Critics charge that an aggressive NSA purge of 90 percent of its system administrators—in an apparent attempt to prevent the next Edward Snowden from having access to secret information—is evidence that the agency seeks to hide the truth about spying from the public and remove the roll of human conscience from the agency, instead of curbing spying in response to mass anger.
"It would be nice if they reduced the amount of information they are collecting on people by 90 percent," Dave Maass, spokesperson for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Common Dreams.
The mass firing will accompany an agency-wide shift towards automation of these roles, NSA director General Keith Alexander told a New York City cyber-security conference Thursday, a shift he claims will make the agency "more defensible and more secure."
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Alexander, who was careful not to mention Snowden directly throughout the conference, declared that the NSA's secret surveillance programs have been "grossly mischaracterized" by the media and urged his audience to "get the facts" and think for themselves.
Yet, critics charge that it is exactly 'the facts' that the NSA seeks to hide. "The only way the public has gotten any facts at all is from the leaks Alexander is fighting against," writes D.S. Wright of FiredogLake. "General Alexander wants the public to be completely in the dark, then when information is leaked, he wants to be able to credibly denounce the press and public reaction as lacking the information he helped hide."
It is not clear that the NSA's aggressive plan would have prevented Snowden—who was working for a private contractor when he exposed NSA spying—from blowing the whistle on the agency.
Critics agree that—no matter what steps the NSA takes—as long as people are involved with agency decisions, there will always be hope of whistleblowing. "People have a conscience," says Maass. "And when they see things that are wrong they come forward."