June 12, 2013

IT LOOKS SPOOKIER NOW: Bryan Preston: Flashback: Obama, Big Data, and the Campaign That Isn’t Really a Campaign (In the Eyes of the IRS).

Dubbed the “nuclear codes” by campaign aides, the Obama campaign database is widely described as one of the most powerful tools ever developed in American politics. According to published reports, it contains the names of at least 4 million Obama donors – as well as millions of others (the campaign has consistently refused to say how many) compiled from voter registration rolls and other public databases. In addition, the campaign used sophisticated computer programs — with code names like “Narwhal” — to collect information through social media: Anybody who contacted the campaign through Facebook had their friends and “likes” downloaded. If they contacted the campaign website through mobile apps, cellphone numbers and address books were downloaded. Computer “cookies” captured Web browsing and online spending habits. . . . Reading this story in the context of the just-concluded campaign, it all seemed mildly spooky. . . . The IRS became an arm of the Obama campaign, at least in practice if not in name, from 2010 to 2012. Did the NSA do anything similar? Was there any overlap at all between the data-mining tools and techniques used by the Obama campaign and the data-mining tools and techniques used by the National Security Agency?

Even if actual data didn’t migrate from the NSA program, I wonder if know-how didn’t cross over. Were some of the same people from Facebook, Google, etc. working on both? That would be interesting to find out. This makes James Taranto’s “President Asterisk” point look still more salient.

UPDATE: Reader Jim Bullock writes:

Did not the administration crow quite a bit over the last year about targeting “connectors” among Al Qaeda higher-ups as a means of disabling the system? These people were selected as targets for drones and other “actions” based on their being connectors.

So, we seem to think identifying connectors works, and removing them harms the networks. It is worthwhile making them targets, simply on the basis of being connectors.

Meanwhile, the “innocuous” “metadata” collected on US citizens is nothing to worry about, except you can build with it connection maps to *find* bridging folks (who’s removal would cripple the whole network), and DHS has identified some very interesting groups and positions as terrorist, or potentially terrorist. Christians, by name, for one.

I really do not want to start wearing a tinfoil hat, but it’s seemingly more
stupid every day to do otherwise.

In the Obama era, it’s not whether you’re paranoid. It’s whether you’re paranoid enough.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader writes:

It appears to me that something is not being highlighted enough. Preston makes excellent points about the thoroughness of the Obama information on their own donors, and how to use that information. You yourself make the connection about the know-how to use what the NSA programs were doing and apply it to their own campaign.

Are people yet making the connection between the data that the IRS was trying to compile on Tea Party groups and the NSA program structure? We have heard how the questionaires being sent to the 501(c)4 groups were asking for social networking contacts, donor lists, websites, etc…..

It seems to me that this targetted collection of networking data was being done explicitly to build up the same sort of deep database of their political opponents. Even the recent fun mental exercise of identifying Paul Revere as one of the lynch-pins of the American Revolution by using the same techniques, this data collection on political enemies is designed to do the exact same thing. Find those most crucial in either influence, fundraising, publishing, and education, and do………. what? I’m sure it isn’t to help, and if not, what is left?

I think this needs to be pointed out repeatedly, the NSA programs and the IRS data collection are intrinsically tied together and this needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

If you publish, please use only my first name. I realize the NSA has probably already read this, and I’m sure you and your website are already identified as one of those ‘nodes’ that bridges many gaps. Lucky You.

It does seem a bit suspicious, doesn’t it?

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