Data Mining Info Sought

National Journal‘s Shane Harris has posted this plea in the comments section of last week’s “The N.S.A.’s Math Problem” post.

I’m a journalist, and I’ve covered data mining and intelligence in-depth over the years. I’m working on a piece about what else the NSA and other agencies are doing with data mining, and how it might connect to the NSA’s terrorist surveillance program. I find this thread quite fascinating, and would like to invite some of the people who’ve posted comments here to get in touch with me if they feel they can add something to my piece. I’m particularly interested in hearing from people who’ve worked with data mining and related tools, particularly in a government setting. I would like to talk to experts who can speak from an informed perspective about such matters. Many thanks. Shane Harris National Journal sh*****@na*************.com

It’s an interesting technique for finding sources. Contact him if you can help him out.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, Media, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ratoe says:

    It�s an interesting technique for finding sources.

    I think “lazy” is the more appropriate word, here.

  2. Herb says:

    Well Mr. Shane Harris, I would be very pleased to aid in any way to help you land your sorry traitor rear end in Prison. That’s where all who divulge our countries secret belong. Your self centered ego and your selfishness should be good for about 50 years in the slammer for being the traitor you so much desire to be and become.

  3. Patrick McGuire says:

    I have been data mining for years (on internal company data, my employer uses it to help predict product sales in the future among other uses). It’s not complicated and there is no secret to it, commercially available software for this purpose has been available for 30+ years. But I wouldn’t offer any help to this “journalist” for anything.

    Before he is through, my guess is that he will attempt to make “data-mining” a dirty word, being conducted by unscupulous, shadowy characters at the beckoning of the evil-rich, military-industrial complex to undermine our privacy.

    What does bother me though is some data-mining expert-wannabe will contact him and fill his prejudiced mind full of exactly what he wants to hear.

  4. DavidV says:

    This reflexive abuse in the comments is extremely counterproductive. Come on, guys! The story broke. At this point, any journalist worth his salt would pursue it.

    Be grateful that Mr. Harris appears to be seeking to learn both sides of the story and trying to contact real experts to help him understand the issues, rather than simply printing the uninformed drivel that passes for news in much of the MSM.

    You can’t bitch about uninformed reporting and then savage the first journalist who actually tries to understand what he’s talking about.

    Posting a request for information in a blog’s comments is a major departure from the normally hidebound world of journalism, and all you can do is attack the guy for being a reporter? Come on.

  5. DavidV says:

    Oops. Partial correction. Shoulda Googled the name first. Didn’t realize Harris helped break the story himself.

    Nonetheless, I’d still argue it would be useful to talk to him and provide him with some real facts.

    Journalists will never print our side of the story if we never tell ’em what it is.

  6. Herb says:


    Maybe someday you might recognize that reporters are just like Lawyers, They will lie to you at the drop of a hat and twist any story to fit their own personal agenda no matter how many sides to a story they get.

  7. DavidV says:

    I am a reporter. (And a part-time law student, so I think I’m doubly insulted.) 🙂

    The problem with most mainstream reporters is their insular worldview. I agree that we can twist the story. It’s easy.

    However, I really believe that most reporters want to get it right. Give a reporter a reasonable, convincing explanation (and be careful to avoid ambiguity) and all but the very worst will give some weight to your viewpoint.

    At least, that has been my experience.

  8. Herb says:

    David V:

    You are a real lucky guy. Being a “Reporter” and “Lawyer”, must mean that you don’t have to put up and deal with their natural talent of twisting to fit your personal agenda. You are one of “Them”.

    May I suggest you get a “Real” job.

  9. Faith Chatham says:

    It’s an important story. I’m privileged to live in a nation, which for most of my life, has been the hallmark of freedom. There has been a frightening turn in recent years. We have laws which SHOULD be observed by all people. We have processes which SHOULD be followed. The methods used by intelligence AND private enterprise to monitor Americans should be UNDERSTOOD by citizens. We need to have a DISCUSSION of the changes as they are evolving so that AMERICANS can examine and decide what is appropriate for our nation. We have to know what occurred and why. Then citizens will have opportunity to either affirm leaders in the current administration or to replace them. As technologies develop which were beyond the scope of vision of the Founding Father’s of the Unites States, we need to understand the impact of technology on the basic freedoms and rights of Americans as set forth in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. We need the opportunity to be INFORMED so that we can decide whether we choose to live with current practices or whether we wish to change the laws, change the leaders, change the practice. That is the American Way. It’s neither liberal nor conservative; it’s not partisan. It’s constitutional. We are a nation of law. When the law is ignored we unravel. From the top to the bottom, all are accountable. This story is probably one of the most important stories of this decade.