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The Perfect Citizen

CNET says:

“The Perfect Citizen project is purely a research-and-engineering effort, not an attempt to monitor companies against cyberattack, the National Security Agency <NSA> said Thursday.”

NSA issued the brief explanation in response to a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) story that described Perfect Citizen as a government system that monitors vital agencies and private utilities against cyberthreats. According to WSJ, the project would establish sensors throughout computer networks that would raise the alarm in case of pending cyberattack.

Lance Whitney (not a CNET employee) writes, in the CNET News, Security section today:

“But in an e-mail statement attributed to NSA spokeswoman Judith Emmel, the agency denied that Perfect Citizen would involve any type of monitoring activity or sensors, and labeled it as ‘purely a vulnerabilities assessment and capabilities development contract.’ She added that ‘it does not involve the monitoring of communications or the placement of sensors on utility company systems.’

Although the agency called the Journal’s story an ‘inaccurate portrayal of the work performed at the National Security Agency,’ it said that due to the highly sensitive nature of its work, it could not confirm or deny specific allegations addressed in the article. As a result, the NSA shared few details on the project.”

WSJ had described Raytheon as the recipient of the initial phase of the contract in a deal worth up to $100 million, though neither the NSA nor Raytheon would confirm that report, according to Reuters.

According to Whitney’s article:

“Emmel said ‘any suggestions that there are illegal or invasive domestic activities associated with this contracted effort are simply not true. We strictly adhere to both the spirit and the letter of U.S. laws and regulations.'”

How soon we forget Folsom Street, San Francisco! (No, not the Fair….) As the person charged with getting an inventory of hardware systems in that room on Folsom Street, for a former employer, I found out only YEARS later why I was getting “the runaround.” :-) It was described to me as a “lights out” facility, which, in retrospect, might be kinda sorta true, in one sense of the phrase, i.e., does “lights out” mean “dark?” :-)

(Heck, even TODAY we find writers who try to convince us that facial recognition software is not sufficiently developed to threaten our liberties. As you can tell from the “description” [a “kindness” :-) ] of Perfect Citizen above and elsewhere, facial recognition software is only ONE of the technologies that is developed enough to be a “two-edged sword” that can either protect us or threaten our freedom.)

Dropping your sword for a minute to use Occam’s razor (“… the principle recommends selection of the hypothesis that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest entities while still sufficiently answering the question,” i.e., the simplest explanation is often the best) and your own good sense, what do YOU think is most likely to be the truth? :-) )

-Bill at

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