Gwynne Dyer contends that America is hopeless - and helpless - when it comes down to securing the data it steals on an industrial scale. In a country where 850,000 people have "top secret" security clearances and access to this mountain of data there are bound to be plenty of Edward Snowden's quietly digging for the mother lode. Unlike Snowden, it's unlikely many of them are motivated by altruism.
What the NSA has built is a system that is too big to monitor
properly, let alone fully control. The system’s official purposes are
bad enough, but it cannot even know the full range of illegitimate
private actions that it permits. And this is not a design flaw. It is
inherent in the very size of the system and the number of people who
have access to it. Which brings us back to NASDAQ, Apple, Goldman Sachs
If it can be done, it will be done. Algorithms will be
written for automated trading at speeds measured in fractions of a
microsecond, and the competition will have to follow suit. It will
become possible to store immense amounts of data in a virtual “cloud”,
and the cloud will take shape. It will become theoretically possible to
listen in on every conversation in the world, and the surveillance
systems to do it will be built.
This is a genuinely monstrous apparatus. One of the things Snowden's leaks revealed is that the NSA's "black budget" is a staggering $52-billion annually. That's far in excess of America's intelligence spending at the peak of the Cold War. The CIA accounts for just under $15-billion but a lot of the remainder goes to intelligence contractors like those Snowden worked for when he mined his government's secrets.
Worse still, the more dependent the NSA becomes on contractors, the more vulnerable it becomes to espionage. It simply provides windows of opportunity for foreign intelligence to either buy off contractors' employees or infiltrate their own agents first onto contractors' payrolls and then inside the NSA.
The NSA has become too big not to fail.