NSA Leaked More Hacking Tools, Leading To Calls To Fire Its Director… Who Ran To Trump For Support

from the wait,-what? dept

Since Admiral Michael Rogers took over for previous NSA boss, General Keith Alexander, a couple of years ago, he’s mostly stayed out of the public eye. While Alexander became the face of excessive NSA surveillance exposed by Ed Snowden, Rogers seemed to want to present himself as the face of a cleaned up NSA. On Friday, it was even reported that Rogers was the “top candidate” to take over as Director of National Intelligence from retiring James Clapper. That is, he was in line for a big promotion (though, oddly, another report released at the same time noted that Trump was considering getting rid of the role of “Director of National Intelligence” and moving back to a pre-9/11 setup where the various intelligence agencies have no one coordinating their actions.

But, over the weekend, a bizarre story broke in the Washington Post, detailing how both Clapper and Defense Department boss Ash Carter had been strongly recommending that President Obama fire Rogers for a variety of problematic actions. The most shocking — though buried in the article — is that the NSA has had multiple breaches revealing its most powerful hacking tools. We already know about the whole Shadow Brokers thing, revealing some powerful hacking tools, and that an NSA contractor named Harold Martin was arrested a few months ago for apparently hoarding all sorts of classified info. As we noted at the time, the fact that Martin was doing so years after Snowden, raised serious questions about how well the NSA could really keep its secrets.

And the Washington Post revealed that it’s even worse:

But there was a second, previously undisclosed breach of cybertools, discovered in the summer of 2015, which was also carried out by a TAO employee, one official said. That individual also has been arrested, but his case has not been made public. The individual is not believed to have shared the material with another country, the official said.

Rogers was put on notice by his two bosses ? Clapper and Carter ? that he had to get control of internal security and improve his leadership style. There have been persistent complaints from NSA personnel that Rogers is aloof, frequently absent and does not listen to staff input. The NSA is an intelligence agency but part of the Defense Department, hence the two overseers.

FBI agents investigating the Martin breach were appalled at how lax security was at the TAO, officials said. ?[Rogers] is a guy who has been at the helm of the NSA at the time of some of the most egregious security breaches, most recently Hal Martin,? a senior administration official said. ?Clearly it?s a sprawling bureaucracy .?.?. but I think there?s a compelling case that can be made that some of the safeguards that should have been put in place were either not fully put in place or not implemented properly.?

The WaPo story also notes that there may be some turf battle issues going on here as well. We’ve long highlighted the serious problems of the NSA also running the US Cyber Command, noting that this creates a tremendous conflict of interest, since it makes the NSA more willing to not reveal vulnerabilities it discovers, since they may be more useful offensively as well. Apparently many in the administration agree, and the plan was to split the NSA and US Cyber Command, and get rid of Rogers at the same time. But, Senator John McCain apparently freaked out and insisted that the NSA and Cyber Command had to remain stuck together, or he would block any new nominees to head the NSA. At the same time, the reason Carter is upset with Rogers is that he feels he’s done a poor job in mounting cyberattacks against ISIS (for what it’s worth, in his own weird way, this was also a point that Trump would make during the campaign when asked about cybersecurity — meaning that it’s a bit odd he’d now consider promoting the guy who was responsible for what he’d been making fun of during the campaign…).

There’s another oddity in the story: Rogers meeting with Trump was done without telling his superiors — a massive breach of protocol for a military official:

In a move apparently unprecedented for a military officer, Rogers, without notifying superiors, traveled to New York to meet with Trump on Thursday at Trump Tower. That caused consternation at senior levels of the administration, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal personnel matters

This made some wonder if Rogers did this as a last gasp effort to save his job. For what it’s worth, when asked about the story, Rogers said he’s “accountable” for his actions:

“I’m not going to go down that road,” Rogers said, interrupting a journalist who asked about The Washington Post story during a forum where the admiral was speaking.

He added, “I’m accountable for my actions.”

No matter what, at the very least, we’re left (once again!) wondering what the hell is going on with the NSA. This is yet another example of how the organization is a mess that can’t seem to keep track of its most powerful secrets and hacking tools. And they want us to “trust” them not to abuse those tools? They can’t even keep track of them. And, the guy who’s been in charge for the last two and a half years may now be getting a promotion (with a brief “being fired” thrown in between).

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Comments on “NSA Leaked More Hacking Tools, Leading To Calls To Fire Its Director… Who Ran To Trump For Support”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

According to which dictionary?

"I’m not going to go down that road," Rogers said, interrupting a journalist who asked about The Washington Post story during a forum where the admiral was speaking.

He added, "I’m accountable for my actions."

