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US Government Releases DoD Report Critical of NSA 38

Posted by Soulskill
from the can-you-hear-me-now dept.
decora writes "Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project has posted a summary of the newly released DoD Inspector General report (PDF) on the NSA's Thinthread and Trailblazer programs. The DoD found that NSA 'disregarded solutions to urgent national security needs' and that 'TRAILBLAZER was poorly executed and overly expensive.' NSA contractors had a 'fear of management reprisal' for cooperating with the DoD audit. The FBI later raided the homes of several people involved with the report, and Thomas Drake faced Espionage Act charges for retaining information related to it. Those charges were dropped two weeks ago. Radack and the GAP represent Drake on whistleblower issues."
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US Government Releases DoD Report Critical of NSA

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  • Humans are human (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mtrachtenberg (67780) on Friday June 24, 2011 @01:06PM (#36558206) Homepage

    When human beings are offered the opportunity to work at secret agencies, on secret things, they will take advantage of the ability to keep their mistakes secret.

    That is why secrecy in government is bad, and transparency in government is good. It doesn't take Einstein to understand this.

    The United States government has poured billions (trillions?) into secrecy. That is bad.

    • A totally open government is no government at all. Almost no decisions are not made out in the open, except for Rain Man. All we see is the result of decisions. Taking transparency to its logical conclusion, we'd bug every government employee and politician 24/7. Government would grind to a halt. I'm for open government, to a point. Regardless of what I want to know, there are things I don't want enemies of the state to know.

      Secrecy isn't bad. Abuse is bad. Secrecy just makes it easier. But let's n

      • Of course, now there is a wide range of things that once you know them, you become an enemy of the state...

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        A totally open government is no government at all. Almost no decisions are not made out in the open, except for Rain Man. All we see is the result of decisions. Taking transparency to its logical conclusion, we'd bug every government employee and politician 24/7. Government would grind to a halt.

        If we can get the federal government down to the parts we can "all" agree on, then we win. Anything else is failure; indeed, it is fascism.

    • Re:Humans are human (Score:4, Informative)

      by hey! (33014) on Friday June 24, 2011 @05:56PM (#36561030) Homepage Journal

      When human beings are offered the opportunity to work at secret agencies, on secret things, they will take advantage of the ability to keep their mistakes secret.

      That may be true, but in this case it was the workers at the secret agency who were the whistleblowers trying to uncover waste. The secrecy came from the political appointees above them. It was the President above those appointees who initiated the vendetta against the whistleblowers. The vendetta itself was performed by a different, non-secret agency. The people working at the agency tried to make the waste public, but it was the political overseers who for its own reasons continued to pour money into the program for years after the agency's own IG branded it a billion dollar boondoggle.

      So, I'd say that in *this* case, at least, it wasn't the career bureaucrats that failed the American people. It was democracy itself that failed. We, the people deserved to get fleeced of ever dollar the frauds we elected took out of our hide, but letting those frauds use mafia tactics on the only responsible and honest people in the scenario is going too far.

      • by Aighearach (97333)

        It was the President above those appointees who initiated the vendetta against the whistleblowers.

        That's like blaming the Baseball Commissioner for a corked bat. Trust me, the Commissioner was not told about the bat, and if he had been, he would have put a stop to it right away. There are just different interests. It is the middle managers that come up with this stuff, and hide it from the top, and wreck havoc on those below who say anything.

        • by sjames (1099)

          The baseball commissioner is not responsible for a single corked bat. However, if corked bats run rampant, he IS responsible, especially if he instructs others to turn a blind eye, or worse, penalizes anyone who might expose the problem so that it can continue. He is also responsible if he fails to see the warning signs and so takes no corrective action. That's part of leadership.

          The president COULD tell any part of the executive branch to take their lumps and move on rather than trying to nail whistle blow

        • by hey! (33014)

          That's like blaming the Baseball Commissioner for a corked bat. Trust me, the Commissioner was not told about the bat, and if he had been, he would have put a stop to it right away. There are just different interests. It is the middle managers that come up with this stuff, and hide it from the top, and wreck havoc on those below who say anything.

