Watchmen

This is from the latest Crypto-Gram:

Last Month I Briefed Congress on the NSA

One morning in January, I spent an hour in a closed room with six members of Congress: Rep. Lofgren, Rep. Sensenbrenner, Rep. Bobby Scott, Rep. Goodlatte, Rep. Mike Thompson, and Rep. Amash. No staffers, no public: just them. Lofgren had asked me to brief her and a few Representatives on the NSA. She said that the NSA wasn’t forthcoming about their activities, and they wanted me — as someone with access to the Snowden documents — to explain to them what the NSA was doing. Of course, I’m not going to give details on the meeting, except to say that it was candid and interesting. And that it’s extremely freaky that Congress has such a difficult time getting information out of the NSA that they have to ask me. I really want oversight to work better in this country.

Surreal part of setting up this meeting: I suggested that we hold this meeting in a SCIF, because they wanted me to talk about top-secret documents that had not been made public. The problem is that I, as someone without a clearance, would not be allowed into the SCIF. So we had to have the meeting in a regular room.

This really was an extraordinary thing.

First, the Crypto_gram comes from Bruce Schneier, an independent IT security consultant. Second, the SCIF referred to is, according to Wikipedia:

In United States security and intelligence parlance, a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF; pronounced “skiff”) is an enclosed area within a building that is used to process Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) types of classified information. SCI is classified information concerning or derived from intelligence sources, methods, or analytical processes, which is required to be handled within formal access control systems established by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI).

In other words, a SCIF is a secure room where you can have secrets available.

I get that Bruce finds it extraordinary that, due to his lack of clearance, they could not use a SCIF. I find it extraordinary that the members of the Senate do not know what the NSA is doing. And, it’s extraordinary that to solve that problem, they ask an independent security consultant? Something is very wrong there.