R.K.: And how is that similar to what NSA is doing now?
W.B.: Well it's a totally different approach, I mean what we were doing was targeted collection of information or selection of information out of the data flow around the world. That is we had knowledge about those targets and went in based on that knowledge and pulled out information relevant to those targets.
NSA now is simply taking in bulk collection of everything they can get their hands on, which includes everybody in the world so that fundamentally changed the perspective from if you use the needle in the haystack analogy it's like what we did was looking at, pulling together a very small haystack with a needle in it that was relatively easy to find and then making the haystack orders of magnitude bigger so it's much more difficult to find that needle.
R.K.: I spent like ten hours with you yesterday and Tom Drake as Westchester University where you and Tom gave a talk and afterwards we had dinner and you have argued that it's not a good thing to do to have this giant haystack which is the, with the idea of collecting all of the information available in the world with all the technology possible, right? Can you talk about why it's not a good idea?
W.B.: Well I mean it's not a good idea because what it does, it gives their analysts so much more data to go through every day, I mean everyday the collection is a mountain and they're forcing this mountain of data on their analysts to sort through and manually find out what's important in there.
Well that's not really effective and you can easily see that it's not effective because how many terrorist attacks have they really stopped using this approach since 9/11?
R.K.: How many?
W.B.: Zero. The answer is zero. They had success with some stuff overseas but principally that's been because of other, like the Pakistanis might tip us off about something or the British or someone else but not from this bulk collection program.
R.K.: Now why was your approach better?
W.B.: Well because it illuminated all of the extraneous material of seven billion people in the world and they're only focused down on targets of interests and a very finite zone of suspicion around them in terms of the relationships in the world and so that was easily definable by the meta data being used to communicate in phone numbers or email addresses or bank account transfers or things like that.
So it was a fairly focused attack on data and it made the problem of the volume of communications in the world a manageable problem by the numbers of people we had; whereas the bulk collection simply inundates them with a flood of data that they can't possibly get through every day.
R.K.: So at dinner last night I brought up the idea that maybe this is hoarding behavior like we see on these reality TV shows. People are stuck with this obsessive idea that they have to hold on to and collect everything and keep it.
W.B.: I am sure that that's part of it but I think the other part is they have another alternative motive for collecting everything and that's for law enforcement.
Now law enforcement might want to have the ability to investigate anybody in this country or anybody in any other country and so in which case you would want to collect all the data about everybody in the world and that's basically what they're doing so that would be very useful to law enforcement and we have known the FBI, I mean Director Mueller said that in his interview with Bart Gellman in March of 2011 they had been using these Stellar Wind domestic spying programs for the FBI since 2001 and that's to retroactively analyze everything that anybody in the United States, any citizen is doing, or anybody else when they're in the United States.
R.K.: Now Stellar Wind who is the replacement for your Thin Thread program, that was this giant haystack approach, right?
W.B.: Well they took part of the Thin Thread program to use it to run the Stellar Wind program. Because it was able to handle massive amounts of data and so they simply flooded it with massive amounts of data on domestic and international - well Stellar Wind program focused specifically on domestic communications within the United States. They had other programs to do the foreign, that was how they labeled programs or processes. The real software running was the same in both cases it was just different inputs and those different inputs then made it a different program name.