NSA firing 90% of its sysadmins to eliminate potential Snowdens


Dishonesty seems to be a core value of the NSA, and it seems like they’ve had so much practice that they’ve lost the ability to be honest even when it’s for their own good, as recently exemplified by Alexander and Clapper.



This is like a plutonium storehouse reducing the risk of guards
selling fissiles on the black market by firing all of them and leaving
a couple of dudes at the door with walkie-talkies.

But with no sysadmins it will become very hard for the spooks to do their work. Which is like… i dunno… if the guys with walkie-talkies… ummm… maybe if the plutonium couldn’t access its email and got really pissed off? But if it can’t blow people up that’s a good thing, right?

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Or both.

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Snowden wasn’t a sys admin. He was an infrastructure analyst, which might mean “fancy term for sys admin” or it might mean “euphemism for black hat hacker”.

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I, for one, hope not.

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Let’s just come out and say what we’re all thinking: good morning, Skynet!



Here are job advertisements for infrastructure analyst for DirecTV and Kelloggs. If you want to know what he did for the NSA, read. Then everywhere it mentions hardware or software that might be used for storing or processing customer data, insert your email address.

That will get you pretty close.



Hmm. Perhaps I should have taken this New York Times article with a grain of salt:

Job Title Key to Inner Access Held by Snowden



Wasn’t pissing off the BOFHs how the NSA got in this mess in the first place?



BYOD and self help. Problem solved.



This is probably as much about that contract company that did background checks on contractor employees as it is about how the NSA has become our own electronic version of the Stasi/Big Brother/Gehimestaatpolezi. Bad clearances are “security” risks. Security clearances should really only be granted to people who are willing to leak in support of the Constitution at risk of their lilvihoods and citizenship, instead, it’s the other way around. Why isn’t congress shutting off the money to these professional liars at the NSA? Nobody can talk about this because it’s all SECRET. Time for it to stop.

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Yeah, that article pretty much screams “I don’t know much about jobs in IT” in those first two paragraphs. Everyone has two job titles generally: One in plain language which could be understood by pretty much anyone, and one in corporate jargon.



In and between authoritarian organizations (good) knowledge is power, and, especially if held exclusively, is valuable. Therefore, we can expect it to be sequestered, guarded, and traded, rather than passed around freely. It is also important to keep it from passing into the outer world, which would cause it to lose its exclusivity and thus much of its exchange value to those who possess it. Typically these requirements bring about a layered and sometimes sectored system of internal channels and boundaries within each power system (authoritarian organization). That arrangement, of course, interferes with the flow of information, as it is designed to.

The reported ease with which Snowden was able to read anybody’s email suggests that the massive hoovering of data into the NSA has caused some kind of breakdown in the ability of the organization to maintain control of its materials and personnel – perhaps even to maintain a concept of its materials. One can anticipate further perhaps explosive exposures, and a kind of central paralysis as the authoritarian organizations involved spend more and more time trying to get control of their information appetities and processing.

The firing of 90% of the sysadmins, or whatever they really are, strikes me as one more hysterical response to the crisis, not just of the recent exposures, but of the nonviability of the system as a whole.



Here is a nice blog entry from Adam Curtis on the MI5, I wonder if the same could be said of the NSA



This seems more like an attempt to clean up the NSA’s image than it does to clean up their potential security leaks. Domain admins and local computer admins can be denied access to the databases on their domains and servers. Also, databases and folder locations can be encrypted, so only specific groups of people can access them.



And what could POSSIBLY go wrong?

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Precisely. Now they have 900 disgruntled former NSA analysts. Sure, that’ll plug up the leaks.



You talkin’ to me? ROFLMAO.

I quite nearly wrote a little yesterday about what the inside of a government data center looks like, and how gross understaffing merely replaces bureaucratic incompetence with physical inability. This is wonderful news for America!

Now, whether their idea of reducing staff means actually letting the 90% of sysadmins go, or merely changing their jobs descriptions, nobody is saying. I’d bet on the altered job descriptions, personally. That kind of nonsense is pretty typical inside federal agencies. What we WON’T be seeing is contractors actually taking any major financial hits over this. That part, I guarantee.

Also not stated, is the actual number of sysadmins presently employed - which could make a dramatic-sounding ‘fix’ into another sad joke. Figure, if there are 10? No big. If 100? Probably big. If 1,000? No big again. I am hoping it’s a nice, meaningful number. And ,I am counting on the fact that such necessarily high-level administrative decisions are just about invariably made by agency directors to top-level managers with essentially zero technical skills or knowledge, with the help of middle managers who can typically neither do nor teach.

How lovely to see a day when we can actually celebrate the nature of federal bureaucracy for once!



This isn’t about preventing another leek, it’s about getting as many people as possible against Snowden so they can build support for prosecuting (or killing as they prefer to see it) him. They will now have 90% of their contract sysadmin on their side now, next stop to blow up a building and say it was xxxx terrorist group and that they could have stopped it if they hadn’t have been compromised by Snowden, all in the name of building public support. This is just the next step in a long run of dirty tricks. If they carry on playing these games the public with break eventually and there will be riots. The USA isn’t too big to prevent it. If I had the power to stop it I would. I don’t trust those with the power, and they need knocking down a peg.

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Totally agreed on the rest of your post (had far too much private-public partnership experience myself), but figured I had to make one little observation.

If I read that right and they had only ten Sysadmins, and they got rid of nine of them, that leaves one.

I can see it now, the poor guy getting hit by a bus and a bunch of bureaucrats running to the accident saying ‘Save the head!’