NSA says it's not Big Brother

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The National Security Agency has denied that it's planning to monitor  communications on infrastructure networks such as those for the electricity grid and nuclear power plants.

It says the Perfect Citizen project is simply a research effort aimed at countering threats to national security networks, and that no monitoring is involved.

The Wall Street Journal yesterday reported that the $100m classified system, to be supplied by Raytheon, would employ remote sensors in networks regarded as being of national importance. The stated aim would be to help protect against and detect cyberattacks.

But the WSJ also said that many of the networks concerned were private ones, and would give access to data well beyond the security remit. It quoted an internal Raytheon email as saying, "Perfect Citizen is Big Brother".

But the NSA has rushed to assure the public that it is in fact no such thing. There will be no monitoring of communications, it says, and no sensors will be installed.

"This contract provides a set of technical solutions that help the National Security Agency better understand the threats to national security networks, which is a critical part of NSA's mission of defending the nation," the NSA told The Atlantic.

"Any suggestions that there are illegal or invasive domestic activities associated with this contracted effort are simply not true. We strictly adhere to both the spirit and the letter of US laws and regulations."