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.