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NSA Power Grab: New Legislation Would Give It Broad Powers To Spy On 'Critical' Private Networks

March 1, 2012
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By Mike Masnick -  Techdirt

Well, we saw this one coming a mile away. Last week, in talking about the current fight in the Senate over the new cybersecurity legislation that's making the rounds, we noted that the behind-the-scenes story appeared to be that the NSA was going to make a power play to try to get responsibility for cybersecurity handed to it, rather than Homeland Security. Over the last few days, it's become clear that's exactly what's going on. While neither the NSA nor DHS inspire much confidence when it comes to heading up cybersecurity, the NSA plan is really crazy. It's expected that Senator McCain will be introducing legislation shortly that would give cybersecurity responsibility to the NSA.

McCain is positioning his version of the bill as one that focuses on "a cooperative relationship with the entire private sector through information sharing, rather than an adversarial one with prescriptive regulations." However, reports are that McCain's version involves a plan that the NSA has been aggressively lobbying for to give it access to networks deemed "critical." The NSA says that it wants to monitor these networks in case of attack so it can spring into action.

However, given the NSA's other mandates (spying!) this certainly has raised some fairly significant concerns. Should every private company running a network deemed critical automatically be required to install a special NSA spying box? Even the White House and the Justice Department (no strangers to over aggressive monitoring) have pushed back that this would be "unprecedented government" intrusion into the civilian internet. It's apparently gotten so bad, that the Obama administration has privately slapped down NSA boss General Keith Alexander (last heard talking about how Anonymous was going to shut down powerlines) for "advocating for something beyond that, that is undermining the commander in chief."

Of course, the administration can't stop former NSA boss Mike McConnell from running around spreading fear mongering stories about how the entire internet is at risk if we don't give the NSA unprecedented spying powers. Left out of his talks on this matter is that, not only has he been making these claims about how the internet is on the verge of collapse if the NSA doesn't get these powers for many, many years (without any evidence to show that it's true), but he's also now employed by Booz, Allen as a VP -- which is relevant, because Booz is already profiting massively from all this fear mongering, by getting hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts to "help" the government deal with the scary threats of the internet.

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