NSA Morale

The Washington Post is reporting that poor morale at the NSA is causing a significant talent shortage. A November New York Times article said much the same thing.

The articles point to many factors: the recent reorganization, low pay, and the various leaks. I have been saying for a while that the Shadow Brokers leaks have been much more damaging to the NSA -- both to morale and operating capabilities -- than Edward Snowden. I think it'll take most of a decade for them to recover.

Posted on January 9, 2018 at 5:58 AM • 111 Comments

Comments

BenJanuary 9, 2018 6:30 AM

I feel bad for the people at the NSA, they get a lot of bad press trying to defend their nation.

Yes the NSA as an organization has made questionable decisions but we need their services, now more than ever.

Jack January 9, 2018 7:06 AM

Low pay is a big issue. The NSA is a typical gov't organization where pay scales are GS levels and seniority is how people get ahead - there's little reason to work hard when it doesn't get you anything. It's typical gov't, geared toward the career minded lifetime employee - it's an employment model of decades past. A GS-11 at Fort Meade earns like $62k/yr. Who wants to work for half or less? A GS-15, step 10 pay is $155,500, again for what it takes to get to that level it's low pay.

Oreoluwa BabarinsaJanuary 9, 2018 7:45 AM

One somewhat funny corner of this problem is the mismatch between abolitionist federal drug policy and the general substance libertinism of techies in general (source : https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/d737mx/the-fbi-cant-find-hackers-that-dont-smoke-pot). I wonder how much this problem goes away with a national change to Marijuana's place on the drug schedule.

This said, on a more serious note, the federal government is in many ways a worse version of the game industry when it comes to attracting new programmers. the Feds can offer more job security (though likely not appreciably more than any competent programmer has in private industry) but also provide worse working conditions and a substantially reduced benefits package. Combine that with work locations less desirable to the median engineer (I personally would take DC over SF, but that's a rare opinion), and you have a labor market shortage. I've personally dissuaded people interested in working in gaming or government work to just stick to mainstream industry for no other reason than the sheer cost to career and personal life.

PeterTJanuary 9, 2018 7:51 AM

I guess low pay is the reason why much (probably most) of the real work of the NSA is actually done by private contractors, who would obviously lack the standing and prestige of a government body, further lowering he morale and increasing the risk of leakage.

It is not a US specific problem, I live in Europe and I have turned down government job offers before, the low pay and my distrust towards them were my main reasons.

mrpuckJanuary 9, 2018 8:00 AM

@Jack

Yes high pay and increased benefits are certainly incentives. Look how the tech industry competes for talent. Maybe the NSA should open an office on the Google campus? God knows, they have the budget for it.

BobJanuary 9, 2018 8:01 AM

@Ben @Bruce

I want to agree too, I can't, and I sincerely don't understand how can you bruce. To me it looks like you can't have the cake and eat it. Criminals are our enemies, yes, and overpowered government entities too. It's not about choosing the lesser evil, its about balancing power as to not end up with a lesser (or greater) evil. If we need a less powerful, weaker, NSA... can we have the NSA we need without first, at least, making it our enemy? Without attacking it as to make it weaker? That means we don't need the NSA, we need a substitute for the NSA, with the same name or not.

PeteJanuary 9, 2018 8:04 AM

I have a personal morality issue violating the US Constitution, as I interpret it, regardless of what govt lawyers say is the law.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 8:09 AM

"there's little reason to work hard when it doesn't get you anything. "

This attitude probably wouldn't get you so far as an interview at the NSA.

Your disparagement of government service because of seniority is to neglect most fields.

edgeJanuary 9, 2018 8:14 AM

While I do appreciate the importance of the org, no amount of pay could get me to work at the NSA. I would hate to be put in a position where there is a high likelihood I might find out about, or be asked to do, something that I'd find ethically troubling. Yes, that can happen at other companies, but other companies don't/can't crush the lives and families of whistleblowers like the NSA does. No other company can bring the same level of scrutiny on its employees that the US can. And at no other company are the ethical questions at the level of: are we betraying our country and the trust of 100s of millions of people.
That's too heavy.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 8:19 AM

@ edge

"but other companies don't/can't crush the lives and families of whistleblowers like the NSA does."

That's because TOP SECRET > NDA agreement. It's a considerable step up.

Swearing an oath with felonies attached and often the UCMJ on top, that's not trivial.

You underestimate the will of corporations to quash whistleblowers also.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 8:24 AM

"And at no other company are the ethical questions at the level of: are we betraying our country and the trust of 100s of millions of people."

I guess you're right, big oil, big pharma, big tobacco, big medical scan, big chemical..

They don't have that debate. They just rape and pillage and get the money, any means necessary.

The NSA is actually VERY well constrained by law compared to your average large corporate multinational.

It's weird that folks think they're doing this out of self-interest or for some untoward purpose.
It's more part of Grover Norquist's spiel rather than reality.

0LafJanuary 9, 2018 8:27 AM

The UK is similar with government somehow trying to attract top class talent with poor pay.

Google, MS and other big big tech firms are offering big salaries, share options and the opportunity to work in nice places like California.

UK gov offers 10% the salary and the opportunity to not be able to afford to live somewhere like Cheltenham.

The golden perks of public sector which once made up for the poorer pay are being steadily erode by government cuts. I guess it's the same in most countries.

Those well qualified and experienced people that I know are only staying with the public sector either for the flexibility or to finish off their pensions.

I know I'll be off to hunt bigger money as soon as I no longer need that flexibility.

Impossibly StupidJanuary 9, 2018 8:29 AM

I think it's shortsighted to look at mainly recent events when there is a big morale problem anywhere. Anything new that's happened is usually just the straw that broke the camel's back; you really have to go back a long time to see when things started to go bad and/or what the biggest causes have been.

For the NSA, it probably goes back to at least 9/11. The intelligence miss it represented could have been corrected, but like most thing post Patriot Act, we got a lot more security theater, at best, than real "defend their nation" solutions. At worst, they've been shown to be actively hostile to the security of American citizens. Leaking those programs is not a cause of morale problems, it is a result of the morale problems that those programs have effected. The idea that we "need their services" only applies to the people who work (or worked) for the NSA that are interested in doing what's right.

The NSA's problem is the same problem faced by so many mismanaged organizations: if the good people are walking out the door (or never wanting to walk in in the first place), you need to have someone start kicking all the bad people out who have made your workplace toxic. If you want the quality people to stay, fire the people that make them want to leave.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 8:56 AM

"it probably goes back to at least 9/11. The intelligence miss it represented could have been corrected,"

Allow me to correct your record there.

The NSA gave George W. Bush no fewer than TEN PERSONAL WARNINGS about the 9/11 plot beforehand.
One on his Crawford ranch while clearing brush, he told the agent to "Go home, you covered your ass."

The 9/11 "miss" was certainly not NSA. One might ask why the admin sent people everywhere else instead, like Cheney's personal involvement in NORAD's delay, among many, many other inconsistencies.

And one might also ask who benefited from 9/11. UBL asked that on video in 2001.

The CIA was later found to have deliberately mistranslated that - and many other things.

http://www.nytimes.com/1984/11/04/world/reagan-now-says-manuel-was-mistranslated.html

https://www.sott.net/article/273194-Black-propaganda-Probable-mistranslation-by-former-CIA-agent-of-Iranian-military-commanders-speech-sees-phony-threats-against-America-planted-in-press

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/21530470/ns/nbc_nightly_news_with_brian_williams/t/was-bin-ladens-last-video-faked/

http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/osamatape.html


The NSA did their job despite a US regime that wanted their efforts to fail.
The NSA is a tool. It performed. It was ignored intentionally.

That's what really happened on 9/11. George Bush gave Bibi his endless war, and Bibi gave America the victimstance it needed to go to war for "America's interests" abroad.

Some think this is beyond the pale, I'm an *hole for saying that, but if you look at the history of US deception with intel at critical flashpoints where they WANT to go to war but are constrained by legality, (Pearl Harbor, Tonkin, Korea, Iraq, more) legality goes right out the window with honesty, morality, and the will of the public.

BobJanuary 9, 2018 9:06 AM

@Impossibly Stupid

"if the good people are walking out the door (or never wanting to walk in in the first place) (...) fire the people that make them want to leave" I couldn't have said it better. However, this delineates the problem I pointed at in my last post. Firing so many people would mean effectively destroying the NSA and starting anew. More so, if we just fire the bad people, more bad people will just be hired, what we need is fundamental changes in the way the organization is shaped. So we don't need the NSA, what we need is a better alternative. We don't need their services, we need an alternative to their services.

Julian StrongJanuary 9, 2018 9:06 AM

If it's true the NSA didn't know of Meltdown (which is what sources are saying), that must be bad for morale too. They'd only have to jump a few months ahead of public research—everyone was already looking at cache attacks, but were just kind of blackbox-poking at caches and predictors. Shouldn't the NSA have already reverse-engineered the caches and predictors of popular CPUs, if not acquired the plans outright as a condition of government CPU-purchasing contracts?

