NSA Complains That It Has To Spend Time Closing Leaks Rather Than Spying On Everyone

from the missing-the-point dept

NPR has a slightly bizarre article claiming that the effects of the Snowden leaks “aren’t what he intended.” Except the article doesn’t really suggest that at all. It does focus on how the NSA is now spending a ton of time trying to figure out how to prevent future leaks, but that’s to be expected. It also talks about how the NSA needs to focus on that rather than on spying on everyone with a hint of “and you might all die because we can’t do our jobs” added in for flavor.

Another effect of Snowden’s disclosures on NSA operations has been that agency leaders have chosen to expedite planned security reforms, as part of an effort to prevent future leaks. The agency has begun consolidating databases, moving them from separate repositories into large data centers where cloud analysis can be employed. The data are to be “tagged” with restrictions so that analysts not qualified or authorized to review the information will not be able to access it.

“We’ve had to do things that we had planned to do over the next three or four years and move them dramatically to the left,” says the NSA’s chief information officer, Lonny Anderson. “We haven’t asked for additional resources. We’ve just said, ‘We’ve got to do this.’ So something gives, because we’re not getting additional resources. And what gives, for us, is mission.”

The NSA mission is intelligence gathering.

“We have to make sure we don’t cross a line where we’re so busy locking down the networks that we’re not defending the nation,” Anderson says. “That’s the fine line we walk.”

Of course, that’s silly. If part of what Snowden revealed was the terrible data management and security of the NSA, then that seems worth fixing anyway. In fact, it could be argued that the failure to properly control the NSA’s data was likely a much bigger threat than anything Snowden leaked.

NSA folks in the article also complain that the bad guys might use other forms of communication, but they’ve been saying that all along, and that’s a silly complaint. As noted, most actual terrorists were already pretty aware of what technologies to avoid.

What the article really means by its title is that the NSA itself hasn’t had a mass-epiphany that it should change its ways. But I don’t think anyone ever believed that would happen, let alone Snowden. The effect that Snowden appears to have wanted was to have the public more aware of what the NSA was doing, hopefully leading to policy makers in Congress to fix the problems that have allowed the NSA to have gone so far overboard with its surveillance efforts. And that debate is happening, and considering how many bills have been introduced to reform the surveillance state, it appears that the debate is having an impact. How big an impact remains to be seen, but to argue that it’s not having the effect he wanted is just wrong.

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Comments on “NSA Complains That It Has To Spend Time Closing Leaks Rather Than Spying On Everyone”

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out_of_the_blue says:

Anything to get the focus off them going to jail.

“How big an impact remains to be seen, but to argue that it’s not having the effect he wanted is just wrong.” — No, to argue about what to argue over is woolly-headed, serves the NSA’s purpose.

So why not use the awesome power of Techdirt to advocate indictment, trial, and jail for the NSA criminals, Mike? Simple, Populist, do-able, and necessary if We The People are ever going to wrest control back from those who run the corporatist surveillance grid.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It is pure lobbying. He is basically indirectly asking for more funding since it is for “the mission”. The rest is being used to shore up Snowdens “damage”.

Maybe, the things they are moving “to the left” should have been done before introducing the systems. The best way to shore up their priorities is probably to starve the beast anyway. In that way they can’t increase the haystacks further to hide the needles under more layers of useless hay.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s comforting to know the NSA feels their servers are more secure located at a 3rd party cloud provider’s facility. Instead of being located inside NSA’s own buildings, on NSA own property.

In other words, the NSA is so bad a security that they have to outsource it to a private contractor.

Wasn’t it a private contractor that got the NSA into this mess in the first place?

/face desk

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Mission Smission

Does anybody really think that the (likely automated) data collection has stopped? It might for a few minutes while they switch over to a new database, that is if they cannot run the feeds concurrently.

It is far more likely that the ‘mission’ that is interrupted is the analysis (aka snooping through your records).

This sounds like systems analyst and architecture territory (though they do say “restrictions so that analysts not qualified”, I wonder if they confuse the different types of analysts or that programmers are gonna need real data to test their programs?) and those folks don’t work fast and they are just one end of a development pipeline.

Come to think of it, I wonder if they already have the right architecture in the box and just weren’t allowed to implement it previously because it would create ‘restrictions’ or something. That might cut a chunk of program development.

All this goes to saying: Just what in hell are they going to lose? They haven’t found anything yet, so the net loss is +-0?

Anonymous Coward says:

This is just more BS. Not a thing has changed and we are still on the level of the poor NSA not doing anything wrong. It’s all smoke, mirrors, and coverup, along with a healthy dose of propaganda. The only thing that has been demonstrated out of all this is that everyone close to these spy agencies will lie their asses off.

They are still hoping to do damage control while the Titanic sinks. Bring the Amish amendment back. Cut the funding. Remove the black budget out of the Pentagon that funds them. Once it is no longer in existence, maybe it can be found out just what they are afraid of being revealed. It sure isn’t what so far has come out. No one really seems concerned so much about that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Centralized weak point

“The agency has begun consolidating databases, moving them from separate repositories into large data centers…”

The example that popped into my mind when I read that was the decision in Pearl Harbor to move all the planes close together so they could protect them from sabotage. I’m thinking there are a lot of similar historical examples.

Get scared by the threat of a minor problem, react to create a single failure point for a much greater disaster.

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