NSA technology in Shadow

NSA rack computing

You know how the bad guys magically appear on the scene without any reason or explanation? It is just a convenient plot gimmick and the writer hopes you won’t think too much about how the villain knew to drive up just at that moment. In Shadow, it is very clear. In part is is from NSA technology that’s been in the news lately.

Some time ago, I attended a briefing by a former deputy CIA director under Reagan. During that talk, he described advanced technology that, at the time, was based on mainframe computers. It was one of the first language recognition iterations and it was tasked with picking out key phrases and words from overseas calls. Apparently they are tasked to listen to international calls but are restricted from listening to domestic calls (except by designed accident — oops, I didn’t say that).

The technology is far more widespread today and a lot more sophisticated. The state of the art technology is deployed in order to intercept phone calls looking for key phrases from individuals in the book. It is here and it is real and it could be happening to us even today by private companies, who presumably are lawfully monitoring employees on company owned phones and computers, but for the right amount of cash…

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