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NSA Ill-Suited For Domestic Cybersecurity Role

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the not-enough-l33t-to-english-translators dept.

Privacy 72

Hugh Pickens writes "Former CIA counterterrorism analyst Stephen Lee has an interesting article in the Examiner asserting that the National Security Agency is 'a secretive, hidebound culture incapable of keeping up with innovation,' with a history of disregard for privacy and civil liberties. Lee says that for most of its sixty-year history, the NSA has been geared to cracking telecom and crypto gear produced by Soviet and Chinese design bureaus, but at the end of the cold war became 'stymied by new-generation Western-engineered telephone networks and mobile technologies that were then spreading like wildfire in the developing world and former Soviet satellite countries.' When the NSA finally recognized that it needed to get better at innovation, it launched several mega-projects, tagged like 'Trailblazer' and 'Groundbreaker,' that have been spectacular failures, costing US taxpayers billions. More recently, the NY Times reported that the NSA has been breaking rules set by the Obama administration to peer even more aggressively into American citizens' phone traffic and email inboxes. Whistleblower reports portray NSA domestic eavesdropping programs as unprofessional and poorly supervised, with intercept technicians ridiculing and mishandling recordings of citizens' private 'pillow talk' conversations. Lee concludes that 'if the Federal government must play a role, then Congress and President Obama should turn to another agency without a record of creating mistrust — perhaps even a new entity. Meanwhile, NSA should focus on listening in on America's enemies, instead of being an enemy of Americans and their enterprises.'"

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NSA 3 , Now it's personal (2, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#28313419)

i l l Ill capitalization makes roman numerals!

Re:NSA 3 , Now it's personal (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#28313989)

You're telling me.

I read that headline, and my first question was:
WTF? NSA III? What happened to NSA I and II? As a matter of fact, I never even heard about NSA II -- that must be some super-secret black ops org.

And then my second questions was:
WTF? Why is NSA II wearing a suit? Is it even possible for a TLA to wear a suit? Or does "suited" mean someone brought a lawsuit against them, in which case the corollary query is "Who would sue to grant *additional* powers to a TLA?

And then my third question was:
Why am I using such a stupid default font that capital I looks like lowercase l? But then I realized that it's slashdot that specifies the headline font on the main page, and it's not really my fault at all, and can someone please call the Waaahmbulance?

Which leads me to my fourth question, which is:
Why am I responding to a piss-poor FP attempt? And what does that say about the quality of my life on a Friday afternoon?

Re:NSA 3 , Now it's personal (1)

Migity (1199059) | more than 5 years ago | (#28319879)

Everybody with the need to know knows that we're on NSA IV!

Re:NSA 3 , Now it's personal (1)

atomic-penguin (100835) | more than 5 years ago | (#28316023)

It is not the NSA 3. It is NSA 3-suited, geesh read the title carefully, already.

Seriously though, do those with mod points not have anything better to do than mod this offtopic? Ill-suited clearly looks like III-suited in the title, and I think it probably has something to do with fonts in stylesheets, and not my default browser font.

Good Luck with That (5, Funny)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28313453)

> Congress and President Obama should turn to another agency without a record of creating mistrust

I'm afraid we have No Such Agency.

Re:Good Luck with That (5, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#28313703)

Yea, even if they did create a new agency, the simple reality is that most of the staff would be drawn from the NSA anyway. If you're going to reform the NSA, just do it, don't just add another player with roughly the same mission to make the turf battles even worse.

Re:Good Luck with That (2, Interesting)

Narpak (961733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314019)

I always thought the Americans loved bureaucracy and redundancy. Police, FBI, US Marshall's, NSA, Homeland Security, CIA (and probably others that haven't yet been depicted in a major motion picture); I am sure their money is well spent funding all these agencies; especially those with overlapping jurisdictions.

Re:Good Luck with That (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314209)

The mandates of the organizations you list are different enough that any redundancy created by separating them is more than worth it (The NSA might not respect the fact that they have little authority to operate against people inside the U.S., but the situation would not be better if they were part of some national policing body).

Two sides... (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314589)

There are two sides to every coin.

