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The NSA’s visit

A small group of National Security Agency officials slipped into Silicon Valley on one of the agency’s periodic technology shopping expeditions this month, according to the NYT (registration required).

On the wish list, according to several venture capitalists who met with the officials, were an array of technologies that underlie the fierce debate over the Bush administration’s anti-terrorist eavesdropping program: computerized systems that reveal connections between seemingly innocuous and unrelated pieces of information.

The story’s kicker says Xerox continues to research the spying technology:

And several Silicon Valley executives say one side effect of the 2003 decision to cancel the Total Information Awareness project was that it killed funds for a research project at the Palo Alto Research Center, a subsidiary of Xerox, exploring technologies that could protect privacy while permitting data mining.

The aim was to allow an intelligence analyst to conduct extensive data mining without getting access to identifying information about individuals. If the results suggested that, for instance, someone might be a terrorist, the intelligence agency could seek a court warrant authorizing it to penetrate the privacy technology and identify the person involved. With Xerox funds, the Palo Alto researchers are continuing to explore the technology.