Data-Mining Leak Damages Irresponsible And Irreversible, Says NSA Chief
July 19, 2013

Data-Mining Leak Damages Irresponsible And Irreversible, Says NSA Chief

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

The head of the National Security Agency said on Thursday that the damage from recently leaked information is both "irresponsible and irreversible." While addressing the Aspen Security Forum, NSA chief Keith Alexander also said that the leaks have given terrorist groups the intelligence community's "playbook."

Alexander added that the NSA was secretive about its various programs due to national security and noted it was a necessity because the "operatives are among use;" he stressed that there is even "concrete proof" that terrorists may have changed their tactics based on information that was leaked out to the public.

As a result it was also reported that the United States intelligence community is overhauling procedures to tighten access to top-secret intelligence in a bid to prevent another mega-leak, such as the one carried out by former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Reuters reported that the NSA, which Snowden worked for as a Hawaii-based contractor, would now lead efforts to isolate the possibility of such future leaks by implementing a so-called "two-man rule" for the downloading of information. This is similar to the procedures that are now used to safeguard nuclear weapons.

"When are we taking countermeasures? ... The answer is now," Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, reported Reuters.

This new "two-man rule" will now apply to system administrators,  which is what Snowden was, as well as anyone with access to sensitive computer service rooms.

"You limit the numbers of people who can write to removable media," Alexander added. "Instead of allowing all systems administrators (to do it), you drop it down to a few and use a two-person rule. We'll close and lock server rooms so that it takes two people to get in there."

It was actually the intelligence-sharing, which began after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which was to blame for the security breach. Snowden was able to access the number of documents he did because of a greater emphasis that had been placed on intelligence-sharing.

Carter noted that, previously, a compartmentalized system had been in place, and "for a very good reason," he added. This was so that one individual couldn't compromise a lot of information, but that loading everything onto on server paved the way for this type of breach as it placed "too much information in one place."

While the US intelligence community will likely change its operating procedures, the breach - and  more importantly the media reports and coverage of the NSA documents - could also have an effect on how terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, may operate as well.

Matt Olsen, head of the National Counter Terrorism Center, said terror groups could be hoping to avoid US surveillance by examining those leaked documents.

Snowden had fled to Hong Kong in May, just weeks before details he provided, about secret US government surveillance of Internet and phone traffic, were revealed in the UK's Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post.

Alexander said that 54 plots had been disrupted by NSA programs, although the majority were not reportedly linked to the sweeping and controversial collection of phone records.