While I too understand the inefficiencies of redundant agencies/Depts., I had to ask myself one question.

Would I prefer all that power lay in the hands of ONE omnipotent agency?

The answer was an easy one. No.

Re:Two sides... (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#28315251)

Re:Two sides... (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28315875)

I don't think I would want to carry a pocket full of those. Might hurt something important.

Re:Good Luck with That (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#28315077)

Police are local law enforcement, like the local constables in the U.K.. The FBI is the national 'detective bureau' (think "Scotland Yard"), the The U.S. Marshals are like the police, but on the national level. The Secret Service's primary job is to protect the president, vice president, and their families, and to investigate counterfeiting. The NSA consists of a bunch of computer jocks and crypto nerds breaking codes and whatnot -- they do signal intelligence. The CIA is focused international intelligence. The Department of Homeland Security's primary mission is anti-terrorism on U.S. soil -- preventing attacks as opposed to investigating attacks.

Beats having one all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful organization (think "KGB").

Re:Good Luck with That (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28336359)

You knowledge of some of these agencies is quite light. Read up on the US Marshal Service and DHS. And there are all kinds of police, not just local.

Re:Good Luck with That (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 5 years ago | (#28316405)

It goes something like this: Police officer - sheriff - state trooper and then it gets split up to the US Marshalls, FBI, CIA, NSA, DHS, ATF, DEA, RIAA, MPAA, Interpol, BCBP, USCIS all whom apparently can arrest you for various reasons.

Re:Good Luck with That (2, Informative)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#28317085)

Yes...But no.

The cops are the cops. Regular local law enforcement. Their jurisdiction is their local county/city.

Then you have the state investigators. Basically the *BI. Like the FBI, but on the state level. They only deal with major crime, but only on a state level.

Then you get the FBI. Major crime, federal level.

CIA only deal with you dirty foreigners.

NSA doesn't exist. Duh.

The Marshall's deal with escaped prisoners.

Homeland security is a republican pork project. There are cities in kansas that got more "terror" money than major cities that might actually get attacked. Don't confuse them with an actual agency.

ATF and DEA and such are basically the enforcement arm of regulatory agencies. They have very narrow interests.

Most of these organizations are very hierarchical. Police, State investigators, Federal investigators. Police, DEA. Police, ATF. Police, State Investigators. I once did a big seminar on whether or not it'd make sense to fold (for example) the ATF into the FBI, and when it comes down to it, it just doesn't make sense. They don't do the same stuff.

That's about it.

Re:Good Luck with That (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28317991)

So, where does CSI come in?

Re:Good Luck with That (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28317905)

did the americans create the cia or homeland security, etc? or did the then president create it? could the americans impeach a president for starting an organization they didn't approve of? ...if it were arguably to an unconstitutional ends? i know they didn't impeach reagan for his rogue arms company "the enterprise". i remember it came to trial but only went as far as forcing oliver north to say he wasn't sure how many millions of dollars he had in an off shore bank account.

  i would argue these things exist for whatever their immediate political ends might have been and have nothing to do with the love americans have for bureaucracy. ...it's like saying that the people of any nation that pay taxes do it because they LOVE paying taxes.

Wow (1)

jimbobborg (128330) | more than 5 years ago | (#28313493)

Sure, let's go ahead and create ANOTHER agency. People like Lee need to realize money doesn't grow on trees. Who else can we get to do this? The whole point is to find the next group that will try to pull something here in the US. DHS, BATFE, and FBI, all have the capability, although DHS would probably the best pick of the bunch.

Re:Wow (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314697)

People like Lee need to realize money doesn't grow on trees.

The government issues "paper" money because paper is product that comes from a tree. So for some reason there is logic in thinking that money grows on trees, although its really bad.

But Dan Brown said (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28313531)

they were at the forefront of technology!

It must be true!

why NSA shouldn't be used for defense (5, Interesting)

SethJohnson (112166) | more than 5 years ago | (#28313565)

The problem with the NSA is that it is part of the intelligence structure. If you insert them as a defensive player, more often than not, they will take absolutely NO action in order to protect their spying capabilities.

