Tag Archives: tech-as-power

The Staggering Power of NSA Systems Administrators

Via Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic

In Catch-22, there is a character whose constant desire to go AWOL results in a series of demotions. The reader is introduced to him as Ex-PFC Wintergreen, a lowly mail clerk. But it turns out that his job affords him extraordinary access to information. By manipulating its flow, he quietly becomes one of the most influential men in the military, wielding more power than generals. I thought of Ex-PFC Wintergreen almost immediately after the Edward Snowden leaks made headlines, and again when General Keith Alexander revealed one of the ways the NSA was responding to it: using automation to cut the number of systems administrators by 90 percent, a reduction so extreme that it’s an implicit admission of a serious flaw in current arrangements.

The latest NBC reporting on the system administrator role makes me think I haven’t emphasized their power, or its implications for the NSA debate, nearly enough. Put simply, if NBC’s reporting is right, then a number of prominent defenses of NSA surveillance and oversight are obviously wrong.

via The Staggering Power of NSA Systems Administrators – Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic.