The NSA's Guide To The Internet Is The Weirdest Thing You'll Read Today

from the nectar-on-the-ambrosia dept

The NSA has a well-earned reputation for being one of the tougher agencies to get records out of, making those rare FOIA wins all the sweeter. In the case of Untangling the Web, the agency's 2007 guide to internet research, the fact that the records in question just so happen to be absolutely insane are just icing on the cake - or as the guide would put it, "the nectar on the ambrosia."

MuckRock's Michael Morisy initially requested the guide after finding an entry on Google Books. A month later, the NSA responded with a complete release, minus the authors' names ...

Which was a bit odd, seeing as Michael had provided them in his initial request. But hey, gift horses and all that.

Now, at 650 pages, there's far too much to go into in depth here, but fortunately, as you can see from the table of contents...

you don't have to go very far before this takes a hard turn into "Dungeons and Dragons campaign/Classics major's undergraduate thesis" territory.

The preface employs a comical number of metaphors to describe what the internet is and isn't - sometimes two a paragraph. But don't take our word for it!

According to the NSA, the internet is ...

A Persian's personal library:

Sisyphus' boulder ...

A Freudian psycho-sexual pleasure palace ...

A Borgesian world-consuming knowledge-cancer ...

A labyrinth (with bonus Mino-Troll):

Two quick asides - one, in case your memory needed jogging as to what a clew was, the footnote helpfully provides that information ...

and two, before you cry foul that the beast in the center of the labyrinth is clearly a centaur, Ovid technically just describes the Minotaur as "half-man and half-bull" without specifying which half is which, so that interpretation is valid, if a bit needlessly obscure.

But while we're on the subject of pedantic footnotes ...

A shape-changing sea-god:

And finally, jumping ahead 600 pages, an endless frontier/a cemetery of dead ideas/a reminder of your aunt's 15-minutes of fame:

After that journey of discovery, Untangling the Web ends perhaps the only way it could: with a back cover design that looks cribbed from a ‘90s Christian rock album.

Read the full thing embedded below, or on the request page:

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Filed Under: internet, nsa, wtf

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2016 @ 12:21pm


    The intro stuff is a bit weird, but I'd call it poetic license.

    If you read past that there's solid and sane advice/tutoring. I see nothing here to indicate this is a co-intell piece, quite the contrary. So far, the only things I find suspicious is the lack of mention of Copernic- which was an extreamly usefull reaserch tool at the time.

    Aditionally there's no mention of linux- which (although still niche I guess) in 06 was already in a very usable state for a person of average intellegence. -iirc ubuntu 7 was very simple to install by that point, and Red Hat was even on Best Buy (or Circit City?) store shelves for a brief period; both having security/stability that were vastly superior to windows.

    If it's co-intel- explain page 524
    "Web Tip
    Virtually all Microsoft products come with all the doors open and unlocked, figuratively speaking. You must take upon yourself to find the open doors, shut them, and lock them tight."

    They do a good job enumorating those open doors...
    If this was co-intel they'd be leading the reader to trust microsoft products- microsoft having allready signed up for prism, and god knows what else by that point.

    Really, the whole chapter/section on security and privacy (514+) and resources (page 605+) is an acurate account of conserns and issues of the era, (many of which are still conserns...) and has links to the legitamate privacy/security sources of the time- such as grc.

    It's unclassified because it's not important/secret info- just publicly sourced stuff. The only thing remarkable is that it was ever classified in the first place.

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