NSA reducing workforce in response to Snowden leaks
Edward Snowden is at least partially responsible for the timing of a significant reduction in part of the intelligence agency’s workforce
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — Edward Snowden fired a thunderbolt through top intelligence officials, and now he’s sending a jolt through his former colleagues on the job.
Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor whose revelations about massive government surveillance programs rocked the Obama administration, is at least partially responsible for the timing of a significant reduction in part of the agency’s workforce.
Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the NSA’s director, told a cybersecurity conference at Fordham University in New York last week that almost the entire crew of 1,000 systems administrators at the agency is being cut.
“What we’re in the process of doing — not fast enough — is reducing our system administrators by about 90 percent,” he said in remarks reported by Reuters.
Many of those systems administrators are contractors, as Snowden was before he fled the United States and Booz Allen Hamilton fired him. Alexander wants to move more of the operation away from on-site computer servers to the online “cloud.”
“We’ve put people in the loop of transferring data, securing networks and doing things that machines are probably better at doing,” Alexander said.
The virtual cloud structure “is actually where we were trying to go,” he said. “That cuts down on the number of system administrators, allows them to do other functions . . . and it also addresses the number of system administrators you have.”
In other words, it cuts the chance for more Snowdens.
The NSA and the rest of the intelligence community “had been on this path for some time,” said Vanee Vines, an NSA spokeswoman. She acknowledged that “we have accelerated the timeline” since Snowden’s leak of secret information to The Washington Post and the Guardian in Britain. Vines had no information about what portion of the personnel action would hit contractors vs. agency employees or whether workers would be reassigned or lose their jobs.
The move, Alexander said, is designed “to make our networks more defensible and more secure.”
While “at the end of the day, it’s all about trust” in the people who carry out the agency’s mission, he made it clear that trust alone is not enough.
“Now, the intent of what we are now doing,” Alexander said, “is to try to come up with ways that limit what people can take, what data they have and how we monitor that.”