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Schneier: Break Up the NSA 324

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-leave-the-door-open-to-a-reunion-tour-in-twenty-years dept.
New submitter BrianPRabbit writes "Bruce Schneier proposes 'breaking up' the NSA. He suggests assigning the targeted hardware/software surveillance of enemy operations to U.S. Cyber Command. Further, the NSA's surveillance of Americans needs to be scaled back and placed under the control of the FBI. Finally, he says, is 'the deliberate sabotaging of security. The primary example we have of this is the NSA's BULLRUN program, which tries to "insert vulnerabilities into commercial encryption systems, IT systems, networks and endpoint communication devices." This is the worst of the NSA's excesses, because it destroys our trust in the Internet, weakens the security all of us rely on and makes us more vulnerable to attackers worldwide. .... [T]he remainder of the NSA needs to be rebalanced so COMSEC (communications security) has priority over SIGINT (signals intelligence). Instead of working to deliberately weaken security for everyone, the NSA should work to improve security for everyone.'"
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Schneier: Break Up the NSA

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  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Friday February 21, 2014 @10:46AM (#46303651) Homepage
    It would encourage the use of espionage/security methods in criminal cases.

    That is, I think it would be more likely to corrupt the FBI than to clean up the NSA's investigation of Americans.

    The real problem is priorities more than anything else.

    The events of September 11th panicked us Americans, and we decided to overspend and over-allow security.

    We need to realize that the number of terrorism related attacks are relatively SMALL and to cut funding for all things that invade our privacy - starting with the TSA.

    When you limit their funds, they spend their money wisely on clear and present dangers.

    When you give them unlimited funding, as we have been doing, they spend it on any wild-ass crazy possibility, which means they investigate people and cases that are clearly and obviously not terrorism related.

  • by SJHillman (1966756) on Friday February 21, 2014 @10:47AM (#46303659)

    That's exactly why. Any surveillance of Americans should only be done if it pertains to a police matter (e.g. investigation).

  • by JohnnyComeLately (725958) on Friday February 21, 2014 @10:52AM (#46303711) Homepage Journal
    This is akin to a guy who has flown on an aircraft thinking he knows how to run an airline. "The NSA should hand off to the FBI spying on Americans." They do. NSA does not investigate domestic nor Americans unless specifically given a court order to do so (which is less than 60 Americans in the entire US as of December 2013). If the NSA stumbles upon metadata that links an American, or domestic entity tied to overseas terrorism (which is what they're lookin for), they hand off the metadata (phone number called, date/time stamp of call) and say to the FBI, "Whoever this is, is talking to terrorists overseas." Then the FBI runs with it.

    CyberCommand, a command I'm very familiar with as prior-Air Force, doesn't have a reason to take over what the NSA does. The author of this article really doesn't know what he's talking about.

  • Inconceivable (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheCarp (96830) <sjc&carpanet,net> on Friday February 21, 2014 @10:53AM (#46303717) Homepage

    > That is, I think it would be more likely to corrupt the FBI than to clean up the NSA's investigation of
    > Americans.

    Corrupt the FBI? The FBI are as incorruptible as the proverbial satan. We are talking about the people who have so precious little to really do that they go around creating criminals to arrest. These are the people who go after little shit online troublemakers and find mentally unstable people who they can shove a bomb in the hands of.

    Corrupt them?

  • Re:Oh, Hell Yes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i kan reed (749298) on Friday February 21, 2014 @10:58AM (#46303743) Homepage Journal

    Well, let's elaborate, shall we. I think the number of possible satisfactory solutions to the NSA problem are infinite. This plan, like every other one that would work all fall on unshakable premise. Congress needs to pass legislation removing previously granted powers(then do something else, apparently, to mollify those who are actually scared of terrorists, in this case move those powers to law enforcement).

    This one premise, though, has shown zero chance of happening. Those in congress critical of the NSA's behavior mostly seem interested in using it as an attack chip for the republican party in the next couple elections, and so leaving the power in the executive plays to their needs. The executive, for their part, have either bought, or are willing to attempt to sell, the pragmatism line, and the laws passed by congress say it's legal, so they don't see a need to change anything by fiat.

  • Re:Tomorrow's News (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CRC'99 (96526) on Friday February 21, 2014 @11:03AM (#46303783) Homepage

    Security expert Bruce Schneier was found dead in his home. The cause of death is unknown but police are investigating possible foul play.

    Thats too much work... They just need to pay some young girl a few grand to say she was raped by him. Oldest trick in the book....