The same goes for Heartbleed. The federal government relies on OpenSSL, as it does on Intel's microarchitectural details. Don't they have some secret tool that walks all the code branches depending on attacker-controlled data, to find "interesting" behavior?

I'm not feeling too sorry for the NSA though. Actually, I was hoping their Panoptical responses to the Snowden leaks would drive people out. Their defense work is too important to trust to what is now known to be a rogue agency. The government should be funding University/private researchers to do it in public.

Gerard van VoorenJanuary 9, 2018 9:11 AM

It's too bad all these NSA guys just have to keep their mouth shut, or else go somewhere else.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 9:15 AM

The NSA does not exist to catch 0-days for the purpose of improving security for end users. I'm sure there's a very healthy debate internally on this vis a vis national security.

They'd never admit it publicly if something they knew for a decade were finally discovered by the general public and had become a security risk. What they'd do is silently erase any history of their programs using that and switch to other avenues available to them.

To admit they knew is to be self-crucified.

Petre PeterJanuary 9, 2018 9:28 AM

Remember! Surveillance is not the problem; the problem is mass surveillance. If that is understood, recovery could take less than a decade.

fredJanuary 9, 2018 9:29 AM

Being an activist nation has reduced morale everywhere. Who's excited about the bull sh*t in the NFL? Or who is excited to send their kids to colleges the burn down when they don't get their way. What is the morale like in the police departments around the country when the assassinated trying to keep us safe?

why is anyone shocked that activist leaks from a spy organization could reduce moral (if you even believe that story)

If any political party wants to claim the "moral high ground" start with switching from information warfare and try forgiveness.

TatütataJanuary 9, 2018 10:00 AM

I'm curious about how journos get their initial inspiration and decide it's worth writing a story about...

How does morale at the NSA compare with other fedrull agencies and institutions such as..

- EPA
- CDC
- DOE
- DHHS
- IRS
- FDA
- NSF
- NPS
- ... ?

Many of these agencies are more directly responsible for the wellbeing of the "nation" than the NSA. It was recently reported 700 scientists have already bugged out of the EPA.

One might also legitimately raise questions about the value obtained for the alleged 50+G$ pumped annually into this agency, when its "product" cannot be widely disseminated, and its ultimate distillation is destined to someone who doesn't read and whose intellectual development seems to be pegged at the level of a 1960 US military academy...

In 1981, Albanian author Ismaïl Kadaré sneaked "The Palace of Dreams" past censorship. (Kadaré couldn't plausibly have known about the "Puzzle Palace nickname).

The plot is set in Tirana in the days of the Ottoman Empire. An agency collects and analyzes every single dream of the Sultan's subjects from even the remotest area under his rule, regardless of language, in the hope that one of them could prove vital to the preservation of the dynasty. In the end one feels that this enterprise is as vain as it is sinister.

If I squint my eyes looking at that Fort Meade parking lot, I can see downtown Tirana.

Then, as a US civil servant, I would also be worried about the implications of the recent tax bill, wondering about what I did to deserve the coming collective punishment.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 10:02 AM

@Fred

"Who's excited about the bull sh*t in the NFL?" - Wait, you're putting that on par with this?

"Or who is excited to send their kids to colleges the burn down when they don't get their way" - What?

Why are you muddling unrelated issues? That serves no clear purpose and only vague ones.

Protest is an integral right of all citizens and an important part of our democratic ideals.
A few individuals have protested the NSA's regimes for the good of public debate on unknowns.

Is your argument that if you see/hear no evil, there is no evil? Or it should just be ignored instead?

Protest is patriotic - it exists for a reason that cannot be ignored forever.
If it harms your morale that others dissent? Contemplate the issues more deeply.

That's your duty, not crushing dissent or trying to outlaw protest generally.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 10:07 AM

I think the big soul-crushing morale killer is the way the Trump admin has deliberately tried to put people into executive agency positions who are life-long enemies of those agencies.

The job of the EPA is to protect the environment from damage, not rubber-stamp drilling/mining for rich corporate executives who now run the government by fiat.

It's essentially the same for all his appointments, trying to "drown government" for political payola.
The administration's intentions are to stack government with people who can circumvent it.

Who would want to dedicate their life to a job that has been deliberately made to fail for politics?

JonKnowsNothingJanuary 9, 2018 10:15 AM

There are a lot of people having to work for companies, organizations, governments that would really rather not. Unfortunately, they need MONEY to live. So they have a choice:

Work where you can get it
or
Starve

I feel badly for the thousands of workers stuck working for mega-corps like ATT, Comcast, Apple, Intel, Microsoft and all the others like them. They have little or no choice about it.

I don't feel quite so bad about people who voluntarily choose to work in a fields that are detrimental to the entire planet. There is nothing really good about anything they do for a living. "We" may say they "do good" but in fact they don't. They don't even have to alter the old Google Model: Don't Be Evil to the current form: Be Evil. You have to do a lot of Self-Delusionary-Obfuscation to pretend that you are Not Evil.

Those that have figured it out - left. Those that are still working on their blindness or have stronger intestinal fortitude - stay.

While it leaves these organizations with a "lesser quality" workforce, it is exactly what the job requires: No Moral Basis and No Thinking Allowed. There are plenty of people willing to sign up for both versions.

One might be the kind of person that Wraps The Flag Around Them but in the end it all comes down to this:

Welcome to Law Enforcement’s “Dark Side”: Secret Evidence, Illegal Searches, and Dubious Traffic Stops

ht tps://theintercept.com/2018/01/09/dark-side-fbi-dea-illegal-searches-secret-evidence/ (url factured to prevent autorun

They may start by thinking that they are working for the Light Side but in the end they are In the Dark.

OliverJanuary 9, 2018 10:20 AM

WTF??? They feel bad?!?!?!
Fricken-la-di-daaaaa!
I HOPE they feel even worse for all their atrocities to the constitution and the american people.
I hope they all starve for talent and the whole enterprise gets exterminated.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 10:25 AM

"Work where you can get it
or
Starve"

I'd question whether this is the major concern of anybody at the level of NSA operators.

The traditional pipeline is military so their education is mostly paid for already.
Enlistment/commission rates are dropping as experienced folks retire also.

Private sector folks have unbreakable student loan agreements. That's big.

Having civilian contractors at that level by necessity opens a whole new can of worms.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 10:43 AM

"Surveillance is not the problem; the problem is mass surveillance"

To be upset at NSA for collecting everything is to miss the point.

How do you provide 100% security if you don't assess 100% of the dataset? You don't.

If the NSA collected everything-everything and kept it secret, and ONLY brought evidence of terrorism out to keep people safe and NOTHING ELSE, I think people would say the system works as designed, wouldn't you? They can't do that job without a massive dragnet + filtering.

You should expect them to collect every signal possible - that's their charter since forever.
The filtering methodology is key. The access is key. The sharing is key. The oversight is KEY.

Whatever they don't collect due to charter restrictions against 'spying' on Americans, the other 5-eyes members are happy to circumvent and provide anyway. This has been going on since before personal computers.

What's the alternative? People calling for alt-NSA need to provide a viable option first.

fredJanuary 9, 2018 11:08 AM

@hmm
Yes.. the topic of the blog is
"...The Washington Post is reporting that poor morale at the NSA is causing a significant talent shortage...."

The article (if you had read it) poses the question "..Have hackers and leakers made secrecy obsolete?.."

We know that a lot of the leaks coming out of the intelligence agency have been activist such as Reality Leigh Winner.

And that is what I was commenting on..

The article and blog post was not your 9/11 paranoid Bush, BiBi endless war conspiracy theory.

You may need to let out the size of you tin foil hat.

"..Protest is patriotic .." There is NOTHING patriotic about burning down Berkley because you scared to hear another point of view.

Clive RobinsonJanuary 9, 2018 11:14 AM

@ Ben, Bruce,

Yes the NSA as an organization has made questionable decisions but we need their services, now more than ever.

I think the opposit for the NSA,and GCHQ and similar as the exist today. In fact I feel they are largely responsible for the mess we are in, and unless they undergo major change it will keep getting worse.

Anongst many other sins the NSA had opted for very short term very limited gains by their choice to go down the "Cyber Offensive" route. As a result the main part of the US and Wests economy it needs to be competative is more or less defensless and open to ceasless attack, with many faux markets set up. In short ICT security is a joke and as a result the economy loses R&D to espionage and effectively gets insider trading from external entities fighting against it. The losses easily excead the NSA budget so the US econony gets twice the hit that it would have otherwise.

If and when the NSA stop trying to build a time machine in Bluffdale Utah or elsewhere, likewise stop trying to deliberatly weaken standards and protocols and actually do something proactive about bringing ICT Security up to something sensible then I might have a small amount of sympathy for the rank and file chasing their pensions.

But they are not going to stop doing more harm than good, and those that are there chasing their pensions must know this, thus are not exactly patriots just time servers at best.

The only reason the NSA has the power it does is by lying and cheating, which probably involves various forms of coercion directly or indirectly as well. They have no effective oversight and do just about whatever they like.

Do you honestly feel the US is best served by an organisation that does such harm?

Maybe others have a different take on the NSA and US IC in general but you have to ask why they have talent recruiting problems and staff are leaving, there is probably a message in there...

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 11:35 AM


"..Have hackers and leakers made secrecy obsolete?.."

-The answer obviously is no. They've made secrecy much more DIFFICULT.

"a lot of the leaks coming out of the intelligence agency have been activist such as R L Winner."

-That's a bad example considering she leaked 1 document total. Who else can you name who is leaking top secret documents besides Snowden/Manning, which was several years back?

"You may need to let out the size of you tin foil hat."

-People said the same when I mentioned the Intel Management Engine, and other topics.
You won't stop my point in raising a series of questions by insulting me rhetorically.


"The article and blog post was not your 9/11 paranoid Bush, BiBi endless war conspiracy theory."

-Which, if you can read, was a very small part of what I've written here, and related.

There are thousands of professionals who question the events of 9/11 in various ways.
I'm just one. If you want to discredit all of them, you've got work cut out for yourself "fred"

"There is NOTHING patriotic about burning down Berkley because you scared to hear another point of view."

-That's a red herring, Fred. Try harder to stay on your own topic if you want to enforce that.

markJanuary 9, 2018 11:40 AM

I have it from an NSA source who I completely trust that they're all *really* unhappy. It's at the point that my informant, who's been there since '12, is considering other jobs, and they've done a lot that I shouldn't talk about, out of doing the best job they can.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 11:40 AM

@ Clive

I agree that changes will need to be made - always. Any gardener appreciates that, any manager.

"I think the opposit for the NSA,and GCHQ and similar as the exist today. In fact I feel they are largely responsible for the mess we are in,"

You're presenting a hypothetical where those organizations don't exist as they do now.
What would result from that, though? You don't explore it.

We could have more terrorism, or we could have other unforseen things that have been tamped down.

I think of your concerns, weakening standards of encryption is the most worrisome.
Do you agree Clive?

"But they are not going to stop doing more harm than good"

-Yet you have not yet proven they do more harm than good, nor "can" you, right?
The "good" they do is secret. The harm is semi-secret. It's a shade-tree estimate.

What's the change you'd like to see most, Clive?

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 11:43 AM

"In fact I feel they are largely responsible for the mess we are in,"

You leave Congressional oversight completely unmentioned, might I add.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 11:54 AM

Here's one further - what if the GCHQ/NSA were the bad news bears of the world IC?

What if they had no budget and were always finding out about things after the fact?

What if they didn't even try to eavesdrop on people who might be terrorists?

What if they allowed secret communications between elected officials and foreign agents?

What if Russia/China/Korea/etc had backdoors in our infrastructure and we had nothing?

Explore it at any length and see why these are necessary evils on "some" level.

(Which isn't to say a necessary evil can't become an intolerable evil.)

fredJanuary 9, 2018 12:11 PM

@hmm

"...There are thousands of professionals who question the events of 9/11 in various ways.I'm just one..."

Social Proof is weak social engineering.
There are thousands of "professionals" that question JFK shooting
There are thousands of "professionals" that question the moon landing.
There are millions of people that use addicted to crack.

So what?

Maybe if you are a republican, next time try fear mongering aka amygdala hijacking.

Or if your a democrat you can try reciprocity and offer me free tuition.


If Winner isn't good enough for activist leaker, how about Comey who testified before congress that he leaked information to get a result?

FredricJanuary 9, 2018 12:18 PM

It's not a surprise, the NSA are the bad guys, they are domestic terrorists who spy on American citizens on orders by the Christofascist Bush regime as part of their USA PATRIOT Act treason against the United States.

The NSA are the bad guys, they are our #1 cyber threat facing our country bar none. They are monsters.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 12:20 PM

"There are thousands of "professionals" that question JFK shooting"

And there were 10+ congressional inquiries into the "foreknowledge" of Pearl Harbor, with different results.

The 9/11 commission did not answer many questions and was generally rejected worldwide as a coverup.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentagon_MASCAL

There's a reason why Condi Rice said what she did to the panel.

"The terrorists were at war with us, but we were not yet at war with them. For more than 20 years, the terrorist threat gathered, and America's response across several administrations of both parties was insufficient. Historically, democratic societies have been slow to react to gathering threats, tending instead to wait to confront threats until they are too dangerous to ignore or until it is too late.

Despite the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 and continued German harassment of American shipping, the United States did not enter the First World War until two years later. Despite Nazi Germany's repeated violations of the Versailles Treaty and its string of provocations throughout the mid-1930s, the Western democracies did not take action until 1939.

The U.S. government did not act against the growing threat from Imperial Japan until the threat became all too evident at Pearl Harbor. And, tragically, for all the language of war spoken before September 11, this country simply was not on a war footing.

Since then, America has been at war. And under President Bush's leadership, we will remain at war until the terrorist threat to our Nation is ended. The world has changed so much that it is hard to remember what our lives were like before that day. But I do want to describe the actions this administration was taking to fight terrorism before September 11, 2001."


The terrorists were at war with us, but we were not at war with them.

The CIA had a plan to change that, every time.

Sorry you bury your head rather than burden it, Fred, but my politics end at innocent lives lost.

It's certainly not about R vs D. It's about what's true - and provable - and covered up deliberately.

But it is HILARIOUS that you consider Comey more of a leaker than Trump, the known traitor who specifically leaked to Russia intelligence given to us by Israel about a bomb plot involving stolen airport scanners that burned the program and endangered US intelligence relations.

Comey's mistake was speaking about Clinton's emails in a statement before the elections, and was not disclosing to his lawyer friend from Colombia University that President Trump, under investigation for treason essentially, had tried to stop a federal investigation into his illegal actions. In fact, that wasn't classified.

Stop watching Fox News and get smarter by default, Fred. Info is out there, not where you looked.

FredricJanuary 9, 2018 12:21 PM

"...they get a lot of bad press trying to defend their nation."

They don't "defend the nation," they are domestic terrorists who seize and store every communication that Americans make, without warrant, without subpoena, without any court order, they are the bad guys, they are traitors, every sh!tt!ng one of them.

They know they're the bad guys, THAT is why the dung heaps are lamenting their lost status as "defenders" of this country, they know they are not, they know they're right wing anti-American traitors.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 12:22 PM

"The NSA are the bad guys, they are our #1 cyber threat facing our country bar none. They are monsters."

Dragons, really. I hear they have horns.

Clive RobinsonJanuary 9, 2018 12:32 PM

@ hmm,

You leave Congressional oversight completely unmentioned, might I add.

Did you miss,

    They have no effective oversight and do just about whatever they like.

As for harms my main concern is there very very out of date view point of the world, it's sort of pre 1970's.

As I've mentioned before the NSA was chartered with two conflicting interests. The first was to secure the communications of the US. The second to break the communications of all other nations regardless of if they are friend or foe. So both Defense and Offense.

The NSA takes a very very very restricted view of Defense, so much so it has repeatedly harmed not just the US citizens, the US economy, the US Government, the US military but even the NSA themselves. So realy a big fail on the defencive side.

However the NSA takes a very strong Offensive position, so much so they actively go about ensuring that defense is not possible, unless you have certain knowledge and skills, that they repeatedly try to ensure that US citizens that are building the US economy do not get to hear about. They have actively stopped researchers, made patents secret and put security technology beyond the reach of all but a selected few. Then there is their finessing of standards bodies I've seen it many times and mebtioned it here and other places long long befor NIST even realised they were getting manipulated. I've made it clear that the fixed the AES competition to encorage side channels in implementations. It's been mentioned before what happend with the Clipper chip and the extream fragility of the encryption algorithm. We also eventually had confirmed the relationship between William Friedman and Boris Haglin of Crypto AG which destroyed the security of more nations than you can probably name.

The NSA are so set in this mindset of filling everything with backdoors that they have forgotten two things,

1, There is no NOBUS longterm.
2, The econony that pays their wages has changed communications is front and center of it.

The result of these two points was China APT and much else. The eledged Russian attempts at US Presidential rigging was down to the NSA Offense only view point.

The NSA needs to consider that Defence now significantly outweighs their Offense Pretentions. That is they are actively harming the US to keep of limited use Offensive capability whilst others are robbing the US blind through information theft because the NSA is not taking care of that other half of their business Defence...

I am happy to admit there is a balance but the NSA is way past the end stop and appears incapable of getting back or even wanting to try.

In medicine when you detect a cancer you either try to cut it out or poison it or both befor it kills the patient. The NSA as it currently is is a cancer, and it's not just the body of the US economy it's killing, it's the First worlds economy as well.

