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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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 21 Nov 2016 @ 6:56am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Seegras (profile), 21 Nov 2016 @ 8:44am

      Re: According to which dictionary?

      > I'm accountable for my actions.

      Yes, but idiot Senator John McCain obviously isn't, so the issue is rather moot.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Thad, 21 Nov 2016 @ 2:59pm

        Re: Re: According to which dictionary?

        Especially since he indicated in his acceptance speech two weeks ago that he's planning to retire at the end of his upcoming term.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 21 Nov 2016 @ 8:29am

    New sherriff, less pointless protocol!

    Hey, he just stopped into The Tower for a friendly social call, like the Japanese Prime Minister did, so he could chat about the affairs of state with Ivanka and Jared. And like the president-elect wishes Theresa May would do, if she happens to be in the neighborhood.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 21 Nov 2016 @ 8:41am

    How Reaganesque.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 21 Nov 2016 @ 8:51am

    Counting Accountability

    When one likes to have their ass kissed, and there is a competent ass kisser available (regardless of other attributes), protection of kissor by the kissee is inevitable. Accountability seems like it is relevant to how much tongue is engaged in the kiss.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 21 Nov 2016 @ 9:03am

    Nothing to fear.

    It seems the NSA decided to abide by its own motto and are being an open book.

    In another news Mr Putin caught browsing Tim's self-nude calendar collection obtained from the NSA surveillance haystacks while whispering "fascinating".

    Ahem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2016 @ 9:23am

    Accountability

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

    But not for his inactions, apparently. Perhaps if he'd taken a few more actions to shore up internal controls, the NSA wouldn't be back in the news again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2016 @ 10:01am

      Re: Accountability

      The problem inside the NSA is not so much lack of internal controls, but rather an expansion of activity to a level where its employees feel uncomfortable with what they are doing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2016 @ 9:33am

    if i were only a different species or visitor from a different planet i would look at this with the detached amusement we feel when we leave a mirror for an untamed hominid to discover. alas, i have a somewhat different response.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Oninoshiko (profile), 21 Nov 2016 @ 10:00am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2016 @ 10:19am

    Trump..blah...blah...blah..Trump...blah...Trump

    Trump..blah...blah...blah..Trump...blah...Trump...Trump..blah...blah...blah..Trump...blah...Trump... Trump..blah...blah...blah..Trump...blah...Trump...Trump..blah...blah...blah..Trump...blah...Trump... Trump..blah...blah...blah..Trump...blah...Trump...Trump..blah...blah...blah..Trump...blah...Trump... Trump..blah...blah...blah..Trump...blah...Trump...Trump..blah...blah...blah..Trump...blah...Trump... Trump..blah...blah...blah..Trump...blah...Trump...

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 21 Nov 2016 @ 3:02pm

      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?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 21 Nov 2016 @ 10:27am

    Does anyone else hear the Benny Hill theme while reading some of this?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 24 Nov 2016 @ 2:28am

      Re:

      I'm already hearing Disney's "When I see an elephant fly" over liberal progressives Red Scaring each other over the possibility of the Russians having hacked electronic voting machines. It really is extraordinary. Sometimes I wonder if I've entered the Twilight Zone. That's it, that's the explanation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    SpaceLifeForm, 21 Nov 2016 @ 10:49am

    Safeguards

    Why bother when you think
    you can just collect it all!

    (late even if someone sees the needle)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2016 @ 11:42am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2016 @ 11:49am

      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.

      http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2015/jan/25/cokie-roberts/have-democrats-lost-9 00-seats-state-legislatures-o/

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Thad, 21 Nov 2016 @ 3:04pm

        Re: Re:

        He has created a race war, gender war and class war.

        Right, because America had no problems with any of those things prior to 2009.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2016 @ 8:02am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 21 Nov 2016 @ 3:11pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2016 @ 1:20pm

    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.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2016 @ 1:29pm

    John Podesta just became available

    Perhaps Podesta is the best person to lead the NSA?

    Wikileaks seems to show that he was the (only) adult in the room.

    (The Silicon Valley way: hire someone who just screwed up, because he learned on someone else's nickel.)

    -- J.P.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Median Wilfred, 21 Nov 2016 @ 2:44pm

    Shadowbrokers == leaker #3???

    So, Harold Martin should have been on "Hoarders", this unnamed alleged criminal didn't leak to other nations. By my count, that makes Shadowbrokers SOMEONE ELSE, leaker #3 in our recent crop of leakers (I know that Schneier counts at moust 6 leakers back in 2013/14).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2016 @ 3:46pm

    Terrorists,

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

    excessive?

    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)

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/21/fbi-admits-patriot-act-snooping-powers-didn t-crack/

    https://theintercept.com/2015/11/17/u-s-mass-surveillance-has-no-record-of-thwarting-large- terror-attacks-regardless-of-snowden-leaks/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    stine, 21 Nov 2016 @ 7:44pm

    Maybe it'll all implode

    We can only hope.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    BC.Mandingo (profile), 23 Nov 2016 @ 9:26am

    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"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    osama, 25 Nov 2016 @ 3:30am

    ‎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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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