          That may be the common case, but in *this* case the President ordered the investigation. It'd be more like the commissioner telling a manager to increase the swing speed of the batters on his team overnight. The only way to do that would be to tamper with the equipment.

          In any case, the President isn't like the Commissioner of Baseball. The team owners and managers don't work for the Commssioner; it's the other way around.

  • by Aladrin (926209) on Friday June 24, 2011 @01:06PM (#36558212)

    How poorly executed and overly expensive does something have to be for the government to think that about it? :D

    I suspect it's no worse than anything else right now and they're just trying to make it look like they didn't waste time and money on a useless investigation.

    I mean, 'disregarded solutions' ... You mean, they didn't think they'd be the right direction to go? Isn't it part of their job to determine that kind of thing?

    • by Larryish (1215510)

      DoD = teh suck

      NSA = teh secret suck

      When their powers combine, they become...

      CAPTAIN SUPERSUCK!

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        When their powers combine, they become...

        CAPTAIN SUPERSUCK!

        Oh, come now ... at that level, they'd be Generals and Admirals.

        A mere captain doesn't have the authority to fuck things up on that scale. ;-)

        • by idontgno (624372)

          Good point. The senior military leadership of the DoD is uniformly 4-Star flag officers. And the Director of the NSA is a 3-Star flag officer (Lieutenant General, Vice Admiral). So "Captain" is a serious under-rank, even if you mean the Navy variant (O-6, just below the lowest General/Admiral rank).

          Whoa! Was that a low-flying signals intercept I just heard whistling in over my head?

    • by cptdondo (59460)

      How poorly executed and overly expensive does something have to be for the government to think that about it? :D

      The vast amount of government operations as as efficient, if not more so, than private sector equivalents. Why do you think private enterprise is so afraid of govenrment competition? If government is so bad, then the health insurance industry should welcome the new healthcare law instead of spending millions/day to fitght it. If they can truly provide a better product at a lower price, what are they so afraid of? Now that is not to say that government doesn't have spectacular failures, but so does the p

      • by Bengie (1121981)

        The problem with your example is it's healthcare. There is an incentive for healthcare, to no fix the problem, but prolong it. Situations where something is needed, but is a bad business investment, those need to be run by the government.

        It really comes down to Health and Infrastructure should entirely be government, as they naturally cause abuse.

        A lot of government institutions have the idea of "throw money at it and don't keep track of it", because there is no real reason to. All they need to do is vote i

        • by cptdondo (59460)
          It's not just healthcare. As you say, anything that doesn't have a profit motive. Clean drinking water. Sewage treatment. Roads. Basic fundamental research. Arts (real arts, not the crap from Hollywood). Public radio and TV. Public buildings. Public transportation. Lots of really good examples where the private industry doesn't do well.

          Most government is accountable. It's just that people don't understand how accountable, and there is always some politician who will dig up one invoice and use

        • by Magius_AR (198796)

          There is an incentive for healthcare, to no fix the problem, but prolong it.

          I just don't believe that. Can you honestly tell me that if a company invented and patented an exclusive miracle cure for say cancer or AIDs that they wouldn't become rich beyond the dreams of avarice? It might be _easier_ to develop maintenance drugs than cures, but to say there isn't any incentive to develop a cure is just foolhardy. It's just incredibly risky -- you have to put a ton of research into a longshot that may or may

          • by sjames (1099)

            Sure, but given two equally promising research projects, one that cures cancer forever with just one pill and another that allows the patient to survive as long as treatment continues, which one do you suppose gets the fast track?

            Which gets the research dollars, the patentable slightly better penis pill or the un-patentable new treatment protocol that doubles the cancer cure rate using generic drugs?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The vast amount of government operations [are] as efficient, if not more so, than private sector equivalents. Why do you think private enterprise is so afraid of [government] competition?