I don't know how old you are but I lived through the Cold War from Berlin wall onwards. The end of the cold war was supposed to have a peace dividend for all. But that was not in the interests of the US MIC, IC and SigInt entities. They have all grown monstrously with as you have pointed out invented or encorraged wars. Mean while the majority in the US have got a lot lot poorer whilst a select handfull have become immensely rich due to these faux wars and the sales that make into them and the IC and SigInt entities. As we have seen some NSA seniors have walked away and demanded a million dollars a month for theire services. Whilst it was blatent there is one heck of a lot of revolving door nest feathering going on at the top of the NSA. And that alone would demoralise many workforces to know the bosses are compleatly corrupt not just dishonest or sailing close to the wind...

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 12:37 PM

@ Josh

Read your own link. The Obama EO only changed that other agencies got raw data in addition to the usual redacted summaries the NSA would typically give out to other agencies to improve coordination. They had access previously, just not to the details they needed to be actionable in a coordinated inter-bureau investigation.

Obama's move was problematic because of the possibility of parallel construction, not because more data on Americans was collected - it was simply shared with law enforcement more readily. I can see both sides of that too, I'm not defending everything Obama but the distinction is key.

Stellar Winds was a massive and unparalleled expansion of collection capabilities that was never authorized by the full review and yet aspects of it remain to this day as a result.

The problem with taking a partisan approach to evaluating this, every POTUS builds on the last one.
Programs carry on and evolve on their own in the lack of oversight from Congress.

Both "sides" are culpable, but first realize there's only one actual side here.
A two-party system is unaccountable. They used to call it "good cop, bad cop"
One plays off the other - neither is your friend.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 12:39 PM

@ clive

'Did you miss, They have no effective oversight and do just about whatever they like.'

Yes, I missed that. I felt like that's an understated point - why I missed it.

fredJanuary 9, 2018 12:41 PM

@hmm

"The problem with taking a partisan approach to evaluating this, every POTUS builds on the last one. Programs carry on and evolve on their own in the lack of oversight from Congress. "

Wow! Do we really agree on something? There is hope after all

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 12:48 PM

@ Fred

I'm sure we agree on most things un-enumerated as yet.

I don't mention 9/11 for political partisan purposes, that's certainly not my point.

People died for reasons that were lied about after the fact. That bothers me.

That makes me wonder when such a thing will happen again, for similar purposes.

The near-war with NK right now, for example, could really get going in a hurry under xyz circumstances.

Say, if a ship were sunk. Or in the case of the USS Maddox, never actually attacked at all.

Or like the USS Liberty, attacked by an "ally" who denied it forever despite all evidence.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Liberty_incident


If your goal is to prevent things, you first must understand how they come to be, and why.

My first question - who benefited from the thing? Follow that.

BobJanuary 9, 2018 12:50 PM

@hmm

An alternative to the NSA is no NSA, it's probably not the only alternative, but it's the first I can think of. And, considering all the pros and cons, it's a better alternative still.

When you ask "What if", you consider only the cons. Besides, even ignoring the fact that they are very inefficient by how good they protect america and how many resources they are given, they are playing a game that can't be won. I spy you so you spy me harder so I spy you harder... sometimes the only way to win is not to play, all the terrorism in the world may just be the price to pay for a better future.

I repeat, no NSA is probably not the only alternative, but its a better alternative still.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 1:03 PM

"I repeat, no NSA is probably not the only alternative, but its a better alternative still."

Show your calculus?

"When you ask "What if", you consider only the cons."

I'm not trying to imply there'd be no upsides, there would, but the cons are costs that must be subtracted either way - and if they're show-stoppers that the public wouldn't support, such as significantly (it would) reducing public safety assurances and US interests that our economy is pinned on, you would find that theoretical reality would not survive too long either.

The call for a balance is the important one - that's what our system is built upon.

That's why Bush's executive orders and Obama's are potentially dangerous, but not unstoppable.
That's why Trump's collusion and/or obstruction must be handled by the Congress/Courts, the check.


"I spy you so you spy me harder so I spy you harder... sometimes the only way to win is not to play, all the terrorism in the world may just be the price to pay for a better future."

- On a personal level I agree with you. I'd rather live in that world too where people who want to do evil things must look in the eyes of those they attack. Unfortunately the genie cannot be put back. Nuclear weapons, bio weapons, infrastructure attacks, these things cannot be put back. They will progress in offense/defense regimes until one group or another decides to "go for it" - if left unchecked, they will.

Governing is a tough thing to do and a government that lasts forever has not yet existed.

Maybe that's the key.

Impossibly StupidJanuary 9, 2018 1:18 PM

@hmm


One on his Crawford ranch while clearing brush, he told the agent to "Go home, you covered your ass."
The 9/11 "miss" was certainly not NSA.

In the bigger picture, though, it was. If the purpose of their Agency is to Secure the Nation, they should not have been satisfied to simply cover their asses. Other avenues of action should have been taken, up to and including measures that work to disclose acts of treason by a President. They should not be letting politics strongly influence their work. That makes them the kind of "tool" that leads to this sort of bad morale.

@Bob

Firing so many people would mean effectively destroying the NSA and starting anew.

I'm not sure that's true. It often seems to be the case that just a few bad people in positions of influence and power can turn an organization rotten to the core. I have no idea how the NSA is set up internally, but it might easily be possible that showing one person to the door could get everyone back on the right path. To not do that seems to be effectively destroying the NSA, too . . .

More so, if we just fire the bad people, more bad people will just be hired,

Non sequitur as far as I see it. The only reason you'd exchange bad for bad is if you still had bad people influencing the outcome of the hiring process. Why weren't they fired as well? Hell, revamp the entire HR process so that those kinds of mistakes aren't so easy to get hired in the first place.

So we don't need the NSA, what we need is a better alternative. We don't need their services, we need an alternative to their services.

Whether it's repair or replace, you still need someone in charge who wants the organization to do a good job. The only "alternative" I would advocate is a science-based process for moving forward. I mean, we don't really have to fire anyone or start from scratch. We just need the people in power to be willing to follow multiple hypotheses for how a successful outcome could be achieved, discard the ones that get it completely wrong, and refine the ones that perform the best. The standard hierarchical system of getting one set of marching orders that come down from some Peter Principle "leader" is a recipe for failure in the long term.

BobJanuary 9, 2018 1:24 PM

@hmm

"Show your calculus?"

No.

"I'm not trying to imply there'd be no upsides, there would, but the cons are costs that must be subtracted either way - and if they're show-stoppers that the public wouldn't support, such as significantly (it would) reducing public safety assurances and US interests that our economy is pinned on, you would find that theoretical reality would not survive too long either."

I don't understand most of what you said but you seem to imply the public is america's population, it's not. The NSA's influence is global, the public is the world's population.

"Unfortunately the genie cannot be put back."

I can't, and it couldn't have been prevented from coming out in the first place, so what? More genies will come out again and again, our only option is not to ask for our three wishes and hope that nobody takes advantage of it. Too idealistic? Maybe not, cooperation has often found its way to prove itself, despite all odds, better than competition and more "real" than any "realistic" approach (in geopolitics and elsewhere). But even if it is too idealistic, proving that idealism is not the best alternative is still to be done.

BobJanuary 9, 2018 1:32 PM

@Impossibly Stupid

It's a non sequitur cause there are elements you are missing in my picture, cause I didn't mention them, yes. Organizational culture, for example, is a ghost that easily remains after the bad apples are gone. Another force to reckon is the influences that come from outside the agency and make it what it is, regardless of who integrates it. I'm talking about the way the government defines and employs the agency, the enemies it has to work against (or with), etc.

As a side note, I find your "science-based process" too abstract, or maybe hard to imagine for me.

SteveJanuary 9, 2018 1:34 PM

The WaPo may have buried the "lede," as journalists are wont to say. The last paragraph says it all:

“NSA always recovers,” Ennis said.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 1:45 PM

FWIW and only semi-related,

Sen. Feinstein just read out loud the Fusion GPS testimony transcript (NOT a classified document, nothing secret about it) that the GOP was trying to block public release of - because the President's allies were trying to sow FUD-based doubt about it in an effort to preempt the Mueller investigation - and this comes directly after their attempt to bring known-false charges against the British citizen who investigated their candidate initially.

The stated rationale? They claim Steele lied to them without any specifics. None have proven that allegation and Steele is still held in the highest esteem professionally. All of this is in a defense of a known liar, so it's doubly weird. The truth will out.

Feinstein is an unlikely source for a "leak" of Congressional testimony. Really unlikely.
She's had some choice words about leakers in the past.

When the wind blows in your favorite political direction or when it blows against that, you must stand up for truth and transparency in representative government as strong or stronger than forces that seek to conspire and turn that government against its own people. Do not sell your support cheaply.

People who want transparency must insist on it, that's the only way they'll ever hope to see any.
That means protests. That means civil disobedience and whistle-blowing.

If you see people protesting, you should ask them why and seek to understand that before dismissing it.
They are not your enemy even if you disagree. Even if morons set fires or break windows, curse you.

The enemy is complacency in the face of known dishonesty and injustice. We are allies, as citizens.
WE are the check and balance ultimately on our servant Governance. Never forget that.

