Low Status High Security: lessons from the Snowden case

By John Keane

The Snowden case has drawn attention to a characteristic of espionage in an electronic age in which high security information is accessible to security-cleared contractors of relatively low status

The phenomenon of electronic espionage by low-status contractors is becoming increasingly discussed after several high-profile leaking stories, which for shorthand sre being labelled as wikileaks. The BBC noted recently that the conditions are well-known, but little has been done to address the problem. The article points to the need to grant contractors high security status. They cite the large consulting firm Booz Allen as having remarkably high numbers for staff cleared for accessing Government information. Of its 25,000 staff, nearly half have security clearance to top secret class information. These are the ranks from which Edward Snowden emerged.

A leadership dilemma

Security analysts recognize that the management of vast information flows requires considerable back-up support. I think of it as a wormhole in the blogosphere through which data can slip. In principle, the dangers can be reduced by greater care in allocating access to highly sensitive data. In practice we have a leadership dilemma of the electronic age.

The author

This post is written by Dr John Keane of Urmston University in Northern England where he teaches and researches into leadership and the history of economics. The views expressed are those of the author.

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2 Responses to Low Status High Security: lessons from the Snowden case

  1. Liam says:

    So are suggesting that there is so much surveillance data that we are having a problem managing the supply of people to parse it?

    This seems like saying that the problem on the Titanic was was that the deck chairs weren’t arranged properly.

  2. Thanks for that.

    I am saying there is so much available data that dealing effectively with it is a general problem of increasing significance (although data overload has been much chewed over for decades).

    Its ‘parsing’ may indeed invoke the celebrated metaphor of the Titanic’s deckchairs.

    Regards,

    TR

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