Thursday, July 08, 2010

The "Perfect Citizen Program"

The federal government is launching an expansive program dubbed "Perfect Citizen" to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants, according to people familiar with the program.

The surveillance by the National Security Agency, the government's chief eavesdropping agency, would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack, though it wouldn't persistently monitor the whole system, these people said.

Defense contractor Raytheon Corp. recently won a classified contract for the initial phase of the surveillance effort valued at up to $100 million, said a person familiar with the project.

An NSA spokeswoman said the agency had no information to provide on the program. A Raytheon spokesman declined to comment.
First, I will stipulate that our cyber security is, and has been woefully inadequate. When one considers that our daily lives are wholly dependent upon the internet, smartphones and uninterrupted satellite communication, it's clear that this is an infrastructure in need of defending. On its face, it seems a worthy project.

That said, who was the Harvard genius who came up with the name "Perfect Citizen Program"? The very combination of words is Orwellian in the extreme and conjures up all sorts of nefarious possibilities.

Let it be known that I was, and am, a defender of the "Patriot Act" (which, by comparison, is a fairly innocuous moniker). Perhaps that is due to the fact that I had a degree of trust in President Bush, and realized that the scanning of electronic communication is in interest of national security. After all, my emails are pretty mundane and my blog is free of seditious rhetoric.

Now we have the "Perfect Citizen Program", coming on the heels of Janet Napolitano's banning (later rescinded after a firestorm of criticism from all sides) on "controversial opinion" sites on TSA computers.

This is a president, and an administration, that has proven itself to have very thin skin, and reacts poorly to criticizm. It has been openly disimissive of those who hold opposing views, including radio hosts and news organizations. The President has had scant press conferences and, by and large, has been meticulous about "controlling the message".

Again, cyber security is a valid concern and I'm glad that it is being addressed. On the other hand, less than noble measures have often been piggy-backed onto programs just such as this. A thorough reading of the fine print is in order.

No comments: