One historic strength of the US intelligence community has been its ability to intercept and decypher enemy communications. The most well-known example is the breaking of the Japanese diplomatic and military codes before and during WWII. Our ability to “read their mail” enabled the Navy’s stunning victory at Midway — a battle which put Japan on the defensive for the rest of the war.
Our new enemy is even more dispersed than Imperial Japan’s vast East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, and thus even more reliant on secure communications. You’d think that would play into our biggest strength.
To gain an appreciation of the emerging challenge, consider these facts. A single strand of fiber-optic cable exceeds the capacity of all the telecommunications satellites orbiting the globe. This year alone, e-mail volume is expected to be the equivalent of 40 copies of the fully digitized holdings of the Library of Congress.
Another important medium, instant messaging, is now estimated to generate 530 billion messages per day. Complicating matters further, phone calls can now be sent directly over the Internet using a technology called Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP). AT&T, Teleglobe, British Telecom, Time Warner Cable, Telecom Italia and Deutsche Telekom began offering VoIP services this year, signaling the beginning of a major conversion away from traditional telephone networks. Indeed, by 2005 enough fiber-optic cable will have been laid to carry, by similar analogy, one Library of Congress every 14.4 seconds.
Would any readers with actual signals intelligence experience like to weigh in on this, in a strictly unclassified manner? Shoot me an email, or click on the Comments below.