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The NSA Has an Advice Columnist 77

Posted by timothy
from the dan-savage-was-busy dept.
First time accepted submitter DTentilhao writes "On Friday, Glenn Greenwald's new website The Intercept published a number of internal NSA documents that didn't necessarily reveal any great state secrets, but instead cast some light on the NSA's office culture. Those documents, leaked by former security contractor Edward Snowden, were actually from an advice column series, written by a 20-year veteran of NSA management under the pen name 'Zelda.'" Here's the Intercept report.
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The NSA Has an Advice Columnist

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  • NERD!
  • by SailorSpork (1080153) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @12:22PM (#46440069) Homepage

    You and your co-workers could ask [the supervisor] for a team meeting and lay out the issue as you see it: “We feel like you don’t trust us and we aren’t comfortable making small talk anymore for fear of having our desks moved if we’re seen as being too chummy.” (Leave out the part about the snitches.) Tell him how this is hampering collaboration and affecting the work, ask him if he has a problem with the team’s behavior, and see what he says. Encourage him to come directly to the employee in question if he has a concern (rather than ask a third party to gather intel for him).



    Trust is hard to rebuild once it has been broken. Your work center may take time to heal after this deplorable practice has been discontinued, but give it time and hopefully the open cooperation you once enjoyed will return.

    Ironic, Big Brother.

    • Ironic, Big Brother.

      True, but finally these people are just doing a job .. They don't decide on the evil NSA policies . They just do their thing .. and it's really irritating to have such an environment to work in . Irrespective of whom you work for , The NSA , the Corleone family or Micro$fot

      • by gIobaljustin (3526197) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @01:31PM (#46440353) Homepage

        "just doing a job" is no excuse.

        • "just doing a job" is no excuse.

          No excuse for what ? . Thanks to snowden , we now know that its just like any other workplace . Insecure bosses .. usual employee woes . and an aunt zelda too ! . Nothing really James Bondish as portrayed in hollywood flicks.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            I choose to believe that Archer is an accurate depiction of the intelligence world.

        • Nazis (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Etherwalk (681268) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @02:49PM (#46440705)

          "just doing a job" is no excuse.

          This. A huge number of corporations and firms, generally because it happens do be profitable rather than out of malice, do *really* bad things. It's not like the guy whose job it is to deny insurance claims or the insurance "adjuster" is somehow insulated from moral culpability because it's his job to basically commit fraud. Excuse me, minimize claims.

          "Just following orders" is a highly relevant phrase here. If freedom from government surveillance is a basic right, then people who are "just following orders" to abridge that right are culpable for having done so, even though they were following orders.

          • And the crew of the "enola gay" are war heroes.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          That depends. Someone like an Adolf Eichmann, who knew exactly what was happening in a Concentration Camp, and even worked to make it more efficient, has no excuse. There are certainly people at NSA who would be in that level of "know". General Alexander would certainly be in that tier.

          The question is what individual NSA workers know about what they are doing in general. Some certainly know the full extent of what they are doing and believe in it. Others are working on bits and pieces of intelligence.

          • by gIobaljustin (3526197) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @03:08PM (#46440781) Homepage

            The question is what individual NSA workers know about what they are doing in general.

            At this point, how could they not? Even if they didn't know before, they definitely do now; there's no avoiding it.

  • The recursive spies (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pesho (843750) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @12:30PM (#46440107)

    From he TFA:

    Here’s the scenario: when the boss sees co-workers having a quiet conversation, he wants to know what is being said (it’s mostly work related). He has his designated “snitches” and expects them to keep him apprised of all the office gossip – even calling them at home and expecting a run-down! This puts the “designees” in a really awkward position; plus, we’re all afraid any offhand comment or anything said in confidence might be either repeated or misrepresented. Needless to say, this creates a certain amount of tension between team members who normally would get along well, and adds stress in an already stressful atmosphere. There is also an unspoken belief that he will move people to different desks to break up what he perceives as people becoming too “chummy.” (It’s been done under the guise of “creating teams.”)

    We used to be able to joke around a little or talk about our favorite “Idol” contestant to break the tension, but now we’re getting more and more skittish about even the most mundane general conversations (“Did you have a good weekend?”). This was once a very open, cooperative group who worked well together. Now we’re more suspicious of each other and teamwork is becoming harder. Do you think this was the goal? Silenced in SID

    Holy s**!. They have an old school spying operation within their new fangled hi-tech enterprise. This is how every single commie regime including the one in my old country used to operate. Everyone around you could be a snitch and something as innocent as an anecdote told to a friend could get you in trouble. You have to love the irony!