At present, nobody knows exactly what the reach is of the NSA. Nobody knows what they can and can't hear. If you task them with defending assets, each probe or attack reveals new information about what the NSA has at their disposal, depending on what the response is. I really don't think the NSA is willing to compromise the secrecy of its capabilities in order to thwart hackers.

Seth

Re:why NSA shouldn't be used for defense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28314311)

NSA has been doing defense for years through their Informations Assurance Directorate.

Re:why NSA shouldn't be used for defense (2, Insightful)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 5 years ago | (#28315365)

Maybe they have been involved in defence but they've managed to as I've said before; they've managed to completely mess it up. [slashdot.org] I'll quote the illiterate AC who replied to me:

Why would an agency dedicated to SPYING on other countries want the PUBLIC to use technologies such as IPSEC? They obviously understand the importance of computing security for our countries' future more than you will ever be able to comprehend.

To answer the ACs first point, because they are also responsible for defense through their Informations Assurance Directorate; If the internet becomes part of the critical infrastructure of the USA (which it probably already has) then defences like IPSEC have to be widespread standards.

The second point from AC mirrors yours. If the NSA has been doing so much for defence; if they understand it so well; where do the botnets come from?

Re:why NSA shouldn't be used for defense (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 5 years ago | (#28315497)

The problem with the NSA is that it is part of the intelligence structure. If you insert them as a defensive player, more often than not, they will take absolutely NO action in order to protect their spying capabilities.

I'm not so sure that they would take no action. They certainly have taken actions in the past. And even if you assume that the help they offered didn't affect their best procedures, it still has an effect on the landscape in which they operate. Having said that - you missed an even more fundamental issue. They are a part of the intelligence structure and as such will treat any problem as an intelligence issue. Some of that probably isn't a bad thing; security procedures, vulnerability assessments and mitigation, etc. But a big part of that is also simply surveillance and spying. Those are aspects that are less necessary to handle the issues involved. But they will want to do these things because that's the culture they're in. They have their hammer and everything presented to them will be a nail.

Re:why NSA shouldn't be used for defense (1)

danielobvt (230251) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334945)

This really deserves even more mod points than the rest. A _VERY_ good analysis. The eternal fight of CND people, getting actionable intelligence (we want to fix it yesterday, they want to see what the BG are doing and also don't want to give away how they knew to listen in the first place).

What's this guy smoking? (4, Insightful)

mpapet (761907) | more than 5 years ago | (#28313635)

I doubt the authors claims regarding the state of the NSA. It's fun to take a poke at big agencies like the NSA because they fit into that 'big bad government' mythology that is so prevalent today. He's presuming the NSA is somehow more effective than any other large organization. (public OR private)

What I doubt is the possibility that a new agency would, in fact, respect the personal freedoms as spelled out in the constitution and probably codified with laws and court precedence. The steady corrosion of discipline and 8 years of Executive Office supremacy has worn away the last of the ideals spelled out in the Constitution.

The last new agency I can recall is the Homeland Security Agency. They were gifted all kinds of previously independent agencies. The benefits are equally unclear on all sides of that monolith.

Re:What's this guy smoking? (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314073)

The last new agency I can recall is the Committee for State Security. They were gifted all kinds of previously independent agencies. The benefits are equally unclear on all sides of that monolith.

FTFY

Re:What's this guy smoking? (1)

revoldub (1425465) | more than 5 years ago | (#28319475)

Homeland Security is a department, above an agency IIRC

Like who? (4, Insightful)

Panaflex (13191) | more than 5 years ago | (#28313713)

if the Federal government must play a role, then Congress and President Obama should turn to another agency without a record of creating mistrust

Like, the FBI? Or perhaps the NRO? The CIA is just down the road. Maybe NASA could do it. Really - the facts are these - NSA already has the equipment, connections and brain power. You'll have a very difficult time replicating, much less staffing any enterprise like the NSA.

Legally, they really are disqualified from performing the role of domestic spying. After all, they're administered by DOD, they've skirted American law by utilizing foreign bases for gathering, and are well known for bending the arms of domestic telecom companies.

But they are a working tool - and they get the job done. It's difficult to argue against something that, so far, seems to work.

