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July 16, 2004

US Government Targets 2016 As Latest Date To Acquire Email

There are many unintentionally funny things about the Iraq report by the Senate Committee on Intelligence. One of my favorites is the various references to government officials frantically faxing things to each other:

...the ADDI [Assistant Deputy Director of Intelligence] drafted a memo for the NSC outlining the facts that the CIA believed needed to be changed, and faxed it to the Deputy National Security Advisor and the speech writers. (p.56)

Although the NSC had already removed the uranium reference from the speech, later on October 6, 2002 the CIA sent a second fax to the White House... (p. 56)

On January 24, 2003, in response to a request from the NSC for additional details regarding IC input to "the case for Saddam possessing weapons of mass destruction," the NIO [National Intelligence Officer] for Strategic and Nuclear Programs faxed a packet of background information to the NSC. (p. 63)

...the NIO faxed additional information on Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs to the NSC. (p 240)

Call me a crazy utopian dreamer, but I believe the highest levels of the US government may have access to email by as early as 2016.

Posted at July 16, 2004 03:50 PM | TrackBack

Actually this is part of the the institutional defenses of these organizations. If you e-mail it then its in a convenient form to send to others. If you fax it, then the recipient has to actually do something about it.

Also, the folks we are talking about probably can't type to save their life.


Posted by: c at July 23, 2004 03:55 PM


Can you say more about this? For instance, do you mean they consciously fax things because if they emailed them it would be too easy to forward them onto others? Whereas faxing it to others would take effort?

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at July 24, 2004 05:54 PM

Well, the other immediate thing that leaps to mind is that faxes can run on a secured circuit which is hard to packet sniff. Classified information being sent by email works, but requires a lot of encryption.

Posted by: Brian Yeoh at July 26, 2004 07:28 PM


Can you elaborate? It seems to me that if anyone has access to lots of encryption it would be the CIA and NSC. Wouldn't they have enough to feel comfortable emailing things? And why is a fax line easier to secure than an internet connection?

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at July 26, 2004 08:13 PM

Let's take it from reverse. A fax line can be easier to secure than an Internet connection because the path from sender to receiveer is a single well-controlled line which can be hardened against tapping or sniffing. It's a bit harder to secure a network since there are many more points at which the network may touch the outside world and be compromised. That being said, secure email is definitely usable and used -- messages are encrypted/decrypted by the sending/receiving application seamlessly. But again, there are many more potential points of attack on email than there are on faxes. On a more mundane level, sending documents by fax if you don't have a soft copy is easier than scanning the documents in and emailing them.

Posted by: Brian Yeoh at July 30, 2004 01:29 PM