The NSA exists because we allow it, because we need it to function. So let's oversee that role.
Let's get Congresspeople who understand this need, regardless of party.

(Let's get more parties.)

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 1:52 PM

"Show your calculus?"

"No."

How can anyone evaluate your value-criteria based argument then, to see if they agree with you?
Pragmatism requires an honest assessment, an open debate on the merits.

"our option is not to ask for our three wishes and hope that nobody takes advantage of it. Too idealistic?"

Very much too idealistic. There are groups that are constantly trying to take advantage of it.
That doesn't seem likely to change in the near term. Bioterror, cyberwar is a legitimate concern.

You would be correct in saying we created some of these adversaries ourselves by our actions.
That doesn't make them any less real today nor remove the need for defenses from them.

The first role of governance is to protect the people - but the need for balance comes right away.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 2:08 PM

"In the bigger picture, though, it was. If the purpose of their Agency is to Secure the Nation, they should not have been satisfied to simply cover their asses. Other avenues of action should have been taken, up to and including measures that work to disclose acts of treason by a President."

Maj Gen Wherley, CO of the AFB where the air-defense interceptors were delayed by Cheney's direct actions (and previous actions moving various aircraft around without authorization, including the "white whale" recon plane seen flying by itself on 9/11, was scheduled to meet and testify about these "very strange" occurrences leading up to 9/11 and during.

He never made it. He was killed when 'automatic' trains smashed into eachother at speed in an "impossible" collision that was "precluded" by systems that were later found to be mysteriously altered. Nothing ever came of that investigation, it was ruled an unexplained accident.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_F._Wherley_Jr.

http://abcnews.go.com/News/story?id=7914933

A few other high-ranking people were killed or "committed suicide" after 9/11 who had knowledge vital to understanding what exactly happened that day. The 9/11 commission directly ignored testimonials from people who saw things they "should not have" and did not include their existence in the final report. The world knows better.

NSA did not fail, they lived up to their charter. The investigation was made to fail.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9/11_Commission


John Farmer, Jr., senior counsel to the Commission stated that the Commission "discovered that... what government and military officials had told Congress, the Commission, the media, and the public about who knew what when — was almost entirely, and inexplicably, untrue."

Farmer continues: "At some level of the government, at some point in time … there was a decision not to tell the truth about what happened...The (NORAD) tapes told a radically different story from what had been told to us and the public."

Thomas Kean, the head of the 9/11 Commission, concurred: "We to this day don’t know why NORAD told us what they told us, it was just so far from the truth."


Kean was the head of the investigation. He said what you just read.

NORAD was controlled by Dick Cheney personally that day. He intervened.
It was covered up.

NSA can do a lot, but exposing this treason is beyond even their charter.

We all live with the result of people giving up on that investigation's integrity.

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 2:10 PM

Am I a crazy crackpot for pointing this out? Sure. I could be, the internet is open to all types.

If it helps you sleep at night to think so, I don't blame you.

It sure doesn't help me.

TatütataJanuary 9, 2018 2:32 PM

Am I a crazy crackpot for pointing this out? Sure. I could be, the internet is open to all types.

24 comments in 6 hours. [facepalm]

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 2:33 PM

"24 comments in 6 hours."

Does this count as a comment, you having nothing to attack with except the fact that I spoke up?

[facebook]

hmmJanuary 9, 2018 3:07 PM

I apologize for commenting at length but I feel like this debate is warranted and germaine today.

http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/04/08/rice.transcript/

Revisit that if you have interest to. If you don't, please don't pretend to have.

Today Christopher Steele's testimony was made public against a coordinated attempt to stop that.
Some would rather try to discredit him out of hand than read what he found. It is cowardly.

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/trump-dossier-author-christopher-steele-feared-candidate-could-be-blackmailed/article/2645426

Regardless of political persuasion, I want the truth. Say it with me - or discredit me as able.

But I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
I won't be cowed, you're going to have to kill me if you want me to shut up.

*(and now, let me shut up so others can contribute. ACTUALLY contribute, Tatu)

RockJanuary 9, 2018 3:27 PM

I don't know how I can trust the NSA. This includes the analysts and other non-leadership. While I realize the people on the ground aren't the decision makers, I've met well over a dozen analysts over the past few years and each and every one says some variant of "we don't spy on the American people". Any mention by me of the declassified documents published on that ODNI's....Tumblr blog....that paint a different picture is either ignored or treated as if it is still classified and thus cannot be spoken of. Chants of "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" is common. To me, such statements come off as a threat mixed with contempt for those raising objections.

RockJanuary 9, 2018 3:54 PM

(cont.)

If the NSA wants more peoppe to trust them, they need to have the courage to defend their convictions.

I don't know what fever dream spooks are going through where they think saying "trust us" over and over again while simultaneously lying in Op Eds and statements to Congress about what they're doing is going to produce trust.

At least Hayden isn't a coward. He has had enough respect for public discourse to argue his case that mass surveillance is necessary for public safety in the modern age. While I find his supporting arguments unpersuasive, I at least have a modicum of trust and respect for him.

Ross SniderJanuary 9, 2018 5:37 PM

A significant issue with intelligence services is that they function specifically without the ability of oversight. Even organizations with depth to oversight make poor decisions, hide information from the public, game-ify regulation, and lie about intent.

Intelligence services without this oversight do not function well in civil societies, respond well to democracy, or are adversarial to the voices of civil liberties.

Yet they are fundamental capabilities (assassination, espionage and sabotage, surveillance, coercion) of the state, of power, of military - which underpins many of the advanced societies that aspire, at least rhetorically, to be democratic - such as the United States.

Another dangerous aspect to this situation I haven't seen mentioned in the comments or elsewhere is what the state is apt to do when it lacks a talented pool of extra-legal operations experts. The state isn't going to demand less of the talent-drained pool. Rather, the state is likely to lift constraints (civil libertarian and legal constraints especially) to compensate for the lack of technical capability. This is part of the kind of civilizational spiral the United States has seen itself in: where the feedback loops caused by mismanagement and immorality incentivize the state to compensate with worse mismanagement and lower moral expectations.

MarkJanuary 9, 2018 6:36 PM

Government agency conducting illegal surveillance worldwide. Cry me a river.

When have they ever stopped a terrorist attack? Never. They're a waste of space.

Impossibly StupidJanuary 9, 2018 11:51 PM

@Bob

It's a non sequitur cause there are elements you are missing in my picture

That may be true, but I'm talking about a fundamental inconsistency that needs to be fixed. It's not enough to just scrap what they have and optionally start fresh. If the "bad" people/processes that resulted in a broken NSA aren't addressed, anything that fills the vacuum will end up having the same problems. I think Clive made a good point about the mixed role of Defense and Offense being done by the same organization; it'd be interesting to see what would happen if we really did have a Department of Defense that was actually about inward protection rather than outward attacks.

As a side note, I find your "science-based process" too abstract, or maybe hard to imagine for me.

Imagine that you promise you can do something (create jobs, find terror cells, whatever). Imagine that other people also make similar promises. It makes very little sense to select just one process and, a priori, make everyone in the country follow it before it's tested in any serious fashion. It also doesn't make sense for you to be rewarded just as well for a complete failure as for a success. Yet, somehow, we still have the country being run using rules that do not self-validate, allowing for all manner of unhappiness. In this particular case, the NSA is experiencing an ongoing brain drain because they have no process in place that kicks in (e.g, increase wages, fire superiors, etc.) when good people start leaving.

tyrJanuary 10, 2018 12:12 AM


Let's give credit where it is due.

With Spandam Alexander at their helm
they stopped a Somali cabdriver from
sending money to his family in Africa.

It isn't that hard to find what Bill Binney
has to say about their internals.

@Clive

I hear the visionary who killed Net
neutrality has gone into hiding for
some odd reason.


hmmJanuary 10, 2018 12:56 AM

"it'd be interesting to see what would happen if we really did have a Department of Defense that was actually about inward protection rather than outward attacks."

Of course we do. There are lots of sub-agencies doing overlapping things. Each to their bailiwick.

I understand the reaction to paint the whole agency with each individual failure but realize what kind of a massive effort, personnel and all we're talking about here. 10+ million people with clearances. That's a lot of defense.

Any organization is going to have major, major screwups - FUBAR the acronym exists for a reason.
The NSA and other such A's have the luxury of those not usually becoming known. Usually.


hmmJanuary 10, 2018 2:48 AM

"It isn't that hard to find what Bill Binney
has to say about their internals."

Biney said thinthread would have 'maybe' been able to stop 9/11. It's not beyond the pale.
I like him, he speaks frankly and he's got some great insights into the failures.

But that claim doesn't make a ton of sense to me seeing as the 9/11 commission established that people were made aware of activities under observation and the administration was directly and specifically warned multiple, (13+) times - but for "whatever reason" the Louis Freeh FBI (because it's US soil) did not follow up significantly or waved off.

