NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden may have disappeared from his upscale hotel in China, but the fallout continues from his shocking data mining allegations. Snowden maintains he worked as a security guard for a NSA “cover facility” at the University of Maryland. The federal agency does reportedly have some type of relationship with the college. One of the alleged secret surveillance projects ongoing at the University of Maryland supposedly includes a mind reading program.
The Maryland university’s Marketing and Communications Vice-President Brian Ullmann would not comment on a specific relationship with the NSA and would only confirm that Edward Snowden did once work there as a security guard. The NSA whistleblower was stationed at the college’s Center for the Advanced Study of Languages in 2005.
In 2006, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the NSA announced the joint creation of a research center at the University of Maryland for the purpose of advancing quantum physics research. The work to be conducted at the center was reportedly described as a deciphering of the “secrets of nature at the submicroscopic scale.”
Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein acknowledged last week that the National Security Agency data mining began in 2006. A report in USA Today maintains the metadata collection has been going on since at least 2001.
The joint institute reportedly boasts a team of approximately 20 scientists and has an annual operating budget of about $6 million. The quantum physics research center is also located on the main campus in College Park.
Although a NSA mind reading program may seem extremely far-fetched, a 2009 PBS report does seem to offer evidence to support Snowden’s claims. The PBS documentary described the National Security Agency project as a program “designed to gain insight into what people are thinking.”
The Public Broadcasting System segment called the NSA mind reading program so “potentially intrusive” that at least one research expert quit after noting concerns over the creation of what the individual reportedly deemed a powerful weapon. The NSA researcher also uttered concerns that such a weapon should be placed in the hands of the “top secret” agency with so little accountability.
The NSA data mining project, as well as other allegedly secret surveillance programs, was run from the M Square Research Park in College Park, Maryland, in collaboration with the university. University of Maryland Assistant Vice-President of Research and Economic Development Brian Darmody had this to say about the NSA’s mind reading project in the PBS report:
“Their budget is classified, but I understand it’s very well funded. They’ll be in their own building here, and they’re going to grow. Their mission is expanding.”
The Public Broadcasting System segment went on to maintain that with the Internet and scores of databases to use for a brain, the NSA device could respond almost instantly to complex queries initiated by intelligence agents and analysts.
Another excerpt from the PBS report reads:
“As more and more data is collected—through phone calls, credit card receipts, social networks like Facebook and MySpace, GPS tracks, cell phone geolocation, Internet searches, Amazon book purchases, even E-Z Pass toll records—it may one day be possible to know not just where people are and what they are doing, but what and how they think.”
PBS’s James Bamford stated the NSA artificial intelligence system has been dubbed Aquaint – Advanced Questions Answering for Intelligence. The program was reportedly run for multiple years by scientist John Prange.
A recent World News Daily report stated that a NSA project designed to predict criminal activity based upon massive amounts of citizen data mined from social networking websites occurred in 2010. Maryland University was designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research by the NSA in 2009.
MIT scientists weighed in on the ability for NSA researchers to successfully create a digital signal processing (DSP) program. The trick to being able to capture brain waves apparently depends upon the ability to separate frequencies, classify them, and then pass them onto a “super computer” for decoding.
An excerpt from the analytic report reads:
“[Brain waves are] hard to measure, but not impossible. MIT recently installed a new MEG scanner to study the function of the human brain. To capture brain signals, the MEG scanner is in a room shielded with mu metal, a special alloy that blocks external magnetic fields. Like a rock in the middle of a river, this metal forces all electromagnetic signals to flow around the room and doesn’t let any inside. The MEG scanner consists of a helmet that contains 306 sensors spaced uniformly across its surface. These “superconducting quantum interference detectors” (SQUID) are cooled to near absolute zero, which makes them superconductive and able to measure even the slightest magnetic signals from the brain.”
The report concluded that a remote neural monitoring detector would be extremely similar to a MEG machine. But unlike a MEG machine, the detector would not detect other brains by shielding itself; it would detect all signals from every brain within a 3,000 KM radius. The experts feel that such a machine and process would be strong enough for United Kingdom residents to listen to all the residents of Moscow.
The MEG lab opened at MIT in 2011. The projects conducted at the facility reportedly includes the study of language processing, visual attention, and olfactory responses to different types of smells.
One unidentified NSA researcher who spoke with Business Insider had this to say about the NSA mind reading program:
“Think of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the most memorable character, HAL 9000, having a conversation with David. We are essentially building this system. We are building HAL. The system can answer the question, ‘What does X think about Y?’”
Whether or not the NSA has successfully been able to “read” even a single mind remains to be seen, but the whole scandal reeks of George Orwell’s 1984. The United States is rapidly becoming a Big Brother state. The thought police aspect of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s claims is both frightening and shocking. We all want to thwart terrorism, but stripping Americans of constitutionally guaranteed rights is not the way to accomplish the task.