Baltimore Sun reporter Siobhan Gorman recently did some outstanding reporting on the technology problems and truly massive cost overruns at NSA when Michael Hayden was director. Newsweek's Mark Hosenball mentioned it in his recent piece on Hayden's nomination to be CIA director, which led me to re-read her pieces.
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Oh, my goodness.
In short, Gorman found that between 1999 and 2005, the NSA bungled two key technology programs and an important oversight effort. As a result, "The agency has been gradually 'going deaf,' as unimportant communications drown out key pieces of information," an official told Gorman. Meanwhile, the secretive agency has been burning through billions -- billions -- of dollars.
"Nearly 4 1/2 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the NSA lacks a system to comprehensively evaluate all of the communications collected by its vast networks of high-tech ears," Gorman concluded.
"Agency computers have trouble talking to each other and frequently crash, key bits of data are sometimes lost, and vital intelligence can be overlooked."
Here's the kicker: Because of the failures under Hayden, the NSA actually lost authority. Congress was so upset by these techno-screwups and cost overruns that it stripped the agency of the power to sign its own big-ticket contracts -- and gave it to the Department of Defense. This is the guy who's going to strengthen the CIA's hand against the Pentagon?