After a bit of a lull in August, new revelations about the NSA from the Snowden documents are coming thick and fast again. These are, if anything, bigger stories than the first ones. They show us a picture of a government agency that has gone completely out of control.
One set of revelations shows that the NSA’s actions go well beyond searching for “terrorists”. In addition to previous revelations of spying at the UN, we now know that the NSA:
- hacked into a news broadcaster,
- spied on Brazilian and Mexican presidents, and
- almost certainly engaged in economic espionage, spying on Brazilian petroleum company Petrobras.
However, those are all foreign targets, and while I am surprised at their hacking a media organization and at the economic espionage, that’s not entirely out of their remit. Doesn’t make it right, but it’s not totally shocking.
What is totally shocking is that the NSA considers Americans and American companies as “adversaries” and has acted to make the US less safe by subverting encryption every chance it could. In particular, we now know that the NSA:
- infiltrated and corrupted Internet standards groups in order to weaken security,
- corrupted individual employees of US tech companies,
- when that wasn’t successful, hacked into tech companies’ systems to steal encryption keys, and
- worked with companies to deliberately place security holes in commercial software.
This is the height of irresponsibility. In the guise of protecting the US, the NSA has made everyone much, much less safe. It should be called the National Insecurity Agency.
This level of corruption and blatant disregard even for US persons and corporations shows that the NSA has ranged far beyond its original mandate. It clearly has a culture of arrogance and a refusal to accept any ethical limits whatsoever.
It’s clear now that the NSA has strayed so far that it cannot be reformed. The only reasonable course of action is to abolish the NSA.