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NSA Director Visits Silicon Valley, Asks for Partnership


The director of the National Security Agency Adm. Michael S. Rogers spoke on Monday to some three hundred Stanford students, faculty and tech executives and said that a secure Internet was and is in the best interest of the United States, following revelations that the NSA had been using any available weaknesses in the web to gather foreign intelligence.

Admiral Rogers was appointed as the director of NSA in April after the agency received lots of criticism over its surveillance program, specifically its endeavor to diminish digital encryption and operate with any security flaws that would allow to spy on foreigners. All this started after a former intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden exposed some highly classified documents.

From that point on, major technology companies like Google and Yahoo have taken exceptional steps to encrypt their data, on every aspect, as it is stored and also as it travels through their data centers, since Mr. Snowden’s revelations clearly stated that NSA was gathering data traveling not encrypted when passing between computers. Just a while ago, Apple and Google have started encrypting their mobile data by default.

Moves like those have caused the director of FBI, James B. Comey during his speech two weeks ago to say that “post-Snowden pendulum has gone too far.”

Nevertheless, Admiral Rogers took a completely different turn in his speech on Monday at Stanford, saying that “a fundamentally strong Internet is in the best interest of the U.S.”

He added that NSA had altered its approach towards so called zero-day vulnerabilities, which are undisclosed software bugs that could be used for espionage. The agency had put lots of resources searching for and buying zero-day bugs from defense contractors and hackers.

During the speech at Stanford, Admiral Rogers said that if the agency would discover a bug or other vulnerabilities then in that case, “the default setting is if we become aware of a vulnerability, we share it.” However, he mentioned that there might be some exceptions. “There are some instances where we are not going to do that,” he said, declining to explain what circumstances would warrant disclosure.

This was the second visit to Silicon Valley since Admiral Rogers joined the NSA last April. He has promised to visit Silicon Valley two times a year, in order to both engage technology executives in a dialogue about what the agency is and what it is not and also for the reason that the NSA now competes with all the technology companies and start-up for the same employees.

A better information-sharing between the intelligence community and private technology companies was also attempted to push by the Admiral at the speech, legislation that would let to bring a formal information-sharing system has taken a stall in the Congress, getting numerous objections from the private sector.

“I think it is unrealistic to expect the government to deal with this all by itself. And then Admiral asked the attendees of the speech. “How do we create the partnerships that allow us to work together as a team?”

An information-sharing partnership with Silicon Valley corporations is presumably going to be a long and tiresome battle. Timothy D. Cook, at a recent Apple event, said that one of the major priority of the company was to protect their users privacy and that they are not going to weaken security or encryption for intelligence-gathering purpose.

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