Maybe they were waiting for a cue, maybe there was inter-agency miscommunication, either is likely but that excuse falls away when you're talking about years of opportunity and observations/intercepts, which they had.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Able_Danger

https://fas.org/irp/congress/2005_hr/092105weldon.html

The ringleader was identified with several others. They pushed back on that, but it was confirmed again.

Pentagon officials said this month they had found three more people who recall an intelligence chart identifying Atta as a terrorist prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Two military officers, Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and Navy Capt. Scott Phillpott, have come forward to support Weldon's claims.

They then had destroyed 2.5 TB of that A_D identifying data on Pentagon orders.

https://web.archive.org/web/20050922032625/http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/print?id=1131137

Why? Because they were already planning for the reaction to the pending attacks.
The ones they "didn't know about" and "couldn't anticipate" and "didn't plan for."

"I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile." – National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 5/16/02

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentagon_MASCAL
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article3534.htm

Then the administration slashed the FBI budget for some reason during the post-investigation period.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2004/03/22/fbi-budget-squeezed-after-911/169ac386-cab7-4c93-bcda-9801b5d5969d/

Makes sense right?

The greatest crime in US history and they're going to slash the FBI budget right as they're poring over what we knew and when, what failed and how...

So they then hand it over to the 9/11 commission, where the foregone conclusions would be codified.
(The commission chaired by HENRY KISSINGER, Nixon's Vietnam 'truthfinder' Sec Def.)

The one headed by Thomas Kean, who said that NORAD was completely LYING about their entire story.
Somehow EVEN THAT wasn't enough to warrant a further look by Congress or the administration.

It's now been 17 years and most Americans think we were attacked out of the blue on 9/11 and nothing could have been done to prevent it and nobody knew anything and nobody in the intelligence community told the FBI or the President, etc.

Based on the public reaction that was carefully cultivated that day, thousands more Americans and millions of Iraqis and Afghanis and Yemenis and other enemies of the Israeli or Saudi regimes could be slaughtered for this cause.

http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/07/18/what-we-know-about-saudi-arabias-role-in-911/

What if a group of US Neocons got together and predicted all of this ahead of time?
Calling it a "Pearl Harbor type event" that would "solidify public support" verbatim?

Would that be too obvious?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_for_the_New_American_Century

http://www.publiceye.org/pnac_chart/pnac.html

Read those names. Ask yourself - Who massively benefited from the 9/11 attacks?

Rogue NationJanuary 10, 2018 5:10 AM

Rogue staff in rogue agency in world's #1 rogue terrorist super-power are getting the blues? Well cry me a river...

@hmm

Methinks you protest too much from your government-sponsored device. There is zero sympathy from free thinking individuals who see the agency for the Stasi-nazis they are. Morale is no doubt low, partly because any intelligence in the IC has worked out they are tiny cogs in a enormous, oppressive machine.

Many would take the (less than dying from a lightning strike) chance of terrorist attacks every day of the week over these freaks prying into every aspect of our lives and creating a digital time-machine in their data centers, all while helping to bankrupt the state. Not only that, the "Odin's Eye" approach has proven to be ineffective.

BTW, the 9-11 sympathy card is getting very, very old. Any sympathy global citizens had evaporated after the 3rd, 4th, or 5th illegal, genocidal war the US started on flimsy pretenses after the event.

It's called blowback pal. The primary cause is US foreign policy. Funnily enough, you multiply your enemies by the millions via decades of:

- destroying democracies;
- meddling in elections;
- assassinating individuals;
- sponsoring regime change;
- fomenting coups;
- funding / arming paramilitaries and terrorists; and
- generally engendering hatred through never-ending war and destruction that kills countless innocents.

"Ze homeland" doesn't need to shred the constitution and implement the 1984 police-state blueprint to defend itself; it needs to actually control its psychopathic traits and leaders.

Maybe start your first, tentative, educational steps here:

ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_United_States
ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covert_United_States_foreign_regime_change_actions
William Blum's classic, "Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II"

WayneJanuary 10, 2018 9:24 AM

Spoiler alert: Shadow Brokers are actually just an out of control Markov bot accidentally released by some former NSA analyst.

hmmJanuary 10, 2018 11:11 AM

"the 9-11 sympathy card is getting very, very old"

I don't ask for your or world sympathy. I don't think the 9/11 attacks were greater or more important than other violent actions worldwide numerically or otherwise. I don't think the value of American lives surpasses that 1:1 ratio vs anyone else.

You missed my point. This isn't "pity the poor Americans" at all.

This is "fear the unaccountable American government that has made Americans feel like victims of other cultures intentionally to get their permission to bomb the rest of the world - without actually getting permission or having a valid defense rationale at all."

This is US and a cabal of a few allies setting themselves up with false flags to continue an endless GWOT versus enemies that may or may not be the actual source of the terrorism we purportedly seek to contain or eliminate. The charade allows endless US war support, which in turn allows endless emergency borrowing under secret conditions and also props up the defense industrial complex with fresh munitions orders. Those missiles we fired at Saddam were over a million dollars apiece.

Who. Benefits. From. It.

"It's called blowback pal. The primary cause is US foreign policy"

pal, you actually missed the entire rationale of why it occurred, but I don't blame you.
Most Americans can't wrap their heads around it either - they literally refuse the idea.

The US had forewarning of Pearl, the USS Maddox was never attacked in Tonkin, the Korean war was engineered to contain China, the "yellowcake" trade did not take place as reported nor did Saddam have nuclear weapons as Hans and others proved, and so on down the list. You missed that pattern if you thought I was asking for SYMPATHY.

It's a WARNING. This will happen again, because nothing significant has been done to prevent it.
Save your pity for the next round.

"Funnily enough, you multiply your enemies by the millions via decades of:

- destroying democracies;
- meddling in elections;
- assassinating individuals;
- sponsoring regime change;
- fomenting coups;
- funding / arming paramilitaries and terrorists; and
- generally engendering hatred through never-ending war and destruction that kills countless innocents."

No sh!t. How do you think they intended to get ENDLESS SUPPORT for ALL OF THAT at home?

A "Pearl Harbor-like event" that would "solidify public support for war."

http://www.publiceye.org/pnac_chart/pnac.html

WHO. BENEFITS.

hmmJanuary 10, 2018 11:33 AM

"Not only that, the "Odin's Eye" approach has proven to be ineffective."

You offer zero alternatives.

Impossibly StupidJanuary 10, 2018 12:29 PM

@hmm

I understand the reaction to paint the whole agency with each individual failure but realize what kind of a massive effort, personnel and all we're talking about here. 10+ million people with clearances. That's a lot of defense.

No, it isn't. I don't think you're grasping that the suggestion is for the DoD to be solely dedicated to actual defense programs. No guns, no tanks, no planes, no bombs, no cyberattacks. If you want to reach out and hurt someone, that should be a Department of Offense mission. The problem with the "individual failure" that we see from the NSA stem from the fact that their tools get weaponized and stop being used for protection, which troubles people who didn't sign on to victimize distant strangers at the whim of politicians. A sharp divide between those powers would go a long way to minimize abuse, and allow the people who actually do want to simply defend America to do justthat job.

Any organization is going to have major, major screwups - FUBAR the acronym exists for a reason.

And the acronym SNAFU also exists for a reason, too. It should not be acceptable to have a morale problem to this extent. Even a small amount of applied scientific thinking would make the news story about what they're changing to improve the situation rather than what they're failing to do.

hmmJanuary 10, 2018 1:10 PM

Go back to the Howard Zinn link, lithocerebrum.

Educate yourself on American history for the first time.

hmmJanuary 10, 2018 1:25 PM

@ stupid

The 10+ million people each have clearances that need to be maintained/secured.
By that alone, it's a massive defensive operation just to run the IC at all.

We don't know how much of the IC is devoted to defense vs offence. Let's face that fact.
But to say or imply there's "no defense" focus is just silliness.

" It should not be acceptable to have a morale problem to this extent "

Well, it isn't. It's a problem, we're talking about it. They're mitigating it as able.
But then again, we don't have any actual realtime metrics on the morale itself either.
Whatever changes they are making are likely not made public too much. It's... the NSA.

One thing is for sure, in this political climate with treason investigations and counter-investigation-investigations being floated to obstruct the FBI / special counsel, we aren't really in a position as a nation to debate the changes we'd like to see on the merits. We aren't in control of even the representatives who would do our bidding, would that they were doing that anyway.

Right now has got to be a really demoralizing time to be in any of the IC agencies.
I'm certainly demoralized as a citizen by the excuses for treason being taken up.
Then again I've had a long time to get used to it, so it's a dull throb to me.

I fear that the next generation of children, (rock for example) won't bother to care about any of this in depth or explore the various important facets behind the duly provided narratives. It's actually a lot of work to get to some semblance of truth. People prefer to avoid that work, would rather have something clear cut presented to them that hits their preconceived dopamine receptors. Dunning-Kruger damns us all.

Every so often I like to remind myself that I used to be outraged by this treason.
It's hard to maintain that. Those who committed the acts count on that exactly.
Complacency in the face of known lies and evils. Worse, some have even deputized themselves as Capos to try to quash anyone else talking about it. Cowards.

