IU Professor Recommends Splitting National Security Agency

Indiana University cyber security expert Fred Cate recommends the National Security Agency be split into two as a way to avoid conflicts of interest.

IU Professor Fred Cate

Photo: Courtesy of Indiana University

IU cyber security expert Fred Cate made 10 recommendations to the group tasked with reviewing NSA's role.

An Indiana University professor is recommending the National Security Agency be split into two as a way to avoid conflicts of interest.

The suggestion is one of ten IU cyber security expert Fred Cate made to a group that is reviewing the NSA’s role after it received heavy criticism for collecting Americans’ personal information including cell phone records.

Cate says if his recommendation was followed one half of the NSA would work to make sure the United States’ cyber infrastructure is secure.

The other half would collect intelligence data.

“Think about this, if the NSA discovers there’s a vulnerability in say Microsoft windows, is it going to fix the vulnerability, that would be its protection role, or is going to keep the vulnerability secret, and use it to exploit when other countries are using windows?” he asks. “So there’s a lot of tension. What we have discovered thanks to Mr. Snowden is that the NSA has actually gone farther, it has actually introduced vulnerability into products that are sold in the United States.”

What seems to have changed over time is that NSA seems to believe the threat might be in the U.S. and therefore they are using this initiative to gather information about Americans as well as those in other countries.

Cate says that presents three major problems:

  • It wastes time. He says it is not strategic because it is time consuming to sort through all the information.
  • It creates diplomatic problems. Recent report show the NSA was spying on several foreign leaders who are U.S. allies.
  • It could be a constitutional violation. Many Americans see the NSA’s actions as a violation of privacy.

The panel reviewing the agency is scheduled to issue a report to President Barack Obama by the end of the year.

But Cate says he doubts Congress has the will to enact any significant changes within the NSA.

“Neither the public nor congress is as moved by surveillance that involves everybody,” he says. “So even though this is much more broad, even though this is far more sweeping than anything the 9/11 attacks involved, Congress is not just motivated to take action now and so I think there’s very little chance that we might see anything dramatic.”

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