The New York Times had an interesting story this weekend on the role of new data mining technologies in intelligence and homeland security:
A small group of National Security Agency officials slipped into Silicon Valley on one of the agency’s periodic technology shopping expeditions this month.
On the wish list, according to several venture capitalists who met with the officials, were an array of technologies that underlie the fierce debate over the Bush administration’s anti-terrorist eavesdropping program: computerized systems that reveal connections between seemingly innocuous and unrelated pieces of information….
Most of the blog reaction to this story has been critical, wondering why tech companies would get involved with the NSA. I’ve expressed concerns in the last two months about the apparent circumvention of U.S. law in the recent NSA revelations, but this seems like exactly what the NSA should be doing: seeking out new ideas from the nation’s brightest technology minds. The NSA absolutely needs to stay ahead of the technology curve and adopt leading-edge tools. That’s not inconsistent with wanting there to be a better framework to ensure that the applications of these technologies are legal and are used consistent with the nation’s system of checks and balances.