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Obama is trying to protect himself from criticism from allies abroad and civil-liberties advocates on U.S. soil

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has been attacked all year for its spy programs, which were revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden -- and the agency could use some love from President Barack Obama. 

According to The Washington Post, the NSA's morale has taken a beating ever since the Snowden revelations, and many former officials say that current NSA employees are disappointed that Obama hasn't stopped by to provide some encouragement. 

“The agency, from top to bottom, leadership to rank and file, feels that it is had no support from the White House even though it’s been carrying out publicly approved intelligence missions,” said Joel Brenner, NSA inspector general from 2002 to 2006. “They feel they’ve been hung out to dry, and they’re right.”

Other former NSA officials, who have asked to remain anonymous, said morale is "bad overall" and that many employees are asking to have their résumés wiped of any surveillance programs in order to gain employment elsewhere. 

“The news — the Snowden disclosures — it questions the integrity of the NSA workforce,” said a former NSA official who chose to remain anonymous. “It’s become very public and very personal. Literally, neighbors are asking people, ‘Why are you spying on Grandma?’ And we aren’t. People are feeling bad, beaten down.”

Some former officials have even mentioned that former President George W. Bush visited the NSA in January 2006 after the New York Times reported that the agency engaged in a counterterrorism program of warrantless surveillance in the U.S. 


Obama has sent top White House officials to the NSA to speak for him in an effort to offer encouragement. But many believe he hasn't made the trip himself because he needs to protect himself from criticism from allies abroad and civil-liberties advocates on U.S. soil. In addition, internal and external reviews of surveillance activities have not yet been completed. 

Obama has said that the NSA’s surveillance is lawful in June of this year, and showed interest in preserving the intelligence programs. However, he's also mentioned making some changes so that there's greater transparency.

Snowden blew the cover on the NSA's surveillance programs earlier this year, which consisted of bulk data collection from sources like phone records, where the government took on a "collect now, filter later" approach. The agency has said that the bulk data collection was meant to identify terrorist threats, but it's been discovered that the data of Americans has been collected without any clear evidence of terrorist links. 
 
In August, reports said that the NSA admitted to touching 1.6 percent of total globe Web traffic. Its technique was to filter data after harvesting it, which led to over-collection on a major scale. It was later revealed that Snowden conned between 20 to 25 NSA employees to give him their login credentials and passwords while working at the NSA regional operations center for a month in Hawaii last spring. Snowden reportedly told the NSA employees that he needed their passwords in order to do his job, and after downloading secret NSA documents, he leaked the information to the media.
 
Many top tech leaders, like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, have spoken out against the NSA's programs along with civil-liberties advocates, U.S. citizens and even other countries that had the NSA peeping in their window. 

Just yesterday, it was revealed that the NSA and its UK sister agency GCHQ sent agents into the virtual worlds of the Xbox Live network, World of Warcraft, and Second Life to find acts of terrorism. 

Source: The Washington Post



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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By flatrock on 12/13/2013 10:28:33 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The NSA is looking to the president for support, when instead they need to realize that us citizens pay them and we control the government, or used to. The government is becoming a rogue entity looking out for itself instead of the people.


Yes the NSA works for the American people. They get their direction from the President and Congress who are elected by the American people. The NSA is looking for support from those that directed them to do as they have been doing, and have provided oversight of their efforts, and have generally approved of them in the past.

No that their efforts have been made public with a good bit of fact and a larger amount of speculation fanned by a media that loves the attention stirring people up brings, the politicians who have been happy with their efforts before now are now hanging them out to dry (while not making any meaningful changes to the direction they have provided the NSA).

The NSA is looking out for the American people, but they are doing it in such a way that poses serious risks to our personal rights. They have created systems with tremendous potential for abuse. They gather massive amounts of data, that is only supposed to be accessed in very restricted ways, but while the data remains in the hands of the government the potential and temptation to abuse it persists.

It is not the role of the NSA to draw the line between doing their job effectively and protecting the rights of those they serve. That is for Congress and the courts, and to some extent for the executive branch to direct them within the rules set out by the legislative and judicial branches.

For a group of people as large as the NSA and the contractors that work with it, and the type of collection they are doing, the number of times that over-collection occurs accidentally are small. It is extremely, extremly rare than the rules the NSA is given are broken in bad faith.

The NSA isn't a government agency that is out of control. It is a government agency that a large portion of the American people are unhappy with the direction the agency has been given.

The NSA can't just change their policies on their own based on public popularity polls, especially when the public is poorly informed at best, and can't really become well informed. The public can become better informed than they have been in the past, but transparency and intelligence operations simply don't work together beyond giving the public a basic understanding of the types of operations going on.

The people who are supposed to be making informed decisions are our elected officials, and if you look at what they do rather than just what they say, most of them aren't trying to make significant changes to how the NSA operates. That means the NSA shouldn't be making significant changes. The lack the authority to do so on their own.

So either we have made poor choices in our elected officials, or our officials are making decisions based on information we lack. There may well be some of both going on. Such things are rarely simple. We also tend to have trouble getting good elected officials to vote for and have to choose the ones we disagree with the least, and even then all the other less enlightened voters foolishly vote for the other guy.

Alexander is politically appointed. It's part of his job to get beat up for following the orders of his President. However, if the administration doesn't step up and take some responsibility the NSA and the contractors that support them are going to lose a lot of talented people with specialized skills that will be extremely hard to replace.

The administration and Congress needs to get their heads out of their rear ends and step up and do something. They either need to publicly make changes, or they need to publicly stand behind their decision to not make changes. Trying to deny knowledge and accountability will do long term damage to our intelligence community because we will lose the capability to be as effective. If we are going to reign in the NSA, and to some extent we need to do so, we need to make sure they are as effective as possible at what they are directed to do.


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