NSA’s growing distrust of own staff: Advice yes, but please only from a distance!

The National Security Agency (NSA) boss Keith Alexander announced on Thursday, 9th August 2013, that the NSA intends to reduce the number of system administrators by 90% in order to lower the risk of further leaks like those released by Edward Snowden. Apparently, the NSA does not only not trust the American population, it also doesn’t trust its own staff.

Those administrators who remain may be more carefully vetted. That vetting may also include more careful and constant “background screening”, which means that someone needs to monitor those who monitor the population at large. Then, someone also needs to (secretly?) monitor those (secretly?) monitoring the population. Why do I put a question mark behind “secretly”? Because thanks to Snowden it’s not secret anymore that large-scale surveillance is installed and its also quite obvious that the NSA itself feels a need to increase its staff surveillance. So it is out in the open that “secret” surveillance is being conducted.
What we are left with is a situation that is dripping with paranoia of a dual sort: The NSA doesn’t trust anybody and nobody can trust to be left alone by the NSA and their corporate allies.

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you”

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Distrust may, hopefully, not always be the most solid of foundations. For all I can imagine about the role of system administrators in defending IT systems, I doubt that large-scale redundancies are a sustainable way of fortification. There are hordes of smart hackers out there. The NSA will certainly continue enlisting them. But they may only ask for advice from a distance — like consulting an online doctor instead of going to a hospital.


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