News / USA

    In 2014, NSA to Face Winds of Change

    After Year of Turmoil, NSA Facing Change in 2014i
    X
    December 15, 2013 12:56 AM
    The National Security Agency will have a new leader and possibly new procedures after a difficult year in which many secrets were leaked, leading to global criticism of its surveillance activities. VOA's Kent Klein has more.
    VIDEO: The National Security Agency will have a new leader and possibly new procedures after a difficult year in which many secrets were leaked, sparking global criticism of its surveillance activities. VOA's Kent Klein has more.
    Reuters
    The U.S. National Security Agency has made dozens of changes in its operations and computer networks to prevent the emergence of another Edward Snowden, including potential disciplinary action, a top NSA official said on Friday, as a White House review panel recommended restraints on NSA spying.
     
    Former NSA contractor Snowden's disclosures have been "cataclysmic" for the eavesdropping agency, Richard Ledgett, who leads a task force responding to the leaks, said in a rare interview at NSA's heavily guarded Fort Meade headquarters.
     
    In the more than hour-long interview, Ledgett acknowledged the agency had done a poor job in its initial public response to revelations of vast NSA monitoring of phone and Internet data; pledged more transparency; and said he was deeply worried about highly classified documents not yet public that are among the 1.7 million Snowden is believed to have accessed.
     
    He also stoutly defended the NSA's mission of tracking terrorist plots and other threats, and said its recruiting of young codebreakers, linguists and computer geeks has not been affected by the Snowden affair — even as internal morale has been.
     
    "Any time you trust people, there is always a chance that someone will betray you," he said.
     
    The NSA is taking 41 specific technical measures to control data by tagging and tracking it, to supervise agency networks with controls on activity, and to increase oversight of individuals. Measures include requiring two-person control of every place where someone could access data and enhancing the security process that people go through and requiring more frequent screenings of systems administrative access, Ledgett said.
     
    After months of sometimes blistering criticism in the news media and by Congress and foreign governments, the publicity-averse NSA is now mounting an effort to tell its side of the Snowden story.
     
    It granted access to NSA headquarters to a team from CBS' "60 Minutes" program, which is scheduled to broadcast a segment on the agency on Sunday.
     
    Ledgett, a 36-year intelligence veteran who reportedly is in line to be the agency's deputy director, joked that doing media interviews was "a complete out-of-body experience for me."
     
    He spoke to Reuters on the same day that the White House said it had decided to maintain the practice of having a single individual head both the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, which conducts cyberwarfare — an outcome the NSA leadership favored. Separately, news reports late Thursday said an outside review panel appointed by the White House has recommended changes in a program disclosed by Snowden that collects basic data on Americans' phone calls — known as metadata.
     
    The panel reportedly said the data should be held by an organization other than the NSA and stricter rules should be enforced for searching the databanks.
     
    Ledgett declined to discuss the panel's specific recommendations. But he seemed to acknowledge that tighter guidelines for NSA eavesdropping were in the offing, saying that what is technologically possible "has gotten ahead of policy."
     
    Snowden, who is living under asylum in Russia, disclosed a vast U.S. eavesdropping apparatus that includes the phone metadata program; NSA querying of Internet communications via major companies such as Google Inc. and Facebook Inc.; and widespread tapping of international communication networks.
     
    Ledgett made no apologies for what many see as overly aggressive NSA monitoring. He noted that the U.S. government's intelligence taskings to the agency run to 36,000 pages, and said its activities take place within a "box" of U.S. laws and policies.
     
    "We'll color in every square millimeter of that box," he said, implying the NSA will use its legal authorities to the fullest extent possible.
     
    The NSA's internal review has determined about 98 percent of the scope of the material that Snowden had accessed, and officials have found no evidence that he had help either within the NSA or from adversary spy agencies.
     
    Ledgett said that when Snowden was downloading the documents, NSA was ahead of other intelligence agencies in installing "insider threat" software that President Barack Obama ordered in the wake of an earlier leak scandal involving the group WikiLeaks.
    But installation of the software, which might have stopped Snowden, was not complete.
     
    "Snowden hit at a really opportune time. For him — not for us," he said.
     
    Ledgett said that most of the Snowden material released publicly so far has been about NSA programs and partnerships with foreign countries and companies, rather than intelligence reports and "requirements."
     
    The latter refers to U.S. government taskings to the NSA to answer questions about specific targets. That last category is what keeps him up at night.
     
    "Those make me nervous because they reveal what we know and what we don't know and they are almost a roadmap for adversaries."
     
    No one at the NSA has yet lost their job over the Snowden crisis, including at the Hawaii site where he worked. Ledgett said three people are under review for potential disciplinary action, but declined further comment.
     
    He challenged those who call Snowden a whistleblower, saying the former contractor did not use multiple channels available to vent his concerns.
     
    "I actually think characterizing him as a whistleblower is a disservice to people who are whistleblowers."
     
    Ledgett said he knew of no U.S. government move toward reaching any kind of a legal deal with Snowden, a decision that would be up to the Justice Department. But, he said, in his opinion, such a conversation would have to include concrete assurances that Snowden would secure any of the material he has that has not yet been made public.
     
    In the aftermath of Snowden, the NSA is trying to be more open about what it does so the public can have more confidence in the agency's mission.
     
    "We as an agency are a little naive, for a long time we were 'No Such Agency' or 'no comment' and were not adept at presenting our face to the public," he said.
     
    "I think quite frankly had we done more of that over the last five or 10 years we might not be in the same place that we are vis-a-vis the public perception of who we are and what we do," he said.
     
    "So too late to learn that lesson, so what you are seeing now is our new face."

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: vincent marcantelli from: NOLA
    December 29, 2013 6:10 PM
    Yes, what Mr. Snowden did was not a very good thing, to say the least, what he. did was point out what he thought was not such a nice thing either. Yes he broke some VERY serious laws, and he needs to pay for his actions, and so should others for there actions as well. The lies that were told to the Congress, which in and of itself is a crime, by the very people who now want him to face charges for his actions.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.