Re:Like who? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28313821)

Having worked there (NW & NTOC) I will happily report that the subby is a retard.

Re:Like who? (3, Insightful)

flattop100 (624647) | more than 5 years ago | (#28313929)

"But they are a working tool - and they get the job done. It's difficult to argue against something that, so far, seems to work." What is it, exactly, that they get done? And how do you know it works? You're turning a blind eye to a government agency with a huge amount of power that is performing illegal surveillance. I'm not nearly as trusting as you are...

Re:Like who? (3, Informative)

daten (575013) | more than 5 years ago | (#28313937)

The NSA also has an already existing and mature Information Assurance [nsa.gov] mission with experts publishing freely available cyber security guidance [nsa.gov] , configuration guides [nsa.gov] and software [nsa.gov] .

In my opinion the NSA already has the expertise and experience required. Not everyone working there is assigned to domestic espionage.

Re:Like who? (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314031)

Maybe NASA could do it.

It even has all of the right letters already. Should be a cinch to make that transition!

Re:Like who? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28314113)

But they are a working tool - and they get the job done. It's difficult to argue against something that, so far, seems to work

Give me access to everything they have and I could probably get you the same results as well. It's about staying within the law, not needing to go beyond it to get the work done.

Re:Like who? (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314115)

It's difficult to argue against something that, so far, seems to work.

Is that a challenge?

The NSA has overstepped its bounds far too often (with or without the complicity of the AG's office or the Executive's office) that there is no justification for them to be assigned more capabilities. "Cyberdefense" or whatever you want to call it is two small letters away from "cyberoffense". And given the track record, it'd be only a matter of time before those capabilities were used against American citizens without proper oversight.

Just because a tool works doesn't mean it should be used. For example, my chainsaw has proven very capable of cutting down trees. I'm sure it would be just as capable of preventing people from trespassing, if I just used those very effective parts to cut people's legs off.

See, it's relatively easy to argue against, especially with ridiculous metaphors. But it's important to note that the NSA operates under so much secrecy that lack of proper oversight is a recurring problem. I do not think that the existing agency should be handed such a mandate without extensive reorganization to reduce secrecy and increase judicial and legislative oversight. And if that is the case, why not assign a different agency to the matter? If there are resources in the NSA (individuals or even departments) that are truly so effective, transfer them to the other agency.

Re:Like who? (2, Interesting)

Panaflex (13191) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314569)

There's a reason they operate in total secrecy - the information the NSA gathers is largely useless for domestic security purposes. But for commercial, political and legal purposes that information could be a deadly weapon.

They're administered by the DOD. Unlike civilian operations, such as the FBI, NSA personnel very face real consequences for leaking information to the public. I don't know of any agency that has maintained such a degree of secrecy.

How would you propose we protect such information, when operating under a civilian agency? How would you prevent such an agency and its personnel from being swayed under political influence, bribery and corruption, while operating in an open environment?

I'm totally open to any credible suggestions - I just don't know how you can dig through trillions of personal & commercial messages, keep it all safe, and fund it without building a duplicate of the current NSA.

Shrink 'em (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28313751)

Here's an idea: if the NSA has gotten to the point that even the White House or Congress can't control them, cut off their funding altogether and wish their employees good luck finding jobs. Create a new, much smaller NSA that has the authority to do one thing and only one thing: handle security for other government agencies, such as setting minimum standards for TOP SECRET transmission.

Re:Shrink 'em (1)

tibman (623933) | more than 5 years ago | (#28316399)

Don't back a dog into a corner.. especially one with everyone's dirty secrets and vulnerabilities logged and stored away. If the NSA had to be dismantled, it would have to be slowly and in a very controlled way. No server or data device can escape or terrible things would happen.

That being said, I don't think they should be dismantled.

Re:Shrink 'em (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28319895)

or, more likely, the author is full of shit. The NSA is the only government agency I've found that takes american liberties very seriously. Everyone I've talked to in the agency has taken their charter very seriously.

