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NSA's Real Problem: It Can't Find Terrorists

Lost in the controversy over the National Security Agency getting phone records of hundreds of millions of people may be a very dangerous fact: The information it requested is useless for tracking down terrorists. So says a science fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford.
Writing an op ed piece in the New York Times, Jonathan David Farley says of the NSA program, "it's very unlikely that the type of information one can glean from it will help us win the war on terrorism."

Farley goes into a great deal of detail about mathematical models that can be applied to data found in vast social networks as a way of uncovering relationships among people.

He describes a variety of methods that the NSA may be using to uncover relationships that may lead them to terrorists. And he finds them all lacking.

Why does he come to that conclusion? Because math by itself is meaningless, and mere assocations between people uncovers nothing.

As an example, he points out that "President Bush is only a few steps away from Osama bin Laden (in the 1970's he ran a company partly financed by the American representative for one of the Qaeda leader's brothers)."

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