The NSA reaches out
Of her eight great-grandparents, seven were murdered at Auschwitz.
“So my family’s history burned into me a fear of what occurs when the power of a state is turned against its people or other people.”
Seeking freedom from threats like that brought her parents from Hungary to America.
By 1976 they had saved up to take their first flight abroad.
Their return flight from Tel Aviv was high-jacked by terrorists and landed at Entebbe Airport in Uganda.
Non-Jewish passengers were released and the rest held hostage.
The night before the terrorists were to begin shooting the hostages, a raid by Israeli commandos saved most of the passengers.
Anne Neuberger was just a baby in 1976.
“My life would have looked very different had a military operation not brought my parents home. It gives me a perspective on the threats of organized terror and the role of intelligence and counterterrorism.”
When she later entered government service, she sought out intelligence, where she is now the principal advisor to the Director for managing NSA’s work with the private sector.
The NSA, Neuberger said, has suffered a particularly “long and challenging year” dealing with the public loss of trust following the Snowden revelations.
The agency is reviewing all of its activities to determine how to regain that trust.
One change is more open engagement with the public.
“This presentation is a starting point."
“My family history,” she said, "instilled in me almost parallel value systems – fear of potential for overreach by government, and belief that sometimes only government, with its military and intelligence, can keep civilians safe. Those tensions shape the way I approach my work each day.
I fully believe that the two seemingly contradictory factors can be held in balance.
And with your help I think we can define a future where they are.”
The National Security Agency, she pointed out, actively fosters the growth of valuable new communication and computing technology and at the same time “needs the ability to detect, hopefully deter, and if necessary disable lethal threats.”
To maintain those abilities over decades and foster a new social contract with the public, Neuberger suggested contemplating 5 tensions, 3 scenarios, and 3 challenges.
The tensions are…
1) Cyber Interdependencies (our growing digital infrastructure is both essential and vulnerable); 2) Intelligence Legitimacy Paradox (to regain trust, the NSA needs publicly understood powers to protect and checks on that power); 3) Talent Leverage (“the current surveillance debates have cast NSA in a horrible light, which will further hamper our recruiting efforts”); 4) Personal Data Norms (the growing Internet-of-things—Target was attacked through its air-conditioning network—opens vast new opportunities for tracking individual behavior by the private as well as public sector); 5) Evolving Internet Governance (the so-far relatively free and unpoliticized Internet could devolve into competing national nets).
Some thirty-year scenarios… 1) Intelligence Debilitated (with no new social contract of trust and thus the loss of new talent, the government cannot keep up with advancing technology and loses the ability to manage its hazards); 2) Withering Nation (privacy obsession hampers commercial activity and government oversight, and nations develop their own conflicting Internets); 3) Intelligent America (new social contract with agreed privacy norms and ongoing security assurance).
Initiatives under way from NSA…
1) Rebuild US Trust (move on from “quiet professionals” stance and actively engage the public); 2) Rebuild Foreign Trust (“extend privacy protections previously limited to US citizens to individuals overseas”); 3) Embrace Collective Oversight (reform bulk collection programs in response to the President’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board).
As technology keeps advancing rapidly, the US needs to stay at the forefront in terms of inventing the leading technical tools to provide public services and maintain public security, plus the policy tools to balance civil liberties with protection against ever-evolving threats.
“My call to action for everyone in this audience is get our innovative minds focussed on the full set of problems.”
A flood of QUESTION CARDS came to the stage, only a few of which we could deal with live.
Anne Neuberger wanted to take all the questions with her to share with NSA colleagues, so Laura Welcher at Long Now typed them up.
I figure that since the questioners wanted their questions aired on the stage to the live and video audience, they would like to have them aired here as well.
And it would be in keeping with the NSA’s new openness to public discourse.
Ms. Neuberger agreed…