"You'd be a fool not to at least consider the possibility that the NSA is already reading your e-mail."
The New York Times writes:
"Adding a new chapter to the research that cemented the phrase 'six degrees of separation' into the language, scientists at Facebook and the University of Milan reported on Monday that the average number of acquaintances separating any two people in the world was not six but 4.74."
If the distance between any two people in the world is 4.74, the distance between any two Americans is probably less than 3.
Legendary NSA cryptographer and mathematician William Binney -- who worked at the agency for 32 years, and who was the head of the NSA's global digital data efforts -- created a much better "two hop" system before 9/11.
Called "ThinThread," the system created by Binney (with the help of Thomas Drake, Kirk Wiebe and Ed Loomis) automatically encrypted all Americans' communications to protect our Constitutional rights. Information was gathered on people within two hops of suspected terrorists, and information could only be decrypted by a court order. In other words, Binney's system created a structure in which innocent Americans
couldn't be spied on unless there was a court order showing probable cause.
Binney's system was actually cheaper and more efficient than the NSA's current Constitution-violating system.
Binney told us:
"The zone of suspects was for us limited to two degrees (hops). Beyond that increases the problem exponentially. So, three hops is going much too far."
By "going much too far," Binney means that the NSA is unnecessarily trashing Americans' Constitutional rights.
But he also means that the more data the NSA gathers on more innocent Americans, the harder it will be to catch bad guys. Because -- contrary to the
NSA's claims -- looking in bigger and bigger haystacks doesn't help find the needle.
Technical Postscript: We asked Binney about the formula for determining how many Americans would be caught up in a "three hop" dragnet. He explained that simple formulas can't give an accurate answer, as it depends on such factors as whether government and business organizations are eliminated from the hop analysis:
"If you don't eliminate commercial companies and government agencies from the calculations, then by inclusion they reduce the number of degrees of separation."
Binney also explained that by the failure to eliminate duplicate contacts, the number of people caught up in the dragnet could be over-estimated.