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Cybersecurity is Not Your Gig, NSA!

Michael German,
Senior Policy Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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February 9, 2010

The news that the NSA and Google are working on a deal for the military agency to help protect the information giant’s data networks comes at a time when the NSA is angling to get a major piece of cybersecurity action.

The only problem is, despite what the agency would have us believe, the NSA is mainly a spy agency, not a cybersecurity agency. The agency’s website says:

The NSA/CSS core missions are to protect U.S. national security systems and to produce foreign signals intelligence information.

The Information Assurance mission confronts the formidable challenge of preventing foreign adversaries from gaining access to sensitive or classified national security information. The Signals Intelligence mission collects, processes, and disseminates intelligence information from foreign signals for intelligence and counterintelligence purposes and to support military operations.

But if you look at the current language from Executive Order 12333 (as amended in 2008), which governs the powers and responsibilities of the intelligence agencies, it is quite a stretch to say, as the NSA does on its website, that one of its “core” missions is “information assurance.”

It’s probably no accident that NSA puts the “information assurance” mission first on the website, even though the executive order makes it pretty clear that’s not the case. They have been aggressively promoting themselves as the primary expert in the cybersecurity arena, even though the Department of Homeland Security was originally given the mandate. NSA is an intelligence agency, plain and simple, and we should continue saying so. Take action today by sending a letter to Google, letting them know that you object to such a deal and value your privacy online.

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