        Anyone that refers to government operations as efficient must be a troll, but against my better judgement I'll comment anyway lol. Bureaucracy is practically the antonym of Efficiency. I think the real reason government agencies shouldn't compete with private enterprises is because it wouldn't be a level playing field. Government services are seemingly offered for "free" (or at a nominal charge) because they pay for the costs of providing the services indirectly through taxes instead. So when John Q. Pu

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Red herring. Government operations don't have to be funded by taxes. They can be set up as government-owned corporations that operate autonomously. The USPS and many publicly-owned utility companies are like this. They can't make a profit, they can't pay their CEO $200 million a year, and they have to be self-sufficient. Companies like this work great, because they're not constantly trying to "grow" or provide "shareholder value", as their mission is to provide an essential service at the best price po

      • I figure that for all the flak "da gubmint" gets, there's an awful lot of nonsense in large private organizations that isn't seen in nearly the same light.

  • by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Friday June 24, 2011 @02:59PM (#36558704)

    Transparency in Government is important, but not always practical. Undercover operations, signals intelligence, military development or deployment, counterintelligence work, and plenty of other areas exist which should function with very limited transparency--but still with accountability. A culture that accepts lawbreaking and promotes covering the back of fellow officers (or soldiers) in any law enforcement community, is a massive problem for justice, because it actively works to prevent justice and it passively allows criminals to thrive. Whistleblowing to superiors or to the appropriate government agency about a superior's conduct should never be something that one should need to fear reprisal for.

    If someone is an ass--whether a superior or reporting a superior, that can be noted. But they should never get fired for doing the right thing.

    The problems with not having such a culture are massively magnified where there is no transparency. Where there are legitimate reasons for the lack of transparency, a culture which does not tolerate lawbreaking and which encourages reporting of it (ideally without entrapment) will go a long way toward making sure people stay on task. It's not just toleration of lawbreaking that lets people break the law--it's living around people where breaking the law is commonplace.

    • wish I could mod you +1
    • by nedlohs (1335013) on Friday June 24, 2011 @03:48PM (#36559290)

      I suspect it's an impossible balance.

      At some point it becomes corrupt and there's nothing that can be done short of "the people" kicking up such a stink that things are forced to be changed.

      You can't control the culture, coruption is too useful and ever growing. Just look at any popular TV show/movie and how the "good guys" are presented and how taking short cuts is always a good thing...

      Plus of course you get it from the top when you get someone like Nixon being elected President (it doesn't matter if you think someone else is worse, we have proof of Nixon's doings and hence he's the best example). Who are you going to blow the whistle too?

      And of course Hoover's FBI were considered great buys by most people at the time.

    • Absolutely correct. If things are bad at the NSA because of lack of transparency, just imaging how bad they are at DHS (Homeland Security). Or as I like to think of it, the Department of Homeland Pork.
  • by return 42 (459012)

    The U.S. government actually criticized itself in public? Invest in ice skates now, Lucifer will be buying millions of them.

  • Looks like an audit report of any major corporation.... really.

    Honestly, TB's TDP was mainly a contractor driven project.Contractors were managed as an integrated product team (IPT) [wikipedia.org], which was a new concept to the agency in 2000, a carry over from 'its' successful use in DoD in the mid-90's. And over time, the IPT leds were changing hands almost every fiscal year due to the politics of business, and changing technology and hiding(hearsay?) of the issues. The latter is very important in large projects such a

    • that is very interesting information.

      i am wondering, if it was a standard corporate audit report, then why did the IG complainers get raided by FBI years later? why was one person charged with the Espionage Act?

      what is your view on everything that happened to these people? what did you think when you first heard about it?

      thanks again

  • lots of noise about "necessary secrecy" etc., the fact is US is a banana republic, albeit a fragmented one.
    Greed is celebrated and cultivated from an early age, why is anyone surprised it leads to greedy people?

    The choice for someone in whatever agency is to toil anonymously until death, with noone giving a flying fuck, or take the offer of directing funds to this or that company, in return for money and a life.

  • Two things you can take to the bank: 1) If the classification system can be twisted to cover up government boondoggles or malfeasance it will be, 2) Any power given to the government will eventually be abused. The government is not your friend, hence, there is no substitute for vigilance and transparency.

  • Drake retained documents related to the IG report, (he was a source for it) not necessarily 'from it'.

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