Yeah, given how the government seems to treat it’s own, I can’t help but think that that’s not quite accurate. His idea of ‘accountable’ and pretty much anyone else’s are likely to be vastly different.

Oninoshiko (profile) says:

That conflict of interest is actually codified in the NSA charter. The NSA has two mandates, the first is to capture and analyze signals intelligence, but the second is to ensure the security of US transmissions. This has always created a conflict where the NSA would make recommendations about encryption algorithms, and noone would really know which mandate they were working from.

Anonymous Coward says:



This about sums up the media coverage for the last 9 months and apparently the next 4 years. You guys wonder how he won when all you do is talk about him. I bet he didn’t spend $1 million dollars on his campaign. All he had to do was say something and the press would spend a week talking about it. Probably the most effective campaign in history.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Trump..blah...blah...blah..Trump...blah...Trump

That’s a fair criticism, but…you get that he’s the president-elect now, right?

Techdirt covers stories about US security agencies. This is a story about a state security agency. It involves Donald Trump. The reason that it involves Donald Trump is that he’s going to be the President of the United States in two months.

Is it your assertion that Techdirt should not cover any stories that involve the President of the United States?

Anonymous Coward says:

This is evidence of the only promise Obama’s been willing to keep (the rest being lies, of course). He said by the time he left office, the USA would be a “fundamentally different” country than it was when he took office. Which is true. He’s managed to single-handedly dismantle it from within. It’s much much easier to take control of a country from outside when you have someone on the inside systematically weakening it as he has done for the past eight years.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Exactly this! Lincoln was the Great Emancipator and he could have been the Great Uniter, but instead he has been the Great Divider. He has created a race war, gender war and class war. All the while blaming the right for those things. The country is finally wising up to this and made their voices heard at the polls. If the left doesn’t come prepared to talk policy rather than name call, they will keep losing and wondering why. You can see it is still going on here in the comments of this blog.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

There were problems but nothing of the magnitude we have today. Not once did you hear Obama try to unite the races like MLK or the other great civil rights leaders did. In fact, the statements he did make were inflammatory. For example, he said if he had a son he would look like Treyvon Martin. Unfortunately for the left’s narrative, George Zimmerman was not white. He also visited and spoke about the blacks that actually had a gun when they were shot by cops or attempted to take a cops gun i.e the whole “hands up, don’t shoot” lie.

Obama will go down as a failed president. He squandered a lot of opportunity and his legacy will be dismantled by Trump. Well, one legacy which will be the hardest to fix is the nearly $20 trillion in national debt.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re:

You know that the surveillance dragnet didn’t start under Obama, yes? He expanded it, sure, but it’s a little silly to suggest that it sprang fully-formed from his mind and that we didn’t have any warrantless surveillance going on under Bush (who inherited most of his cabinet from Nixon, who employed many of the same tactics as Johnson, and so on down the line).

This is bigger than a single President or a single party.

Anonymous Coward says:

Does Harold Martin really belong in this basket?

Is it really fair to lay the Martin affair at Rogers’ doorstep?

Poor Harold Martin was apprehended while under Rogers’ command. The no-noes of which Martin stands accused began twenty years ago.

Insofar as Rogers is to blame for that, so are the last twenty years worth of NSA Directors.

Insofar as anything bad resulted from Martin’s actions (citation needed), at least under Rogers he was found out.

(And, BTW, regarding Martin’s alleged no-noes: I read articles that breathlessly describe how he stored documents in locations as exotic as a backyard shed, his car, etc, as though that were an obviously bad thing. Such places sound significantly more secure to me than most network-connected computers.)

Anonymous Coward says:


While Alexander became the face of excessive NSA surveillance exposed by Ed Snowden


How about illegal/unconstitutional.

The use of the word excessive sounds as if the US government was caught coloring outside the lines not criminally circumventing the Constitution for purely expedient national security state motives.

Just how many terrorist plots have been uncovered by the US governments boondoggle of a total surveillance state? Zero, zip, zing, nada. (click links for sources)



BC.Mandingo (profile) says:

NSA Worldwide Franchise Opportunities

"NSA Worldwide Franchise Opportunities"
Snowden is a Ruse!
A series of cover story stratagems offered up by the Obama Administration, Bringing NSA Clandestine Operations into the light of day, Making intelligence collection and dissertation palatable to the public taste in small amounts over a lengthy period of time. "Truth is Stranger than Fiction"

osama (user link) says:

‎خطير طريقة تلغيم وحقن صورة للاختراق و كيف تصبح هكر محترف ببساطة و الشرح كامل
اقدم لكم اعزائى المشاهدين افضل قناة تقنية فى مصر عالم مدهش لكل جديد فى عالم التكنولوجيا
تابع الموضوع الرسمي للفديو https://goo.gl/xOX1Yy

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