Remember that part in The Dark Knight where Batman makes Lucius Fox the sole person that can access the city-wide sonar database that lets him see everything that’s happening in Gotham (because letting anyone else have access would be super-dangerous)? Well, apparently that message was lost on the NSA, who is only now pushing ahead with a plan to limit access to their own classified database by eliminating 90 percent of system administrators.
The news comes from NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander, who spoke at a cybersecurity conference in New York yesterday. According to Reuters, Alexander said he plans to replace about 900 of the administrators with automated processes to monitor that classified data. The logic behind the NSA’s move is that this will improve overall security if fewer people are cleared to see that data. It also means we’re less likely to have a whistleblower like Edward Snowden speaking out if NSA is collecting data that violates U.S. citizens’ constitutional rights.
Snowden was, of course, contracted through a third-party company by the NSA and leaked classified information to The Guardian newspaper about secret telephone and Internet surveillance programs run by the U.S. government that he felt were unconstitutional. As you can imagine, the NSA wasn’t too happy about this, and it’s now reeling from a backlash that Alexander said has been “grossly mischaracterized” in the press.
Alexander also said the NSA’s measures to eliminate system administrators were in place before the Snowden incident but that this is now moving along much faster. Additional measures for making sure this new smaller group of people with access to classified data include making sure there are always two other parties present to ensure its not used illegally.