    • _Every_ office has management snitches. Some are open, their job is, in part, keeping management informed. Some are less openly snitches. Usually they are trying to advance their own position.

      The trick is to identify all the snitches early, then feed them disinformation at just the right time. Usually that means you had to feed them a little good information first, just to identify the data paths and get them to have confidence in you as a source. This means others could see you in their snitch identific

  • Is there any reason this should have been leaked? Yeah, we can poke fun at the irony of NSA co-workers concerned about their office gossip being spied upon and how they consider that an intrusion of their privacy. Does it constitute information a whistleblower should disseminate? The point isn't that this is damaging to national security, it's an advice column, but it was happening inside their intranet and not cleared for public scrutiny.

    My problem with Snowden isn't that he leaked info about NSA uncons

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @12:49PM (#46440185)

      They're paid for by your taxes. I'd say you have a right to see whether they're doing their job or whether your money is being squandered on frivolous crap like an "advice column".

      But if you don't care, hey, it ain't my money!

      • by TrekkieGod (627867) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @01:09PM (#46440275) Homepage Journal

        They're paid for by your taxes. I'd say you have a right to see whether they're doing their job or whether your money is being squandered on frivolous crap like an "advice column".

        Managing employees is hard. If you just crack the whip and make them do nothing but focus non-stop on the task at hand, they're going to be much less productive and waste much more of your money than if you actually invest a bit of money on keeping morale high and put out the small fires in human interaction that happens when not everyone in your team is socially compatible.

        The NSA would be no different in this than a private company. You take a tremendously successful company like Google, and they're spending money on play rooms and free food for their employees. If that makes them more productive by causing some of them to not have a problem staying in the office longer to work on a problem and others to get a burst of creativity that you only get when you quit thinking about the problem for a bit and free your mind, then that investment is worth every penny. If that advice column is helping your team deal with problems they encounter in an effective way and thus making them able to work together more effectively, it's far from "frivolous crap."

        If, on the other hand, it was a leak about the NSA giving every project manager a free Ferrari, you'd have a point.

        • I feel I have every right to know what my lovely little government thugs are doing.

          • by TrekkieGod (627867) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @01:19PM (#46440319) Homepage Journal

            I feel I have every right to know what my lovely little government thugs are doing.

            Is your point of view that there should be no such thing as classified information, and that every single thing the government does and knows should be public domain and easily accessible to everyone?

            If so I disagree with you, but find your position internally consistent and wouldn't argue with it. It's just a matter of opinion, and I don't share yours as I find that secrets are sometimes necessary and unavoidable. If, however, you see the benefit in the government keeping some secrets, then you must expect people who are in position to have access to these secrets to exercise a high level of caution and discreteness when they find it necessary to overrule the system in place that decides what is classified and what is public. When necessary to stop illegal behavior, you disclose what it is absolutely necessary and not a single thing more.

            • It should be classified information that the NSA employs a "Dear Selma" column? Yeah, knowing that now will certainly give the terrorists an edge...

          • by ScentCone (795499)

            I feel I have every right to know what my lovely little government thugs are doing.

            Does everyone else also have that right? How about someone who is engaged in a securities scam or human trafficking? Should they be informed about the under cover officer who is working to see them put away for stealing people's money or prostituting teenage girls? How would you like that information delivered to you and to those criminals? Do you prefer an RSS feed, or perhaps a PDF emailed weekly?

            • Does everyone else also have that right?

              If it's available to someone like me, don't you think it would also be available to the general public? What a pointless question.

              • by ScentCone (795499)

                If it's available to someone like me, don't you think it would also be available to the general public? What a pointless question.

                You can't really be that dim, which means you're just being disingenuous in the extreme.

                But I'll play along.

                So in exchange for total transparency, you're willing to let gangs, child traffickers, massive scam operations, and much worse simply carry on? People we now lock up for really evil crap, based on the hard work of undercover cops ... you're cool with them doing business as usual, unmolested by law enforcement because you'd like the child-pimping slime to get updates from the Bureau Of Openness

                • And don't play stupid. Address the issue.

                  Play stupid? I thought I answered the question adequately. If all this information is public, how the hell wouldn't they find out? Looks like cops will have to find another way of enforcing the law, which may be less effective, but that would be for the best.

                  • by ScentCone (795499)

                    Play stupid? I thought I answered the question adequately. If all this information is public, how the hell wouldn't they find out? Looks like cops will have to find another way of enforcing the law, which may be less effective, but that would be for the best.

                    Ah, you really are that dim. Is that physically painful?

                    • I did answer your question. That you can't figure out that I answered it suggests that you're the one who's dim.

                    • by ScentCone (795499)
                      No, you deliberately answered the wrong aspect of the question in order to avoid addressing the fact that you can't run a society that is plagued by a small but toxic fringe of awful people and groups without telling them everything you're doing to stop them, minute by minute. You know this, but you're pretending you're too dumb to grasp it. Why, I can't imagine. You're a transparency puritan troll, I guess.
                    • No, you deliberately answered the wrong aspect of the question in order to avoid addressing the fact that you can't run a society that is plagued by a small but toxic fringe of awful people and groups without telling them everything you're doing to stop them

                      Nonsense. Society is incredibly resilient. If it can survive garbage like the TSA, the NSA spying, DUI checkpoints, free speech zones, unfettered border searches, stop-and-frisk, Jim Crow laws, the internment of Japanese citizens, rampant sexism, slavery, and all the other freedom-violating nonsense the government has done or is doing, it can survive a few criminals running around. Don't be dramatic.

                      Also, my answer to your questions were obvious if you just put 2 and 2 together. It's fun watching you strugg

        • Fine. But at the very least I think the public has a right to KNOW it. It's your money at work there, and if you pay for it I think you should at least be interested in its spending.

          Whether or not that expense is justified is not something I should decide, I agree. It's something the taxpayers of the United States should decide.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Is there any reason this should have been leaked?

      Yes. It gives people some interesting insight into the culture of such an organization. The general public gets an idea of how insulated from mainstream society and ethics these employees have to be kept in order to remain functional in their jobs.

      The alternative would be hoping that your employees obfuscate details of their job functions when writing to Dear Abbey. "How do I tell the guy in the next cubicle not to laugh out loud every time he reads Angela Merkel's e-mails?" Beyond that, handling basic eth

    • by DarkOx (621550)

      The thing is we do need to see it. Otherwise well if you are not doing anything wrong you have nothing to fear crowd wins. It's import people see not even the NSA likes the way the NSA behaviors.

      This sorta of thing helps people recognize being spied on always sucks! Maybe it's dumb crap like some exec assigns you a shitty parking space because they read you IM log about how Obama sucks with they guy in the cube next to you or whatever, but nobody should like being spied upon.

      The level of data mining goin

    • I have pondered long and hard about how to characterize you NSA-Types. And, then it came to me in a flash: You guys are the weasels in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit". That's it! From now on, when one of you starts spouting off I will instantly form an image of those slimy bastards! Thanks for your inspirational posting, TrekkieGod!
    • by TheCarp (96830)

      Well.... you remember that old commercial where the father finds the kids drugs and asks him where he learned about all this stuff. What does the kid say? Come on...you remember it....

      "I learned it from watching you".

      Gee, just how does he justify slurping up all their records indiscriminately....maybe...he learned that somewhere.

    • Is there any reason this should have stayed private? This is certainly interesting information, and nobody gets hurt by having this publicly. In fact it is very interesting information, because it reveals the sort of mindset within that agency: People do to others what they don't accept being done to themselves. This is sick.
  • "You keep stalking me and all my fellow citizens, everywhere and all the time.

    You have been caught trying to sabotage secure relationships.

    Why can't you accept boundaries? Why can't you focus your efforts solely on targeted efforts?"

    -- Signed, Publius ; )

  • Let's begin making government smaller by getting rid of the NSA. Imagine the savings to the tax payer!
  • My Dearest Princess Zelda,

    Have we not found the missing Link in Snowden?

    P.S. It's dangerous to go alone.
    Take this.

    - Dangerous Kitten

  • Not only played instruments, waved a sword at baddies and turned into a wolf. He could use paragraphs.
    Like this one here.

    "Spy no need learn English yes?"
    "Spy only need Twitter, must 150 letters yes?"

    Good to know, I'am being spied on by someone who is just a glorified, selfish, Twitter fuck.

    • by GuB-42 (2483988)

      I suppose you are talking about Link... I'm just trying to imagine something written by Link.

      "Yaaaaa! Hay! Ugh! Heyaaaahh!"
      "Ha! Ha! Hayaaaa!"
      "Whaaaaaa!"

  • Dear Alice,

    Eve keeps listening in on my conversations. What can I do to make her stop?

    Thanks,

    Bob

  • I came here to read this article and engage in the discussion. I am leaving because of Beta. I will not use Slashdot with Beta. Fuck it. It's horrible.

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