Here’s a look at the nine best and worst national security related tweets and quotes of 2013, as witnessed by your humble correspondent.
If you appreciate commentary and analysis with sharp wit, you should be following Stewart Baker, former general counsel at the National Security Agency. He’s always quick to point out an argument based on emotion, rather than on facts.
@dmkravets You have evidence NSA is targeting US citizens or are you talking thru your hat? I’m betting on the hat.
— stewartbaker (@stewartbaker) December 7, 2013
There was no shortage this year of events and keynote speeches focusing on the very difficult and downright scary financial outlook for the Defense Department. But one of the best was a meeting of the Young AFCEANS from the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, at which Robert Carey, DOD’s principal deputy chief information officer, offered the following observation:
The Pentagon has discovered a new precious metal for IT systems: “Unaffordium” – Robert Carey, Dep DOD CIO.
— Dan Verton – Writer (@DanielVerton) December 5, 2013
AFCEA proved to be a valuable source of great commentary in 2013. It was at a recent AFCEA event in Washington, D.C., where I got to see Phyllis Schneck, the new deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity at DHS, in one of her first public appearances in her new government role. I’ve known Phyllis for about 10 years, during which time she’s been credited with building the FBI-sponsored InfraGard public-private information sharing partnership into a key national asset in the battle against cyber-crime. That’s what made the following comment from Phyllis one of those priceless moments for a veteran cybersecurity journalist.
Phyllis Schneck, Dep UndSec of Cybersec at DHS on InfraGard: “Please don’t call it a stove pipe, it’s a CYLINDER of Excellence.” #InfraGard
— Dan Verton – Writer (@DanielVerton) November 25, 2013
Nothing caught the imagination and attention of Americans this year more than the controversy surrounding NSA’s global electronic spying activities. Privacy advocates have likened the agency to a modern Gestapo — which, of course, it is not. Even the chairman of Google, a company that scares many of the same privacy advocates because of its ability to collect data on consumers and its cooperation with NSA, knows the difference between the U.S. variety of security surveillance and surveillance in truly authoritarian governments.
Google’s Eric Schmidt on US influence on Internet freedom: “Imagine if the Chinese had won the Internet. Don’t screw with this.” #PaleyIC
— Dan Verton – Writer (@DanielVerton) November 22, 2013
But let’s assume for a moment NSA is, in fact, the biggest of Big Brothers, capable of employing massive computing power that knows all and may one day become self-aware. Fear not. There will always be the error-prone human element in security that often works in favor of the little guy. Like Amtrak rider Tom Matzzie.
Former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden on Acela behind me blabbing “on background as a former senior admin official” Sounds defensive.
— Tom Matzzie (@tommatzzie) October 24, 2013
Hayden eventually realized what had happened and was gracious enough to take a photo with Matzzie. But I can only imagine what future directors of NSA might look like if there’s anything to the following story tweet from The Washington Post.
If you’re a stripper and you need a security clearance, here’s some advice http://t.co/GIF8qPKuQC
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) September 26, 2013
Did you ever think about where former strippers might find work in the national security enterprise? I have nothing against strippers, but I worry many may not be familiar with the traditional Japanese poetic form, and therefore, may have already juxtaposed themselves right out of a job with the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency.
A DARPA haiku: Three thousand dollars? For robot hand so adept? Possibilities… http://t.co/FXxwduNK5R
— DARPA (@DARPA) May 2, 2013
My advice to the strippers looking for a security clearance and a career in government is to take things one step at a time. Don’t get ahead of yourself, like the national media often do. Imagine my surprise when, as I was sitting in an empty House committee hearing room waiting for lawmakers to show up, the following story tweet flashed across my iPhone:
House committee questions spy chiefs about phone tapping allegations http://t.co/c9m3uJjgl5
— Security Clearance (@natlsecuritycnn) October 29, 2013
@natlsecuritycnn And not only is the headline ahead of the news, but the photo is not even from today’s hearing – which is in recess!
— Dan Verton – Writer (@DanielVerton) October 29, 2013
It certainly was an interesting year in national security. But we should consider ourselves lucky; the much-feared Zombie Apocalypse hasn’t yet sent the world into chaos. But let’s face it, robots are scarier anyway. And with Google’s recent acquisition of Boston Dynamics, manufacturer of some of the scariest military robots in existence, I’m not the only one who can see where this is all going.
Remind me to get paranoid when Google buys Lockheed Martin AND Hasbro
— Omer Shapira (@omershapira) December 14, 2013