So, fuck you, asshat

Message right and wrong. (2, Insightful)

gubers33 (1302099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28313839)

Perhaps he is a little misguided in saying that we need to put the job in another agency's hands, but his reason for thinking so is not. I mean what we really need to do is take some power out of the NSA's hands. This is more of the mess left by the Bush Administration. They gave them so much power because of after 9/11 and the war on terrorism. It was a big problem immediately following 9/11 because we all wanted security so much we didn't realize how much we were losing. Obama is partially to blame for this when we voted to let the telcom companies off the hook last year. Perhaps it is time to give the Patriot Act the ax or rename it the Unconstitutional Act.

Re:Message right and wrong. (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314391)

What power do they have that is "too much" and what power should be removed?

Please be as specific -- I'd like to reply, but would rather not speak in useless generalities.

Re:Message right and wrong. (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314985)

Any and all domestic spying for one. Their mandate as part of the DOD means something very real. If they operate domestically they are breaking the law. Of course the people responsible for oversight, our representatives, have not been doing their jobs. Oversight has been a huge problem for at least the last 8 years, Clinton actually received a fair amount due to his rabid opponents but this is actually a good thing even if it was idiots that were trying to crucify him over stupid issues. Of course it's been a problem going much further back than that even. One need only look at the mess we've created in the middle-east arming people then complaining when they turn our arms against us after we backed out of a deal we had no interest in keeping anymore.

Re:Message right and wrong. (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 5 years ago | (#28323607)

Ok "domestic spying" is pretty broad and non-specific.

I'm guessing you're talking about warrantless wiretaps? Or are you talking about all NSA FISA intercepts? Does that include any communication as long as one "end" of the conversation is by a US citizen in the US? For instance, a call from a US citizen in the United States to a known terrorist facilitator in Pakistan. Is that domestic spying or is it international? If it's domestic, does the FBI then have jurisdiction?

It's really impossible to discuss these issues without raising specific concerns. Jumping haphazardly from Clinton's rabid opponents to the mess in the middle east to illegality of spying etc just obfuscates the issues...

Re:Message right and wrong. (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 5 years ago | (#28325327)

The core issue was government entities going outside of their mandates and how it never leads anywhere good.

The whole question of jurisdiction just shows that clear lines need to be drawn. Any domestic activity at all on the part of the NSA is outside of their mandate and the FBI is ill-equipped to handle the situation. Do you fix the FBI? Or do you change the mandate of the NSA? Fixing the FBI will cost a lot more but safeguards the principles on which their agency was founded.

I don't imagine the CIA or the NSA will be fixed anytime soon though. Both need to be clearly defined to the American public. The "No Such Agency" concept should not, and needs not apply to the American people. Operational secrecy is fine but the people need to be aware of who does what to protect them even if there aren't that many specifics.

I don't know why our representatives don't see fit to do their jobs and provide oversight to these agencies, something is fundamentally broken when the NSA is allowed to break the law en masse.

Re:Message right and wrong. (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 5 years ago | (#28326987)

Yours points are much more fair in this post and I don't find myself disagreeing as much...however, I still think a decent hypothetical is--an American citizen places a call to a known terrorist in Pakistan. The American citizen is calling from US soil, and let's say has no previous record of contacting terrorists. Should the call be intercepted? Who should do it?

The core issue was government entities going outside of their mandates and how it never leads anywhere good.

Hah, well that's pretty much the story of the last 100 years! Are you as worried about government healthcare etc?

The whole question of jurisdiction just shows that clear lines need to be drawn. Any domestic activity at all on the part of the NSA is outside of their mandate and the FBI is ill-equipped to handle the situation. Do you fix the FBI? Or do you change the mandate of the NSA? Fixing the FBI will cost a lot more but safeguards the principles on which their agency was founded.

If it's me, I have absolutely no qualms about the wiretapping that the NSA has done (at least, that we know about). I'd rather have NSA and CIA focusing on transnational terror issues, even if it means tapping a call half of which is in the US, etc. Maybe there are better safeguards needed...I'm on the fence about that.

Operational secrecy is fine but the people need to be aware of who does what to protect them even if there aren't that many specifics.

My problem with that is that the two are often linked. It's a very fine line to walk, with many people arguing that spying organization are antithetical to the ideals of the US. I don't agree with that, and I also think we would be better served by spy agencies that didn't leak like sieves.