  • by organgtool (966989) on Friday February 21, 2014 @11:18AM (#46303895)
    The NSA does not necessarily want you to be insecure. As a matter of fact, I have downloaded documents from their web site with tips on how to configure my OSes to be more secure (and I don't recall any of the tips requiring me to install any additional software, which definitely would have raised a red flag). It is in the best interest of the NSA that the computers that protect sensitive data in all public and private sectors be secure from outside threats. With that said, it is also in the NSA's interest to be able to access as much data from these same machines as they can possibly gather. Therefore, they walk a tight line where it's best when everyone's security is loose enough that the NSA can get in, but tight enough to keep less sophisticated groups out. Based on systems such as BULLRUN, it seems that the NSA has become more concerned with gaining access for themselves over encouraging tight security.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21, 2014 @11:41AM (#46304053)

    Why do we pretend to have rights or laws if there is a class of people that they don't apply to? That's really what parallel construction means, because the NSA analyst, in this case, is clearly above the law, or being asked to defend his decisions.

    We could just get rid of rights and laws, go back to the law of the jungle, and be done with it.

    The problem people have with parallel construction is that it's pretty clear that it's over the line. At best extralegal, but pretty clearly illegal. You are denying people the right to examine all of your evidence to construct a fair trial.

    But parallel construction crosses the line. It means that the Government is effectively allowed to do whatever they want, regardless of the law.

    Why do we pretend to have rights or laws if there is a class of people that they don't apply to?

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Friday February 21, 2014 @11:46AM (#46304083) Homepage
    You are engagned in wishfull thinking. We have had just about as many attacks in the 2000's and 2010's as in the 80's and 90's. In particular US embass's have been under multiple terrorist attacks in 20001 - Nairobi, Ben Gahzi, etc. Not to mention the Boston Massacre, shoe bomber, the attack on the Sikh Temple, and the multiple ricin letter attacks - all against civilians for political purposes.

    Worse, you have a twisted idea of what a terrorist attack is. USS Cole bombing was not a terrorist attack. It was an act of war. If a country (Sundanese Government officially liable for the attack, as per US judge) attacks a soldier, that is an act of war. If you attack civilians for political purposes, that is an act of terrorism. It doesn't matter if you use a bomb - or if you use a suicide attack. Soldiers are armed and are supposed to be capable of defending themselves (assuming some idiot did not give stupid rules of engagement). Civilians are usually unarmed and usually not capable of defending themselves - which is why attacking civilians is a far worse thing (i.e. a crime called terrorism) than attacking soldiers - which is a bad thing, but only an act of war, not of terrorism.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21, 2014 @11:48AM (#46304103)

    lots of terror attacks in the 80's
    in the 90's we had the WTC bombing, the USS Cole and the embassy bombings. hundreds dead
    2001 we had 9/11 and after that nothing

    so you figure the new security and intel collection stopped at least a few attacks, which now means since there were no attacks all this is a waste of money

    So I guess the Boston Marathon thing didn't happen ?

  • Re:Oh, Hell Yes! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cold fjord (826450) on Friday February 21, 2014 @11:50AM (#46304125)

    Congress needs to pass legislation removing previously granted powers(then do something else, apparently, to mollify those who are actually scared of terrorists, in this case move those powers to law enforcement).

    So to use your terms, Congress needs to pass something to mollify the people scared of NSA?

  • Mmmm... fun... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Xaedalus (1192463) <Xaedalys AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday February 21, 2014 @11:52AM (#46304135)
    I just love the thought of the FSB, Mossad, MI5, and just about every other foreign intelligence network on Earth (and those are merely the legal ones) running rampant throughout our country and society without the CIA to check them. Gosh, that'd be so much fun to just lower our guard and take punches! Oh hey, maybe those other nations would be so friendly towards us once we dismantled our intelligence apparatus that they'd willingly leave us alone! And forswear corporate espionage to boot! Dismantle the NSA, yes. Spread it out amongst the other agencies, yes. But don't disarm us completely. The CIA has screwed up a lot, so has the FBI--but they're still good ideas to have in place. We as a society have to reassume the responsibility, and the maturity of overseeing the operations of those two agencies on an appropriate basis.
  • Re:Oh, Hell NO! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by deadweight (681827) on Friday February 21, 2014 @12:09PM (#46304257)
    From 1776 to 1945: AFAIK we were all wins except the War of 1812, which was just a giant clusterfuck. We only won after the buzzer, so the shot doesn't really count. The other side didn't really win either, so all in all a waste of resources. 1946 - present. Korea was tie. Everything else was along the lines of win or get bored and go home. No one can stand toe-to-toe with the USA and win an all-out war. What they CAN do is just make sure they start with a third world dump that can hardly be made worse by more fighting and just not quit. We'll get bored and leave sooner or later ;)
  • by JohnnyComeLately (725958) on Friday February 21, 2014 @12:11PM (#46304279) Homepage Journal
    I understand your point. Only problem then becomes, "OK now what?" Following your scenario, let's say they start tracking you stateside, after you've made an international call to known or suspected threats overseas. Their systems aren't set up to intercept your calls. It's metadata only. So, they collect reams and reams of your phone calls to mom, the store, work, co-workers, and one or two known threats. Now what? They don't have jurisdiction to go to a FISA court, and a judge would laugh them out of the room with, "We know he made 100 phone calls to Abdullah Muhammad," for probable cause for anything. Now, if we're talking about CIA and FBI, then you have a great point. Domestic spies would be handled by the CIA and FBI, where information sharing becomes an issue. However, NSA is not domestic, and to be honest, doesn't care what Americans are doing stateside. Now, an American flies to Syria for "spiritual training," and you've crossed into their domain of interest.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21, 2014 @12:15PM (#46304291)

