"Overloaded and badly stressed" NSA computer crashes for 3 days

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Not, Year 2000-related, of course! Merely coincidence.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. government sources say there is no indication that the crash of an important spy computer operated by the super secret National Security Agency was caused by sabotage or the Y2K glitch.

An NSA spokeswoman confirmed Saturday that computer systems at the NSA headquarters in Ft. Meade, Maryland, crashed last Monday and remained down for almost three days.

"It was a real problem," said an unnamed government source.

A source said the loss of the computer systems was "not insignificant." And although the problem has been largely overcome, the source said Saturday it was still not 100 percent repaired.

The NSA is responsible for protecting U.S. information systems and producing international intelligence information. It also tries to find weaknesses in codes and information systems used by U.S. adversaries.

Access denied

Monday's crash affected "the processing of intelligence, but not the collection of intelligence," according to the spokeswoman. In other words, the computer continued to receive information, but workers were unable to access it.

She said no other NSA locations were affected.

A U.S. official told CNN that most, if not all of the affected data had been stored in the computer for later analysis, but the official said the timeliness of the information was lost in some cases.

"There are some things you want to know right away, and we will have to go back and see if anything significant was missed," the official said.

Contingency plan invoked

The spokeswoman said engineers began working on the problem immediately after it occurred late Monday, and computers were back within the window of operations within 72 hours.

Sources said a contingency plan for just such an event went into effect after the problem was discovered.

Officials said as soon as the computer system went down, so- called "work arounds" allowed the highest priority information to be processed, such as intelligence needed to support U.S. troops deployed around the world.

Sources said the problem occurred because the computer system was overloaded and badly stressed. Indicating the scope of the crash, sources said NSA technicians had to reconstruct the entire system.


-- Antoine (metis@2000now.org), January 30, 2000



Spy agency confirms computer outage 9.59 p.m. ET (309 GMT) January 29, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP)  The super-secret National Security Agency confirmed Saturday night that it had a "serious computer problem'' last week that affected its ability to process intelligence information.

The agency issued a brief statement a few hours after the outage was reported by ABC News, which said its sources characterized the problem as the biggest computer failure in the history of the NSA.

"This problem, which was contained to the NSA headquarters complex at Fort Meade, Md., did not affect intelligence collection, but did affect the processing of intelligence information,'' the agency statement said. "NSA systems were impacted for 72 hours.''

It said the outage started at 7 p.m. EST Monday and that the system was restored on Thursday.

"There was no evidence of malice or no evidence of a Y2K problem,'' said an agency official who asked not to be identified by name.

"Contingency plans were immediately put into effect that called on other aspects of the NSA system to assume some of the load,'' the agency statement said. "While intelligence collection continued, NSA technicians worked to recover the IT (information technology) infrastructure. That backlog of intelligence processing is almost complete and NSA is confident that no significant intelligence information has been lost.''

The statement said the agency "is currently operating within the window of normal operations.''

Until a few years ago, the National Security Agency was so secret there was no public acknowledgment by the government of its existence and employees could be disciplined for merely saying they worked there.

It specializes in electronic intelligence gathering through satellites, telephone intercepts and other methods.

The Defense Department acknowledged earlier this month that it made mistakes in its pre-New Year's Eve testing of a Y2K correction for a computer system that processes imagery from intelligence satellites.

The computer system broke down that night, interrupting the flow of by satellite information for several hours.

However, the Pentagon insisted the trouble did not jeopardize U.S. national security.

http://w ww.foxnews.com/national/0129/d_ap_0129_108.sml

-- (just@nother.angle), January 30, 2000.

This may prove to be insignificant, but the system crashed at "0000" GMT (7 PM) on Monday, 1/24,, as reported in http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1009-200- 1537774.html?tag=st.ne.1009.thed.1009-200-1537774

-- Antoine (metis@2000now.org), January 31, 2000.

Sunday January 30 12:59 AM ET

Top-Secret Agency Reports Computer Problem

~snip~ ...As a result of the unprecedented blackout of information, analytical reports from Fort Meade that turn intercepted foreign telephone, cable and radio messages into meaningful data for the rest of government, were halted. ~snip~

Source: Yahoo News "Top Stories"


-- Lee Maloney (leemaloney@hotmail.com), February 01, 2000.

