NSA Leaked More Hacking Tools, Leading To Calls To Fire Its Director... Who Ran To Trump For Support
from the wait,-what? dept
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.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...).
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.”
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 mattersThis 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.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).
He added, "I'm accountable for my actions."