    Considering that Bruce has actually seen the Snowden docs, I'd say you're the one who doesn't know what he's talking about.
    When foreign intel includes patrons of wikileaks and the pirate bay, and use their powers to go after drug cartels and gun runners, then that section of the NSA is doing the work of the FBI. Whether that work should exist or not (and we all seem to agree that it should not), is another question, but they are definitely doing work of the FBI.

  • Re:Mmmm... fun... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Friday February 21, 2014 @12:27PM (#46304375)

    I just love the thought of the FSB, Mossad, MI5, and just about every other foreign intelligence network on Earth (and those are merely the legal ones) running rampant throughout our country and society without the CIA to check them. Gosh, that'd be so much fun to just lower our guard and take punches! Oh hey, maybe those other nations would be so friendly towards us once we dismantled our intelligence apparatus that they'd willingly leave us alone! And forswear corporate espionage to boot!
    Dismantle the NSA, yes. Spread it out amongst the other agencies, yes. But don't disarm us completely. The CIA has screwed up a lot, so has the FBI--but they're still good ideas to have in place. We as a society have to reassume the responsibility, and the maturity of overseeing the operations of those two agencies on an appropriate basis.

    Er, you do realize that when foreign adversaries run rampant through our country and our society, that the federal agency tasked with dealing with them is the FBI, don't you?

    The CIA is supposed to be restricted to doing that job OUTSIDE the USA.

  • Re:Oh, Hell NO! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21, 2014 @01:50PM (#46304875)

    1776 was won by the French. They spent a billion livres, dozens of ships of the line, thousands of troops, tens of thousands of muskets, cannons, gunpowder, money.

    The war of 1812 was the one Napoleon was fighting. The US involvement was minor, and the defeats by land were more than ignominious enough to make up for the sea victories.

    Vietnam was a loss, and a staggering waste of lives.

    No one tries to stand toe-to-toe, it's easy enough to make the country destroy itself. Usama bin Laden won the war against terrorism.

  • by dweller_below (136040) on Friday February 21, 2014 @02:09PM (#46304997)
    Looking at the FBI Mission: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/qu... [fbi.gov] it looks like the Priorities are based on Crazy Congressional Wishlist. There are just too many Priorities. And, they are ranked according to sensationalism, not importance to the survival of the Nation. That page lists them as:
    1. 1. Protect the United States from terrorist attack
    2. 2. Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage
    3. 3. Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes
    4. 4. Combat public corruption at all levels
    5. 5. Protect civil rights
    6. 6. Combat transnational/national criminal organizations and enterprises
    7. 7. Combat major white-collar crime
    8. 8. Combat significant violent crime
    9. 9. Support federal, state, local and international partners
    10. 10. Upgrade technology to successfully perform the FBI’s mission

    At this point, I think we can all clearly see that Terrorism only has as much importance as we create for it. If we don't regard it as important, the Terrorism threat goes almost entirely away. If you were to rank these Priorities according to what most impacts the survival of the Nation, I believe it would look more like:

    1. 1. Combat public corruption at all levels
    2. 2. Combat transnational/national criminal organizations and enterprises
    3. 3. Protect civil rights
    4. 4. Combat major white-collar crime
    5. 5. Combat significant violent crime
    6. 6. Support federal, state, local and international partners
    7. 7. Upgrade technology to successfully perform the FBI’s mission
    8. 8. Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes
    9. 9. Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage
    10. 10. Protect the United States from terrorist attack
  • by lgw (121541) on Friday February 21, 2014 @03:38PM (#46305555) Journal

    None, until and unless the damage from terrorist attacks exceeds the damage from panicked overreaction to terrorist attacks.

  • by steelfood (895457) on Friday February 21, 2014 @03:42PM (#46305579)

    Since Hoover.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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