National Security Agency Y2K Failure at the Rollover? : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

The article below reveals that the National Security Agency suffered a major computer crash "at the beginning of last year", in other words, at the main Y2K Rollover. The problem is blamed on terrorism, but the timing makes the Y2K Century Date Bug a much more likely culprit. Of course, it could be terroristic "opportunism", taking advantage of anticipated widespread Y2K Century Date Bug caused computer problems. Even the insiders may not know which was the true culprit, or whether is was some combination of both. It clearly shows that the Rollover was a time of incredibly high Risk. Every one who survived it deserves a "battle star". Humanity was VERY lucky to not have experienced major problems at the Rollover.


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Bin Laden Is Higher Tech Than U.S., Says NSA Chief Agency head reveals in TV interview that NSA once suffered three-day-long computer crash.

Nancy Weil, IDG News Service Tuesday, February 13, 2001

Saudi exile Osama bin Laden has better technology at his disposal than the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), which is charged with protecting the nation's information systems and providing foreign intelligence aimed at uncovering threats against the country, the director of the agency says in a television interview to be broadcast Tuesday night.

Bin Laden's superior technological capabilities helped him to mastermind the simultaneous 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, General Mike Hayden, head of the NSA, says in the interview to be broadcast on CBS's " 60 Minutes II" news show, according to reports from The Associated Press and Reuters news wires.

Bin Laden has been indicted in the bombings and allegedly has carried out a long-time global plot to kill Americans and wreck U.S. government property. He has said publicly that those are his goals. Four men said to have links to bin Laden currently are on trial in the bombing conspiracy case in New York federal court.

"Osama bin Laden has at his disposal the wealth of a $3 trillion a year telecommunications industry that he can rely on," the news wires quote Hayden as saying in the TV interview. "We are behind the curve in keeping up with the global telecommunications revolution."

The NSA is the country's top cryptologic group, using satellites; interceptions of telephone calls, e-mail, faxes, and radio transmissions; and other eavesdropping methods to detect threats to the United States. According to the NSA Web site, the agency is "a high technology organization ... on the frontiers of communications and data processing" and "remains a world leader in many technological fields."

But it also, apparently, has not kept pace with advances and has become vulnerable, including to failures that imperil its system, and by extension the nation, Hayden says in the interview. In January of last year, the agency suffered an information overload that took down all of the computers at its Maryland headquarters, leaving Americans worldwide vulnerable for three-and-a-half days.

"NSA headquarters was brain dead," Hayden says in the interview. "We had some residual ability at our locations around the world, but I don't want to trivialize this. This was really bad."

The system failure was kept secret because "the knowledge that we were down would increase the risk significantly to Americans around the world," he says.

-- Robert Riggs (, February 14, 2001


Headline: National Security Nightmare: The Largest Spy Agency Falls Behind [excerpts]

Source: CBS News, 13 Feb 2001


The National Security Agency is the largest spy agency in the United States, and perhaps the world. Twice as big as the CIA, the NSA eavesdrops on communications all over the world.

News cameras have never been allowed inside - until now: Correspondent David Martin provides a look at America's most secret spy agency, which is located on 350 acres, south of Baltimore, studded with giant antennas and protected by barbed wire and guard dogs.

A phone call intercepted by the NSA is often the first warning that a terrorist like Osama bin Laden is planning an attack against Americans. To find that threatening phone call, email or radio transmission among the billions made daily, the NSA relies on rooms of supercomputers.

But the NSA has fallen on difficult times. In January 2000, General Mike Hayden, the director of the NSA, got a call from the agency's watch officer alerting him that all of its computers had crashed.

"He told me that our computers were down," Hayden recalls. "We were dark. Our ability to process information was gone."

As much of the East Coast dug out from a surprise snowstorm, Hayden went on closed circuit television to warn his work force what was at stake. "I said, 'This is secret. This can't be the second half of a sentence that begins, 'Honey, you won't believe what happened to me at work today,'" Hayden says.

"NSA headquarters was brain dead. We had some residual ability at our locations around the world, but I don't want to trivialize this. This was really bad," Hayden remembers.

The computers were back up in three and a half days, but there was no denying the enormity of what had happened. The NSA's problems went beyond overworked computers. But almost none of this was understood outside the highly secretive organization.

Does the NSA eavesdrop? "We're involved in signals intelligence," explains Hayden, the NSA director. Signals intelligence means operating listening posts all over the world to intercept billions of radio transmissions, phone calls, emails and faxes and to uncover terrorist plots and other foreign threats to the United States...

...The best code breakers tend to be people with musical aptitude, which explains all the bands at the NSA. But it also takes supercomputers - some of them capable of performing more than 1 trillion operations per second - to help decipher unreadable jumbles of letters and numbers...

[Most of article snipped. It had no further discussion of what indeed may be a Y2K-related computer crash at NSA... but I bet we’ll never hear anything else about this. In my reading, the article seems to imply "overwork" caused the crash, not terrorism. In any event, the reporter evidently didn't ask the obvious next question: Could this be Y2K-related!? And note the article is revealing this episode more than a year after Rollover! We'll have to catch the television broadcast to see if anything further is revealed. –Andre]

-- Andre Weltman (, February 14, 2001.

When will this be broadcast? I didn't notice it being mentioned in the article.

-- slza (, February 14, 2001.

I looked elsewhere on the CBS website:

"The CBS News magazine 60 Minutes II is broadcast Tuesdays from 9 p.m. ET to 10 p.m. ET. (Check local listings.)"

Bummer. Looks like it was broadcast last night! Oh well.

Did anyone catch the show, and were any useful details about the computer crash revealed--beyond the statement that the poop 'puters were "overworked"???

-- Andre Weltman (, February 14, 2001.

Ooops, meant to type "poor 'puters" not "poop 'puters", but I guess the meaning may not have changed much.

Excuse me Dr. Freud, my slip is showing.

[Note to self..."First read what you typed, *then* submit, not the other way around."]

-- Andre Weltman (, February 14, 2001.

NSA system crash raises Hill worries

TB2000 Archives

NSA computers said to be outdated

GICC Archives

NSA computer crashes for 3 days

GICC Archives

-- spider (, February 14, 2001.


Thanks for reminding me that this *was* made public last year...I certainly recalled the spy-satellite problem but I somehow forgot all about the reports about NSA, one year ago.

-- Andre Weltman (, February 14, 2001.

This January, 2000 Chicago Tribune about the incident specifically mentioned Y2K.

-- (Rather@not.say), February 15, 2001.

Rather Not Say,

Thanks for the link...but I think it refers to the National Reconnaissance Office's spy sat ground station problem, which is I think distinct from the computer failure at National Security Agency (or, No Such Agency, as it used to be called when even its existence was a secret). If I am misunderstanding this and the two systems are the same, please someone let me know!


-- Andre Weltman (, February 15, 2001.

Good call Andre. The common feature in
both stories is "3 days". This was a
cover-up in the spy sattelite story as
they were down for weeks.

-- spider (, February 15, 2001.

satellite ::::-§

-- spider (, February 15, 2001.

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