RatioJanuary 10, 2018 4:14 PM

@hmm,

WHO. BENEFITS.

It’s sunny now, but it may be raining later on. What’s up with that? WHO. BENEFITS.

When all you’ve got is cui bono, reality becomes one big conspiracy pretty damn quick.

hmmJanuary 10, 2018 5:06 PM

I said start there.

If you see who benefits you can see the lay of the land, were it to be intentional.
Still with me? Or is that a mind blower lol.

In the case of the USS Liberty, Israel tried to draw the US into believing Egypt attacked and strafed our spy ship for 8 hours, our large flag flying tall the while.

They strafed the life boats. It's a war crime no matter who was attacked. Moreover they had warned us not to go there the day before via radio, because they were committing atrocities in El Amein. Yes, shooting Egyptian prisoners of war. Well, the US ship went anyway, and "unflagged" Israeli planes strafed it for over 8 hours. Israel later apologized. They said it was a big accident, they had no idea the ship was an American ship.

That was the extent of their defense, some in the US said "ok, solved." Well, no.

Multiple investigations that conflicted, again - Sitting secretaries said we could no longer trust Israel to have our backs entirely, they were obviously playing and lying to us expecting to be able to cover for it.

Read about it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Liberty_incident

https://theintercept.com/2017/06/06/fifty-years-later-nsa-keeps-details-of-israels-uss-liberty-attack-secret/

Skip forward a few dozen years.

We covered up 28 pages of the 9/11 report - because it implicated HIGH level Saudis whose US-embassy phone number the hijackers happened to have in their phone, as we discovered. These pages exist, you can google them now.

Secrets have a shorter half life than ever in the digitally captured world.

They have redoubled their efforts with FUD, fake news, tribalism division, media separation...
all kinds of classic Stasi/KGB type stuff that proves very useful in steering societies.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Paperclip - The one Kennedy said he'd break into a million pieces after the Bay o' Pigs.

Here we are. Do you want the nuclear superpower to follow its own rules, or do you not?

Do you believe in representative government generally, or something a little more leather?

RatioJanuary 10, 2018 6:00 PM

@hmm,

I said start there.

Hence my comment.

If you see who benefits you can see the lay of the land, were it to be intentional.

Exactly backwards. If you know the lay of the land, you can see who —if anyone— benefits. Moreover, then you’ll know if cui bono is even an appropriate question to be asking.

I’m not really interested in the rest of the discussion just now.

(By the way, when you say El Amein do you mean Al-’Arish, العريش, in North Sinai?)

hmmJanuary 10, 2018 6:14 PM

"I’m not really interested in the rest of the discussion just now."

So per the word choice I used as a reductive slogan of sorts, "Who benefited", as a starting point to think about this in a certain light, your contribution is that I ought to flip it exactly backwards and once that's done you have nothing else to say about this.

I see. Noted.

RatioJanuary 10, 2018 7:08 PM

@hmm,

a starting point to think about this in a certain light

My point was that you want to avoid starting there. (See also: Occam’s razor.)

once that's done you have nothing else to say about this

Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot to answer your two questions. Here ya go: “I do”, and “the former”.

What a nice discussion that was.

hmmJanuary 10, 2018 7:18 PM

Nice, but more of a quick hit and run than a discussion on the merits, IMO. Fitting I s'pose.

"You can't think that, it's exactly backwards!" - (see John 4:13)

If you don't want to touch any of the details that's understandable. Few do. Wish I never had.

It's not an easy subject to make one or two comments of and "explain away" or shut down, really.
A for affort though, ratio.

DavidJanuary 11, 2018 3:00 AM

On 9-11 I was sitting in a SCIF, there with a view to the whole thing--in intell before intell was cool--and also before it was post-Snowden uncool.

In the big picture, what happened to the U.S. intell field is this: because of 9-11 it became a cash bonanza. People with normal jobs in normal agencies suddenly had the chance to become contractors and make astronomical amounts of money. The rush to the doors began.

Like a poorly secured computer network, people and organizations spread out all over the place and control over them--and classified information--were seriously weakened. In other words, a disaster was brewing. Fatally, the demographics changed.

Even worse, the more "criminal-like" or "illegal" something was, the more secret it had to be. The more close-hold something is, the higher classification it must be--and that is more expensive. In other words, if you really want to make money, make it as illegal and hush-hush as possible. This is the slippery slope to the U.S. no longer existing.

And then the coup-de-gras: Edward Snowden, a man who damaged the glass building at Ft. Meade just as badly as Timothy McVeigh damaged the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. In their profiles and disloyalty, they are twins.

Snowden, if he did anything good at all, did smack the wayward Cyclops in its pee-pee for being bad, bad, bad. No more doing whatever you want.

No more wiping your ass with the U.S. Constitution. No more smirking after you raised a right hand to it.

Be assured of one thing: when Congress threatened to cut off the desert privileges of those at the big black cube, some backs straightened and feet shuffled. Momentary incontinence or indisposition may have been experienced.


Who is to blame? He may not know it, but when Michael Hayden made that decision--or those decisions--to spy on American citizens left and right, he did more damage to the U.S. than bin Laden ever dreamed of. He also destroyed the credibility of that organization inside the big black cube.

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same..."

DavidJanuary 11, 2018 4:46 AM

I often socialize with old timers--NSA retirees from the old days, vets who were in that line of work long ago--and it surprises me how negative they are about what is going on now, even bitter. Having retired about ten years ago myself, it looks likes as if the wheels have fallen off.

Any attention is bad attention as far as some organizations go, especially the one with lots of glass and no windows.

The country has not been served well.

DavidJanuary 11, 2018 6:39 AM

I often socialize with old timers--NSA retirees from the old days, vets who were in that line of work long ago--and it surprises me how negative they are about what is going on now, bitter. Having retired about ten years ago myself, today's effort looks likes as if the wheels have fallen off.

Any attention is bad attention as far as some organizations go, especially the one with lots of glass and no windows.

In many ways, the country has not been served well since 9-11, and several momentous lapses and defeats have been etched into our memories.

Clive RobinsonJanuary 11, 2018 8:13 AM

@ David,

I often socialize with old timers--NSA retirees from the old days, vets who were in that line of work long ago--and it surprises me how negative they are about what is going on now, even bitter.

The same applies to people that worked for AT&T (as I did) there was an ethos drumed into the old timers about the sanctity of peoples communications.

Some like Matt Blaze put pen to paper about it.

Yup they feel their ideals they protected for years have been violated beyond recovery. That is an indelible stain has been brought upon their house. Some of the words I've heard from old timers from UK's BT that wore the green with me at the politest use words like "Scum" and "Traitors" when talking about the newer MI5 and GCHQ "secret squirrel" liaison staff. The old people worked not for the money as such but because it was "an honest job" where certainly the engineers used to look after their own, it was a place where people that might be seen as socialy akward could work away being productive and usefully so. Maggie Thatcher started the rot thirty years ago and the slope is seen as ever downwards...

Yup spying on your own especially when it's clear there is no real basis for it legally or ethically does "burn in the craw" for many... The Ethos, Morals and Traditions is not something the Millennial's appear to subscribe to which causes a major organisational rift, with them being viewed as real "traitors".

It's not something that is likely to heal but just die as those with the old socially conscious ethos litterly die out, and the world will be a worse place for their loss...

hmmJanuary 11, 2018 1:03 PM

But I said El Amein, lol.

I've got to stick to my guns or, you know, cold dead hands.

Cheers Wael

WaelJanuary 11, 2018 1:13 PM

@hmm,

I've got to stick to my guns or, you know, cold dead hands.

Tough crowd here. Be careful.

Busies himself marking up Wikipedia with the Egyptian town "El Amein"

Once I stated something related to security in a meeting. A security "expert" said I was wrong and referred to a Wiki article that supports his point. When I looked at it, it was wrong, and he was wrong. So I told him: Oh yea? Give me 5 minutes and the wiki article will say something different ;)

hmmJanuary 11, 2018 1:30 PM

Heh, so true. It's hilarious that there are still those editing wars.

A metaphor for society. What we can know generally limited by what the general public will accept.

WaelJanuary 11, 2018 1:52 PM

@hmm,

Heh, so true. It's hilarious that there are still those editing wars.

Yes, I noticed the same. Once upon a time, long time ago, I edited an entry in this Mount Sinai regarding the meaning of the mountain's name. Someone deleted my entry... didn't bother again.

There are well-funded groups out there that make sure the world sees the "correct picture". The "correct picture" is usually a lie.

hmmJanuary 11, 2018 3:14 PM

"Someone deleted my entry... didn't bother again" -That's how it happens, truth gets tired by itself.

Lies get paid.

RockJanuary 11, 2018 6:24 PM

@Clive

I'm curious why you attribute the rot to millennials. They're not the ones very publicly lobbying for unchecked mass surveillance authorities.

