April 12, 2015 by Frank Konktel (c) Nextgov
Snowden’s stream of leaked NSA secrets about classified surveillance programs shined the public spotlight on the clandestine government organization. Though the stream has now dissipated to a trickle, the impact to the intelligence community continues.
To privacy activists, Snowden’s leaks were a godsend. They forced a national discussion on government surveillance and even coaxing the likes of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to admit the intelligence community needs to be more transparent.
Yet, the leaks have “had a material impact” on NSA’s ability to generate intelligence around the world, NSA Director Michael Rogers said back in February.
Within NSA’s Fort Meade, Maryland, headquarters, no one wants to face another Snowden. With NSA’s widespread adoption of cloud computing, the spy agency may not have to.
Could the Cloud Have Stopped Snowden?
NSA bet big on cloud computing as the solution to its data problem several years ago.
Following expanded legal authorities enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, NSA and the other 16 agencies within the intelligence community began to collect a gargantuan amount of intelligence data: Internet traffic and emails that traverse fiber optic cables; telephone call metadata; and satellite reconnaissance.
Much of that intelligence piled up in various repositories that had to stock up on servers to keep up with demand.
NSA’s GovCloud — open-source software stacked on commodity hardware — creates a scalable environment for all NSA data. Soon, most everything NSA collects will end up in this ocean of information.
At first blush, that approach seems counterintuitive. In a post-Snowden world, is it really a good idea to put everything in one place — to have analysts swimming around in an ocean of NSA secrets and data?
It is, if that ocean actually controls what information analysts in the NSA GovCloud can access. That’s analogous to how NSA handles security in its cloud.
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