On Sunday night the NSA scored a major PR win in the form on a highly-favorable
60 Minutes interview with NSA Director Keith Alexander. I did not watch the segment for the same reasons I avoid reality TV centering around people yelling at people for the sake of people yelling at people.
60 Minutes interview was a waste of time.
Dylan Byers at Politco opened his criticism with a look at the failings of the news program:
CBS’s “60 Minutes” has had a terrible year: Lara Logan’s now-retracted Benghazi report was the sort of black mark that will take the news-magazine years to live down. Charlie Rose’s interview with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, about his drone delivery plans, was panned as fawning and promotional.
He went on to state how laughable John Miller’s interview with the NSA Director came off.
Derek Mead at Motherboard was a bit more on point, ending his article with:
It’s no surprise that a guy who was once the FBI’s PR man would be sympathetic towards the national security world, but by presenting such a soft and one-sided report—literally one-sided, as there wasn’t a single outside source, which is appallingly shoddy journalism for such a contentious story—60 Minutes did its viewers a disservice.
Mead’s post also can serve as a good overview of the things you will not learn from the
60 Minutes interview.
Simon Sharwood at The Register notes how the NSA tried to scare Americans during the program by mentioning a BIOS attack the agency thwarted:
A foreign country developed BIOS malware “disguised as a request for a software update” that would have turned PCs into “a brick.” Plunkett said “The NSA working with computer manufacturers was able to close this vulnerability”. 60 Minutes names China as the culprit
But the winning take is from Greg Mitchell at The Nation:
Here’s the complete transcript of tonight’s show. It’s got something to offend everyone. All that’s missing is an Amazon drone delivering a package of listening devices to an NSA agent in the field.
Likely to be lost with the coverage of
60 Minutes of Shit is some more interesting NSA news. Specifically this report from The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti and Michael S. Schmidt:
In recent days, a senior N.S.A. official has told reporters that he believed Mr. Snowden still had access to documents not yet disclosed. The official, Rick Ledgett, who is heading the security agency’s task force examining Mr. Snowden’s leak, said he would consider recommending amnesty for Mr. Snowden in exchange for those documents. “So, my personal view is, yes, it’s worth having a conversation about,” Mr. Ledgett told CBS News. “I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high. It would be more than just an assertion on his part.”
The basic problem for the NSA is that they have no clue, no clue, what Snowden took from them. All that why they maintain the company line that we should feel safe trusting them to monitor everything. The intentions of the NSA and most of its employees are no doubt noble, but do you really feel safe knowing that not only is the NSA able to spy on you, but that they would have little to no idea if another person was spying on them (thus someone else is siphoning off documents about you)?
That’s an issue.
Offering another pro-NSA point over the weekend is Loren Sands-Ramshaw a former NSA employee (worked in the elite TAO group it sounds like). Sands-Ramshaw’s post seeks to allay concerns over NSA employees being evil, but as I said above that’s not the real issue here. Still, a good read.
Here’s the problem: even with all the shit being slung from each side, nothing is fucking happening. There’s no real open debates from our lawmakers. There’s rhetoric flying, but no change. There’s decreasing public outrage, and increasing government officials burying their heads in the sand hoping we all forget it over the holidays.
Don’t forget it.
Any agency that actively works to subvert privacy is focusing on the wrong mission. We as a nation are letting it stand that institutions like Yale can decide not to expel rapists and just let them go about their schooling.
We as a nation have decided that, well, torture is fine if it yields results, but if you fail to get results then we will have your ass. Which, of course, only leads to harsher torture and more hate lobbed at Americans.
We’ve failed a lot.
Let’s try not to fail on the one thing that has risen up to give the oppressed the voice that they so often disparately need. Let’s protect online privacy by telling agencies like the NSA we will not stand for them subverting encryption and spying on everyone.
Too often, change for the betterment of society starts off looking like terrorism. Imagine where we would be as a country today if Paul Revere had been silenced.