Re: "Overloaded and badly stressed" NSA computer crashes for 3 days"

Lucky for us there were no terrorist threats or nuke "testing" events occurring.

Another update about the NSA computer problem.... Jim Banford, an author who has written about the NSA for twenty years, states that since the NSA computer failed at midnight Greenwich Mean Time, that indicate a software problem of some sort:


Listen as "Weekend All Things Considered" host Steve Inskeep discusses the impact of the NSA computer failure with James Bamford, who is writing a new book about the agency. ~snip~ (see Source below)


In addition, the following article states that the computer was out over four days (as opposed to three days as reported on 1/30):

Feb 2, 2000

Computer Problem Hits Super-Secret Agency

The National Security Agency -- one of the United States' most secretive intelligence-gathering bodies -- has admitted it suffered "serious" computer problems last week. The agency says it was unable to process information from the millions of radio transmissions, telephone calls and e-mails it intercepted over four days. The agency said the problem had now been resolved and that it was confident that "no significant intelligence information has been lost." The NSA said it spent more than $1.5 million to get the computers up and running again at the agency's headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland. ABC News -- which broke the story on Saturday -- says its sources described the problem as the biggest computer failure in the agency's history. ~snip~

Source: National Public Radio Online, "News Now Highlights... What's Inside" (via Ellis County Chronicle, Texas, "News High Tech" section)

http://www.elliscountychronic le.com/link_frame_main.cfm?LinkID=22&LinkCategory=News% 20Sites&url=http://www.npr.org&PageID=8

-- Lee Maloney (leemaloney@hotmail.com), February 02, 2000.


NSA's system held together by bailing wire

NSA System Crash Raises Hill Worries

Agency Computers Termed Out of Date

By Walter Pincus

Washington Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, February 2, 2000; Page A19

The failure of the National Security Agency's information processing system, which crashed for four days last week, is merely the latest sign that the super-secret agency has allowed some of its computer technology to fall woefully out of date, members of the House and Senate intelligence committees said yesterday.

Both committees, which have increased the NSA's budget and pressed it to modernize for three years in a row, have launched inquiries into the failure of the NSA's backbone data communications system at Fort Meade.


Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the failure was not in any "super- secret" equipment, but rather in the ordinary "wires and switches that transmit data from computer to computer and office to office." He described it as "the sort of modern, off-the-shelf technologies any . . . company would be buying to link its computers."

The NSA says no important intelligence information was lost. According to a senior intelligence official, all of the intercepted material was saved and will be processed normally.

But Goss is not mollified. "We are extraordinarily fortunate that this incident did not take place in the midst of an escalating international crisis--lives may well have been lost because of it," he said.

He added that the incident demonstrates "a lack of management attention until recently and a chronic underfunding of infrastructure at NSA."

Richard C. Shelby (R-Alabama), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said it was "no surprise" that "NSA has encountered significant problems recently that relate directly to their ability to process the incredible amounts of data that they collect every day."

Shelby said an advisory group of technical experts appointed by his committee two years ago found "an organization in desperate need of organizational restructuring and modernization of its information technology infrastructure."

The NSA's exact budget is secret. But Congress has repeatedly raised it in recent years, and it is now said to top $6 billion.

The computer outage lasted from Monday until Friday. The agency said Saturday night that it had spent about $1.5 million on emergency repairs and outside consultants to put the system back into operation.

According to one expert familiar with the situation, however, the system "is being held together by bailing wire and will not be fixed for long." He estimated that a permanent remedy could cost tens of millions of dollars.

When Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden was named director of the NSA last year, he promised to tackle technical problems previously cited by Congress, and he established a task force to look at the most pressing needs.

Last summer, the House intelligence panel bluntly declared in a committee report that "NSA is in serious trouble." It had earlier criticized the agency for failing to modernize its computer- processing capability while committing huge amounts of money to upgrade its worldwide system for intercepting communications.

"We have been beating the drum on this," said one Capitol Hill aide.

Source: The Washington Post, Washington D.C.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/2000- 02/02/143l-020200-idx.html

-- Lee Maloney (leemaloney@hotmail.com), February 11, 2000.

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