Everyone needs to read this – break up the NSA

EFF NSA logo parody (sticker) 

Breaking Up the NSA
[Via Schneier on Security]

The NSA has become too big and too powerful. What was supposed to be a single agency with a dual mission — protecting the security of U.S. communications and eavesdropping on the communications of our enemies — has become unbalanced in the post-Cold War, all-terrorism-all-the-time era.

Putting the U.S. Cyber Command, the military’s cyberwar wing, in the same location and under the same commander, expanded the NSA’s power. The result is an agency that prioritizes intelligence gathering over security, and that’s increasingly putting us all at risk. It’s time we thought about breaking up the National Security Agency.

Broadly speaking, three types of NSA surveillance programs were exposed by the documents released by Edward Snowden. And while the media tends to lump them together, understanding their differences is critical to understanding how to divide up the NSA’s missions.

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Schneier is one of the most important p[eople to listen to on the topic of digital security.

Authoritarian, top-down processes are the hallmark of Industrial Age approaches which will continue to fail fighting the agile,resilient processes of the 21st century.

Authoritarian always looks like it works in the short term because it can take action faster. resilent, agile communities often react to change, not initiate it.

Think of the US response to WW2. Sure, Japan and Germany got some early victories against the US. But, as one of the most agile and resilient societies that has ever existed (and that is another blog post), once we recognized the barriers, we worked around them in ways that pretty much assured success.

A similar argument can be made for the North in the Civil War and the Revolutionaries in 1776. Over the last 400 years (at least) authoritarian approaches eventually lose because they cannot adapt fast enough.

There is a reason that liberal democracies are the only form of government that are increasing in numbers – they represent the most adaptive, resilient approaches to the rapid changes we see.

A top-down approach is simply too brittle to survive the disruptive changes buffeting us. We see again and again authoritarian leaders doing really stupid things. It is not because they are stupid. They just cannot react to change fast enough and in appropriate ways.

The course of history demonstartes that authoritarians lose. The question is how many millions of people die in the interim,

Perhaps splitting up the NSA, decentralizing some of its authoritarian control, will help save some of those people.