NSA Benefits Outweigh Snowden Damage

August 28, 2014
By George I. Seffers
E-mail About the Author

U.S. relations with other nations remain largely unchanged, agency director says.


Revelations about the National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) monitoring practices created some fallout with the telecommunications industry and other nations, acknowledges Adm. Michael Rogers, USN, the agency’s new director, who also leads the U.S. Cyber Command. But the capabilities the agency provides eclipse the damage done.

“The majority of the relationships that we have around the world with nation states, with the corporate sector, remain as they were before this—the majority,” Adm. Rogers stresses. “That’s not to say it hasn’t had an impact, and no one should think otherwise. 

“Clearly we have some nations that have been very vocal, very visible in their frustration and their unhappiness, and we’re working through that. That’s much bigger than just an intelligence issue. There’s a lot of policy aspects to that, and so as a nation, we will work our way through that.”

He points out that his job requires a lot of traveling and talking to his counterparts in other nations, and he reminds them that “we both want to create partnerships that generate value for each of us.” He says that, if asked, nearly every one of our major partners likely would say that, “the value that NSA provides them in terms of the information that we share to help defend their citizens is almost irreplaceable.” 

“We have a level of capability and a reach that literally few, if any, can replicate. That’s a real positive for us as a nation, and it’s a positive for our friends and allies, because I am always mindful that we are part of a bigger team. And so part of our mission at NSA is not only to defend the citizens of the United States but to help ensure the defense of the citizens of our key allies and friends around the world. And to do that, we have got to share information with them. We have got to share the insights that we generate,” the admiral offers.

The agency has taken steps against another Snowden-like data breach, but no one can fully guarantee data will never be compromised. “This isn’t just about finding one silver bullet that, quote, is going to fix your insider threat problem,” he says. The goal that he and his predecessor have laid out is to ensure that Snowden’s months-long data extrication operation cannot be duplicated. “That’s what I want to make sure doesn’t happen again; that we have put in place processes and technical changes, both to our systems and our data, that will preclude the ability to do that again,” Adm. Rogers states.

The steps taken have generated some questions among the work force, with some personnel feeling they are being unfairly treated because of Snowden’s actions, he reports. Those actions include restricting some behaviors normally used in the course of conducting the mission, providing greater oversight of network behavior and scrutinizing new hires more closely, including the possibility of more polygraphs. “It’s about trying to find the right balance, because I don’t want to take this to the extreme,” he states. More extreme measures, he indicates, would cause the agency to lose its work force and inhibit mission execution. “On the other hand, I don’t want to take it to the point where we’re able to execute our mission and we’ve got a work force that feels really good, but the level of risk we’re taking is way too high.” 

He distinguishes between mistakes and deliberate criminal acts and indicates that Snowden performed the latter. “I tell the work force we need to focus on the mission, and we are not going to be defined by the criminal acts of one individual,” he says, adding that employees must continually ask if they are complying with the law and with the processes and procedures that have been put in place. “I’ve told everyone in the work force that there is a difference between a mistake and a choice. If you make a mistake, we’ll be there for you. You make a choice, and I will hold you accountable for the choices you make. If you want to steal, that’s a choice. That’s not a mistake.”  

Share Your Thoughts:

So you are saying the agency has no intention of changing its surveillance efforts in the least. Snowden to be considered not as a wake-up-call but a mere criminal nuisance, to be worked around however possible.

As for other countries, they need us more than we need them so they can just put up with whatever want to do with or to them.

It is most odd and very revealing that Adm. Michael Rogers, USN, the agency’s [NSA] new director, who also leads the U.S. Cyber Command, doesn’t realise the unbelievable damage that Uncle Sam is doing to himself and their shocking awe filled allies, and they who be conspiring aspirant cohorts, because of their obviously apparent inability to make great and good peaceful use of all the information and intelligence they are supposed to be able to collect and process for critical strategic and tactical advantage. With practically all world stages starring US forces and virtual machinery in catastrophic destructive decline, what does NSA and U.S.Cyber Command imagine that tells all other intelligence agencies and leading players in the genre?

Is there nobody over there in the Wild Wacky West able to enable fabless constructive realities with AI and a fantastically creative narrative and/or narratives for subsequent and attendant media and IT hosting and universal presentation/virtual dissemination?

If that is the key core source problem, travel to the Exotic and Erotic and Esoteric East to lease purchase what is required would seem like the simplest of no-brainer options to explore and resolve to deliver success rather than ignore and resign oneself to serial failure. It is not as if IT is rocket science, is it, perfect common sense?

"employees must continually ask if they are complying with the law and with the processes and procedures that have been put in place."

IIRC, was this not Snowden's motivation - didn't asking this question lead him to the conclusion that the warrantless, suspicionless mass-surveillance practices were likely to be outside the scope of legal and constitutional limits, and that the procedures in place did not offer a viable avenue for oversight and review of this?

I have a very difficult time with what Snowde did. IMO the information gathered as a whole belongs to each and every citizen, and I for one did not appreciate him stealing documents that belong to me , or you, or the USA . I had a real issue with the civil liberties org's trying to come to his aid. The act is nothing short of an act of treason. While our relatioships haven't suffered, my thought then goes to how did active investigations fair?

This is the central nerve of any work the NSA does, i am guessing, so I take a lot of offense to what he did.

I do feel very sad more people don't see the bigger picture, it seems like this gave opportunity to people to bad mouth our security agencies. I take that personally too, and I am a civilian, however, my country and its security is one thing I was taught never ever to take for granted.

Despite any act any government agency may endeavor, if someone feels something is not right there are channels, and there are places, several actually, an employee can take this, and that is a fairly standard option. So any excuse that his superiors would not be appropriate, there are higher offices.

Had the documents not been leaked, and exposed out of his own personal illegal possession, perhaps my opinion might be different. Sometimes, yes there is need to tattle on someone or something, take it from me, the family tattle-tale as my brother to this days says, and i am 53, there are instances, but it doesn't mean you break the law, or your oath.

Its as bad as his claims for his reasons. I do not understand how one could even justify the act in ones own mind... maybe I am niave, but I just do not get it. Its like the same thing, in this case, the END did not justify the means. It just made him a thief of docs constrained by laws.

Honestly I had no intention of posting here, but the article of course grabbed me. As a civilian, I am thankful for every single thing my government does to keep us all safe. In my world big broher can watch all they want, I prefer to think of it as a loving watchful eye, what can I say... I am probably one of very few people who actually feels like this, maybe its because my family all served, maybe its because I get cofort in the thought. What ever the motivation in my head, I truly do love every single person whose job it is daily keeping this nation safe, and I feel like I have a giant family out there, in places I will never see or probaby ever really understand. I just know when I go to sleep, i feel safe and cared about. Thank You all, for everything you do!

~Ann

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