We want a competent domestic spying agency? (4, Insightful)

whiledo (1515553) | more than 5 years ago | (#28313907)

All this beating up on the NSA is fun and stuff, but are we really complaining that we don't have a competent domestic spying agency? We've already proven as a society to be incapable of electing a majority of leaders that respect privacy and are willing to give up a little temporary safety for essential liberty. So would it actually make us happy to have a bunch of g-men who are intelligent when it comes to new technology and could really fully exploit all the powers of databases and networks and algorithms to spy on us in an incredibly thorough manner?

Re:We want a competent domestic spying agency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28315181)

The former director of the NSA helped startup Google, which is the public for profit arm of the NSA.

Re:We want a competent domestic spying agency? (2, Interesting)

Deanalator (806515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28315227)

That's not the complaint at all. If we had an agency actually geared for domestic cyber security, in theory, they would be able to crack down on NSA agents that have far over-reached their duties. I think it would be nice to have an agency more modeled after the FDA etc, auditing corporate networks the way FDA audits new food/drug products that are coming on to the market. If a company fails an audit, they receive a large fine, and just like the FDA does with research labs, companies need to be ready to be audited at any time. Any company with a business license and an Internet presence should be required to adhere at least to a minimum set of best practices.

Re:We want a competent domestic spying agency? (1)

whiledo (1515553) | more than 5 years ago | (#28316783)

You had me, right up until the FDA part. They haven't exactly been a model of competence. [wikipedia.org]

Impossible (1)

Phrogman (80473) | more than 5 years ago | (#28313947)

If you create an agency whose express purpose is monitor for suspect conversations, its only natural that they are going to try to ensure they monitor as much traffic as possible. In the case of the NSA, I am sure they can just tell a phone provider like AT&T we are going to filter your traffic, don't tell anyone or you go to jail. They have absolute undefined power as long as they are not monitored.

Qui Custodes Ipsos Custodes?

Re:Impossible (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314371)

Actually, that's NOT their express purpose. Foreign Intelligence is not the same as domestic intelligence gathering. Look what a big deal the agency went through the last 10 years under Hayden with the limited domestic tapping they were only recently allowed to do. Lastly, who says they're not monitored?

Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur.

p.s. if you're going to try to use a latin phrase to make yourself sound more authoritative or something, you might want to get the spelling right..

Whoah NSA-III??? (1)

CODiNE (27417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28313965)

And here I haven't even heard of NSA-II yet and already we're on the third one?? I've seriously got to keep up on the news! But apparently they're "Suited for Domestic Cybersecurity Role" so maybe I should relax a little.

What's this? (1)

SupremoMan (912191) | more than 5 years ago | (#28313977)

Government ill-suited for big brother surveillance of populous? Sounds good to me!

Re:What's this? (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314669)

FYI: populous is an adjective. Populace is the noun you were looking for.

Some plain facts (1)

grandpa-geek (981017) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314247)

The first is that unbreakable encryption was invented in 1917, and if it is applied with discipline can be kept unbreakable. It is called the "one-time pad." It was used in World War II for high level telephone conversations (e.g., Roosevelt to Churchill) that could not be broken today if you could have a recording of the encrypted transmissions. It has its limitations, but isn't difficult to implement, especially with modern technology.

The second is that NSA produced Security-Enhanced Linux. SE-Linux demonstrates NSA's capability for innovation.

NSA may well be a hidebound bureaucracy. It is, after all, a government agency, with all the issues of a government agency.

However, the main problem is that technology is now far beyond the capability of the legal system to easily deal with it.

This guy's an idiot... (3, Insightful)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314329)

Long story short, this guy is an idiot. I could go on at great length, but I'll just leave at this. (If anyone does want to discuss specifics in greater detail...which I'm sure they won't...I'd be happy to reply)

First, a former CIA analyst from 10+ years ago doesn't know anything about the way NSA works. "CIA analysts" are the grunts of the intelligence community...more often than not they're the ones with english and political science degrees hired right out of college after having a grand time studying abroad in Prague or Barcelona. The author of this piece not only has CIA analyst on his resume but also Army...before making the jump to become a contractor (which could be anything from a security guard to copier technician). Anyway...

