Comment: US cybersecurity posture is not purely defensive

NSA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
In recent years, news coverage of cyberespionage and cybersecurity has increased several times over; both subjects have escaped the narrow confines of technical literature and have entered the broad expanses of popular news media. This blog is no exception; since 2008, we have covered both cybersecurity and cyberespionage at length. In looking back at our coverage, it takes but a cursory glance to conclude that most of our reports feature the names of two countries: China and –to a far lesser extent– Russia. Moreover, the vast majority of our cybersecurity and cyberespionage coverage portrays the United States as a defensive actor, trying desperately to protect the integrity of its networks from foreign hackers. But is this accurate? How realistic is it to assume that the US, the world’s leading military power, abstains from offensive cyberespionage as a matter of strategy? The most likely answer is: not very. The problem is that much of the reporting on cybersecurity is based on national allegiances. Many American media pundits thus tend to forget that Washington, too, conducts cyberespionage. Read more of this post

Wiretap whistleblower shunned by US Congress, media

Mark Klein

Mark Klein

Those of you who have been following the ongoing revelations about STELLAR WIND, the National Security Agency (NSA) warrantless wiretapping scheme authorized by the Bush Administration in the wake of 9/11, will know about Thomas M. Tamm. Tamm was the Justice Department official who in 2005 first notified The New York Times about the existence of the project. But Tamm was not the only whistleblower in the case. He was joined soon afterwards by another insider, Mark Klein. Klein had just retired from AT&T as a communications technician when he read The New York Times revelations about STELLAR WIND. As soon as he read the paper’s vague description of the NSA project, Klein realized he had in his possession AT&T documents describing exactly how the company shared its customers’ telephone communications with the NSA, through a secret room at the AT&T Folsom Street facility in San Francisco. To this day, Klein remains the only AT&T employee to have come forward with information on STELLAR WIND. But, apparently, nobody cares. Read more of this post

What will be Obama’s stance on warrantless wiretapping?

Back in the early stages of the presidential election campaign, US President-elect Barack Obama repeatedly came out against the increasing use of warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency (NSA). Eventually he switched sides and voted for the continuation of this program, which many in the legal profession condemn as essentially unconstitutional. Today The New York Times has published an article reminding the President-Elect’s transitional team that the Obama administration is likely to have to make some early decisions about the legal standing of the NSA’s domestic communications interception operations. This is because a number of groups have challenged the Justice Department’s sanctioning of warrantless wiretapping. Under directives from the Bush Administration the Department has so far blocked these challenges by claiming broad and undefined “national security and national secrets” clauses. Is the Obama Administration likely to continue this policy? His transition team has so far denied all requests to discuss domestic surveillance, or even how the President-elect plans to deal with this issue. It is indeed too early to tell. Yet considering some of the people Obama is thinking of appointing to high-level intelligence establishment positions, one may be excused for thinking the Bush Administration’s policy is likely to survive mostly intact the change of guard in the White House. [IA]


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