Clive RobinsonJanuary 12, 2018 9:30 AM

@ Rock,

I'm curious why you attribute the rot to millennials. They're not the ones very publicly lobbying for unchecked mass surveillance authorities.

Esentially because way to many of them are "Asleep at the wheel"...

In the West humanity has a problem, put simply we have Authoritarian leaders doing all sorts of harm. They can only maintain their position due to mindless authoritarian followers or "on the make" immoral or psycipathic chancers. In turn they only maintain their position because the rest of the citizens let them one way or another...

Many millennials rightly or wrongly only see the world as Zuckerberg and Co want them to. Because of this they have an "I'm all right jack" attitude, they appear on mass not to care about anything unless it comes courtesy of Social Media and it's myriad of echo chambers. Few have studied history of even this century they've lived in let alone that of the 20th their parents and grandparents lived through and learned just how evil a place Authoritarian leaders can make a country in less than a handfull of years.

They don't realy look and learn from what went on in 1930's Europe 1950's onwards North America you ask them about "Watts" in 65 or why it happened again in 92 and they have not got a clue nor why it's very likely to happen again in the next few years. Likewise the dictatorships of South America, and the Middle East, few appear to realise just what the US Government was doing in their parents and grandparents names and now in theirs and why that came back at them at the begining of this century. They have no real ubderstanding of what the various thousands if not millions of "Disappeared" are or what went on in Rwanda in 94 or why or in Kenya before that with the Mau Mau. Likewise what is currently going on in Africa in places like Nigeria and in the East Edge of Europe in Turkey and Down the eastern side of the Mediterainian into Egypt and the rest of Africa. Thus they have no idea what the "midnight knock" is. Lets hope they wake up before it's their turn...

BranchJanuary 12, 2018 11:31 AM

@Ben


I can't agree. The NSA has involved itself into domestic affairs. That was their choice.

NSA workers also had a choice. They could defend our Constitution - or collect a paycheck. Most of them chose the paycheck.


Myself, I would take great satisfaction if a very complete list of NSA employee names were leaked and published to an Onion site. There needs to be a consequence for traitorous behavior. Having to watch your back for the rest of your days seems about right. The Twilight Zone penalty.


No one properly had any sympathy for Nazi guards. The penalty for choice was swift.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3067988/Let-s-Nazi-dogs-Enraged-horrors-Dachau-concentration-camp-arriving-liberate-WWII-prisoners-American-soldiers-executed-50-Germans-cold-blood-reveals-new-book.html


Seems to me, the world still needs to collect on the Stasi *AND* the NSA. The FBI may also be culpable.

Many in this country now have very hard attitudes toward their government "servants". These judgments didn't happen overnight - they were durably built over time. That Twilight Zone penalty is real.

I'll bet many East Germans are quietly acting while their new government flails. I'll wager some of those people have been active for 30 years. Slowly but surely balancing accounts.

Think any East German will come to the defense of Stasi?

JMJanuary 12, 2018 12:05 PM

There is zero chance I would ever place my family at risk by working for the feds. Believe a self selection phenomenon is in play there.


If you can't imagine demise due to your own mental limitations - that threat doesn't exist?

And these are the "quality people" we need for government functions? Everyone except them stepped backward. Their sole qualification was standing there?


Kids who fall into a bad crowd, then wonder why their prison time is real?

RockJanuary 12, 2018 3:39 PM

@Clive Robinson

How would you expect a millenial spook to protest? Honest question.

Also, I find it perplexing when the issue of mass surveillance and privacy is portrayed as a generational issue. You're hardly the only one who does it and it seems nonsensical to me.

As a millennial (non-spook) myself, I see no age-based tendency to be okay with or be opposed to mass surveillance. In fact the most consistent issue I see is ignorance. The very concept of mass surveillance comes off like a paranoid schizophrenic's fever dream. The one person I did manage to get to understand asked me not to tell her anything else - she wanted to be ignorant and not live her life in fear on the Internet.

hmmJanuary 13, 2018 7:23 PM

"Esentially because way to many of them are "Asleep at the wheel"

So easily also applied to the boomer generation ++ in terms of many social / enviro issues,
not to mention nuclear proliferation? You've left quite a legacy, judged by full cohort-load.

Millenials have least time-in-control of any of them anyhow.

- But you can't blame or judge a "generation" if you have sense. That's just loosely-defined ageism, it doesn't incorporate the uncontrollable realities of their day which the vast majority of it don't have any individual control over and simply inherit from prior history. Not every child born in Europe in the 20's was part of the "Nazi Generation" though if you went by the big vague defining theme, that's pretty comparable to calling Millenials the "Facebook Generation" or something like that. It's just reductive, what is gained?

Age is simply the honor of not having died horribly for a defined period. A luxury in any time.


Shifty BeadyJanuary 14, 2018 10:11 PM

The NSA quick-response 1st-comment bot has evidently concluded that his best bet is to target -1σ and below on the bell curve with a ringing slogan and a button-eyed affirmation by a noted Harvard celebrity. Sadly, no reader here is stupid enough to fall for the claim that NSA was built to defend the nation.

NSA was built to control the domestic population. We see it in use right now. CIA and its moles in FBI and DoJ are using NSA to destroy political enemies - in this case, a presidential figurehead not under CIA's secure control. With Rogers, NSA has a director who just fell off the turnip truck. Rogers thinks NSA is supposed to obey the derisory bureaucratic red tape that passes for law, instead of CIA. Rogers doesn't know his place. What happens? CIA and its domestic moles join to call for Rogers' ouster.

Below is an explanation meticulously documented with official sources. To address the facts below, NSA's quick-response 1st-comment bot would need more than a servile pledge of allegiance, "Yes the NSA as an organization has made questionable decisions but we need their services, now more than ever." Accordingly, a statist worm will be dispatched to delete this post.

https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2018/01/08/how-the-fbi-and-doj-intelligence-units-were-weaponized-around-congressional-oversight/

Spinning and GrinningJanuary 16, 2018 7:32 AM

On the subject of "old timers" who know not to snoop on Americans: that's absolutely correct.

The U.S. has rightfully been ambivalent about having powerful national-level intell agencies. Who will guard the guardians? Once they go rogue, they country is done.

Luckily, they have been put in check and can resume their core duties (one hopes).

PeaceHeadAugust 4, 2018 6:17 PM

This was a good retroactive read. Recent history still matters.

add "Operation Northwoods" and "Operation Mockingbird" to the lists related to PNAC.
It's old news, but worth remembering.

Thank goodness to ya, "Hmm". You seem like a thoughtful kindhearted person willing to deal with facts as facts and speculations as speculations. Those are good qualities. Don't give up.

In my opinion, the modern-day NSA is more like a collective organism than an organisation or government department. It's more like a subculture, and it's not entirely unanimous either. But yeah, in a lot of ways it's literally a collection of communities, not really an affiliation.

Kind of like the article linked to in recent times, they are more correlated via behaviors and tendencies rather than by occupational titles.

The tragic thing about that, is that it means that the NSA is so secularised, so commonplace, so everyday, so much in plain sight, that it's own mistakes are almost invisible to it's own people because the entire culture is massively mainstreamed.

It's also tragic because it's like the whole culture is run by algorithmic schedules and behavioral or vocational "recipes" more than by any kind of democratic fairness. But to the degree that even democracy is a potential, it's in constant jeopardy by an informational and cybernetic-like protocol which caters to spontaneous bouts of political bullies.

That is not a good protocol for a civilisation to rest upon. There are other technical techniques instead of competitiveness institutionalised as social protocol for large groups of people. And monarchies and aristocracies and stratocracies are NOT healthy alternatives either!

Seriously, I am fearful and prudent against the "feature creep" of the "Operating System" which runs the NSA and the other groups, all of which whose names are not even likely relevant anymore. There is no "N.S.A.", yet there is the collectivism, there is the parallel behaviors, there is the conditioning to prevent the disclosure of secrets. The enculturation is integral to the censorship is integral to the secrecy is integral to the passivity and innate slavery of it all.

Don't get me wrong--I have empathy for the N.S.A. They are currently setup to be the fall-guys of the world's most dangerous era. It's not exclusively their fault. They got set up decades ago.

By the way, they probably accomplish heroic wonderful things with great regularity. However, by definition in terms of guaranteed levels of secrecy, it's probably against federal laws and other types of protocols and indoctrination for them to even accept recognition and/or awards for their good deeds and successful good behaviors and mission accomplishments.

And probably because of their demographics, their activities are so far and wide that it would waste intelligence bandwidth and resources to attempt to deliver recognition for good deeds to so many active members of an organization which is designed to deny it's own existence.

The levels of cognitive dissonance which N.S.A. participants much endure are probably astronomical. And that's probably why the secrecy systems are so analogous to brainwashing except for when they are so analogous to ambivalence. But even that's probably an illusion. Many are probably crying on the inside.

Please, let's not kick them when they are down.
Sincerely,
"I was raised in the hood; am I right?" (August 2018; before memorial days of Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombings)

PEACE NOW.

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