Additionally, what he thinks he knows is ludicrous, and I've just picked (IMHO) the most egregious example:

Whenever I met with my NSA counterparts, it was clear that they were stymied by new-generation Western-engineered telephone networks and mobile technologies that were then spreading like wildfire in the developing world and former Soviet satellite countries.

Total nonsense. The proliferation of cellphones/satellite phones/wifi etc around the world has been one of the best things to happen to the NSA in YEARS. To claim otherwise is nutty.

Re:This guy's an idiot... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28316655)

Total nonsense. The proliferation of cellphones/satellite phones/wifi etc around the world has been one of the best things to happen to the NSA in YEARS. To claim otherwise is nutty.

Nutty like a squirrel. Er, anyway, my point is that he smells strongly of Shill For Men(tm).

Perhaps ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314441)

From TFA:

the National Security Agency is 'a secretive, hidebound culture incapable of keeping up with innovation,'

... that's what they want us to believe.

Who's Watching the Watchers (1)

FathomIT (464334) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314593)

Not a Watchmen post.

NSA more innovative than the DoD (3, Informative)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314629)

the National Security Agency is 'a secretive, hidebound culture incapable of keeping up with innovation,

Yeah, right. That's why the NSA-proprietary software actually works and the rest of the DoD is "innovating" by wasting billions of dollars on contractor-developed software that doesn't work. Maybe he thinks innovation means cutting off USB ports like the Army has done?

Re:NSA more innovative than the DoD (2, Interesting)

Brian Stretch (5304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28315843)

the National Security Agency is 'a secretive, hidebound culture incapable of keeping up with innovation,

Yeah, right. That's why the NSA-proprietary software actually works and the rest of the DoD is "innovating" by wasting billions of dollars on contractor-developed software that doesn't work. Maybe he thinks innovation means cutting off USB ports like the Army has done?

And Lee just happens to work (or have worked) for such contractors. Gee, what a coincidink...

SELinux anyone? (4, Interesting)

Suzuran (163234) | more than 5 years ago | (#28314689)

I don't see the CIA contributing any code to us.

If the CIA wants the NSA to stay out of domestic security, I say they can prove it by putting their programmers where their mouth is. All I'm seeing from my point of view is the NSA doing a lot of contributing and the CIA doing a lot of bitching.

Cryptography is still the same science (1)

nofactor (1053982) | more than 5 years ago | (#28315849)

Cryptography is still the same science as it was some years ago, when nobody doubted about NSA's supremacy. Surely there's been a huge breakthrough in telephone networks and mobile technologies, but not in cryptographic techniques that protect them. So, do we have to believe that they couldn't keep up with "commercial innovation"?

Wicked words (1)

nofactor (1053982) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412967)

There is a word in my comment that got me thinking for a while. How can you express the condition of being clearly the best in a single word? I can think of three words: supremacy, domination and hegemony. They all sound rather unpleasant, after all who would dare achieve such a condition?!

For a European, the US military institutions are surprinsingly sincere about their intentions. The NSA clearly says in their vision statement that they seek "global cryptologic domination". (Conversely, most european military institutions only say that they want to pacify the world).

So after some thinking, i chose supremacy as the most neutral term. Just think of two examples:

* Most countries use "supreme" to refer to their highest court. It would really be suspicious for a country to have an "hegemonic" court or even worse a "dominating" court.

* There is a singing group called "The Supremes". However, I could hardly think of a group called "The Dominators" (unless it were an underground rock band) and I prefer to not even use the third word in respect to those great singers.

There's also a film called "The Bourne Supremacy", in which they try to convey the same idea of being clearly the best. Interestingly, in most european countries they used a diferent word in the translation: in Spain, "El mito Bourne".

After writing the comment, i checked that the NSA uses the word "domination" in their website. They also refer to "cryptology" instead of the more common word "cryptography", maybe to emphasise on the idea of crypto being a science rather that a way of representation.

Re:Wicked words (1)

nofactor (1053982) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413067)

Just a correction: it should say "dominance" instead of "domination".

