephone calls to and from suspected terrorists. I'm of the opinion that if you're not engaging in illegal activity then who the "F" really cares. Is the government really concerned with my wife's soccer drama's or my kids dental appointment confirmations? I really don't think so. I'll even take a good response from Splash Two whose is quite adept at playing the other side.

Anyone who has the audacity to think that this is a violation of their constitutional rights and a precursor to a total loss of freedom and privacy needs to get their ass out of this country and head to Cuba or Columbia, or Mozambique. Nit wits!

Splash Two said...

Ask and ye shall recieve.

Excuse me as I don my liberal cap here.

Okay, here's the deal. I'd have to go to the excellent quote from Ben Franklin "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

Liberals believe that the constitution guarantees a right to privacy (even though it doesn't but the idea has been upheld by SCOTUS in some decisions) so if we allow the government to tap our phones without FIRST giving us our due process by obtaining a warrant to do so we are in fact giving up a liberty for a false sense of security.

As we know, once the government assumes it has a certain power it will never do anything but continue to increase that power so it's the old slippery slope argument as well.

That would be the intelligent liberal argument.

But the real argument is that they hate Bush and they're just sure that he's spying on them to pick up stock tips that will enrich him and his Halliburton cronies.

Scott said...

Nice job Splash Two. You'll make someone a wonderful liberal one day. We'll keep this going for the sake of Tiny's comment board, or not.

Here's another fine Franklin quote: "After three days men grow weary, of a wench, a guest, and weather rainy."

As we all know Ben made his now famous quotes well over 200 years ago, so while the quote you chose has a nice liberal tone, I just don't think it quite carries the same weight in today's world. Unless of course that is, that we may still refer to our women as our wench. But I'm sure the politically correct left would have problems with that.

I think that if most liberals realized what our government does in the name of national security and imperialism they'd explode.

Splash Two said...

Well as you know Goose, Ben was one of our founding father's and so, any good liberal, will only take quotes from him that support whatever argument they are making at the time.

I would disagree with you about your last comment in that the liberal mindset in government tends to dominate when it comes to military/intelligence procedures.

Characters like Jack Bauer (this season's 24 is kick ass so far by the way) and Mitch Rapp (read a Vince Flynn book, you'll be glad you did) are just that, characters.

More often then not the military and intelligence communities are given wishy-washy orders that have to do with respecting the rights of enemies/terrorists more than with getting the job done.

Just speaking from personal experience on that one.

The Waynderful Wangel said...

Fantastic post, Tiny has definitely prooved it not possible for everyones phones to be tapped. I believe if it is possible to trace the calls of people who are accused of a crime, then it's a justifiable option. One of the London July 21 bombers was traced using this method.

Tiny said...

thanks Wangel, while I'm familar with some of the amazing capabilities in intelligence gathering we are only really capable of targeted surveillance. I would guess gvt agencies could target thousands, maybe even up to 100,000 lines (cell and land) at once, but that's a far cry from doing it to all the comm lines and cell sites used by the nearly 300M people in the US, and doing it simultaneously.

Scott said...

Yo Splashy. I understand that our military is handcuffed when it comes to actually engaging the enemy in various hot spots around the world. Our Special Forces that operate in areas like Columbia or Yemen are not allowed to fire unless fired upon, and the local terrorist know that.

So our mission is to train the armies of these countries so that they will be able to combat these criminals, not fight their war for them. My point was that I doubt a lot of liberals realize that we are even in places like Mongolia, providing this type of support to insure our national safety.