Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Summer Spy Thriller Continues

Although intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has secured asylum within Russia, the controversy about U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance actions continue. Last week, NSA spokesperson Judith Emmel said, "in carrying out its signals intelligence mission, NSA collects only what it is explicitly authorized to collect. ... Moreover, the agency's activities are deployed only in response to requirements for information to protect the country and its interests”.

In addition, a White House report defended the NSA’s actions citing the U.S. Patriot Act, which provides “enhanced law enforcement investigatory tools” and permits “an order requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence. “ NOTE: this act remains controversial because the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment provides “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated”.

Adam Curtis, a popular blogger at the UK’s BBC provides another perspective: “The recent revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden were fascinating. But they - and all the reactions to them - had one enormous assumption at their heart - That the spies know what they are doing. It doesn't matter whether you hate the spies and believe they are corroding democracy, or if you think they are the noble guardians of the state….the assumption is that the secret agents know more than we do. But the strange fact is that often when you look into the history of spies what you discover is something very different. It is not the story of men and women who have a better and deeper understanding of the world than we do. In fact in many cases it is the story of weirdos who have created a completely mad version of the world that they then impose on the rest of us.”

MY TAKE
Had Snowden not released the NSA documents, it is likely that the business of surveillance at the agency today would be “business as usual”. Within the whirlwind of constitutional issues, security is big business. As acres of computing and communication technology support social media, search, cloud computing and Internet commerce services, there is a broad set of services and technologies used in the surveillance business, both in accessing, mining and analyzing data, as well as attempting to protect against intrusion and security breaches. After the congressional reviews of the NSA actions have concluded, it is likely that the demand for high performance security offerings will remain robust.

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