Who needs innovation (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#28316331)

when you can just capture plans and software from your access to all US telecommunications?

the NSA had one rule. (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 5 years ago | (#28316807)

Don't spy on American citizens in America.

That was their one rule. Their only rule.

Now, they capture the majority of Internet traffic and store it for analysis.

That's Bush for you.

Re:the NSA had one rule. (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28319765)

Bush is not President right now.

Re:the NSA had one rule. (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 5 years ago | (#28320025)

how easy is it to re-bottle a fart?

It's the same concept with spy powers.

Pathetic excuse (0, Flamebait)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28320127)

It's the same concept with spy powers.

No its not. If President Obama cannot keep discipline within his NSA, then one should question his leadership. Bush had no problem trying to purge the CIA of liberals, and if Obama wanted to purge the NSA of those who would spy on American citizens, then, he would.

The real issue is that, now President Obama is in the hot seat, he is being barraged daily by a bunch of threat reports, classified and unaccountable, that he finds himself, thanks to 9/11, incapable of entirely ignoring. On one hand, his instincts might tell them 99% are pure b.s., and, honestly an even higher percentage of them probably are, but, if one is actually not b.s., then he has a problem.

Thus, despite all of his feelings otherwise, all of his misgivings and suspicions, the lion's share of the security apparatus started by Roosevelt, that every administration has built on, will continue to grow.

RE: NSA DHS (TSA) and NSC are Living Dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28317427)

The premise of "security" for the Executive Office of the President, by using all agencies of the Department of Defense and the National Security Council and the newly appoined State Police of the Departmetn of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Agency is falicy.

The only good United States of America Citizen is a Dead United States of America Citizen because all citizens of the United States of America pose the greatest security risk to the Executive Office of the President, according to the Department of Homeland Security (Transportation Security Agency), National Security Council and the National Security Agency (DoD).

Therefore, the government of the United States of America at the direction of the Executive Office of President of the United States of Americam must at all cost, all measures, perpatrate "culling events" upon the people, citizens, of the United States of America in the same function as the events of "9/11" -- the day that the Executive Office of President layed waste on the citizens of the United States of America using homeless citizens of Egypt and Saudi Arabia as their pawns in a scheme to "cull" their greatest enemy, the citizens of the United States of America.

CIA vs NSA, part 90 million.... (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28319857)

One has to wonder how much this ex-CIA guy is just doing a hatchet job on a former interservice rival. Traditionally, CIA has been about black ops and human intelligence, and the NSA was about signals, but one wonders, just how much mission overlap is there. This, after all, a government that gives us an Army with ships and a Navy with tanks, and so on. I would be willing to bet that waving around civil liberties has just become another cynical tool that entrenched bureaucrats use to attack their rivals, and that, at the end of the day, no one in government actually cares about civil liberties with respect to their mission. The EPA, IRS, DOE, DEA, ATF will all spy on you and violate any right to privacy that you may perceive that you have because they would argue, and who knows, maybe even correctly, that they have to do it in order to do their job. What's really the difference, after all, between the CIA listening to your phone calls, the IRS plumbing your finances, the EPA sniffing your property and so on. They all spy on you.

It's just that, everyone has a different value system as to what sort of spying is allowed, and really, its just that, no one wants the gov't breathing down their backs on issues they are sensitive about. Conservatives don't like the EPA because they are trying to run their farms and their mines, the Liberals don't like wiretapping because the essence of their industry, be it media, arts or research, is communications, and no American likes the IRS because most people probably cheat on their taxes. Political parties exploit this to no end because they like to keep us divided so they can lock in their profits and screw us.

The only way we will really have a country that doesn't suck is in ourselves, and not in any political party. We need to have conservatives to not get bent out of shape about liberal antics in the media and liberals not get bent out of shape about conservative industries. Sometimes, we need to take the big plunge and actually start to trust each other. These culture wars serve no practical purpose other than to give tools in both political parties a paycheck.

I'm sure that liberals right now are hyped up about Obama thinking he might be their savior. You know what, we on the right were just as hyped up about Reagan and Bush Jr, and you know, we got pretty burned on the balanced budget we were promised. I'd be willing to bet that Obama won't live up to your expectations either.

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