OK, let me get this straight: a private sector company INVITES the National Security Agency (NSA) to place sensors on its privately owned network to help the company protect itself from unauthorized and unwanted cyber intrusions. Perfect Citizen, as it is called, is a program to detect cyber assaults on critical infrastructure, be they publically or privately held. The NSA will deploy sensors in critical infrastructure computer networks to detect a cyber attack.

With the U.S.’s eavesdropping agency working in private sector networks, some have worried that Perfect Citizen (a hideous name by the way) constitutes too much government monitoring in the private sector, conjuring comparisons to George Orwell’s 1984.

But how in the world does Perfect Citizen constitute “Big Brother”?!?

It still amazes me that the only entity that some American citizens seem to be afraid of in the cyber realm is own government. Yet, the same people demand that the government protect them from cyber attacks.

Come on folks, you are asking the impossible. When anyone says “security,” these individuals (and organizations) scream “Privacy!”  What they really mean is privacy from the government. They do not seem to give a hoot about marketers, criminals or intelligence organizations from other countries reading anything and everything they have in digital format.

However, I do get the feeling that if these individuals’ identities were stolen, a bank account emptied, or their computer used in a BotNet to support a crime or terrorist incident, they will scream just as loudly that “the government should have done something!”

I am sorry that the NSA’s activities scare people. Much of the agency’s “scary” reputation is due to overblown Hollywood depictions of the organization (thank you “Enemy of the State” and other like films). I have worked with the NSA as an Intel Collector and while in the Pentagon’s Front Office. There are few organizations in the Federal Structure as obsessive about following the rules as the people at the Fort. These people are true patriots who do what they do to protect the Constitution and the American people, not to threaten them. The NSA is an American treasure, and we should be giving them raises, not attacking their integrity.

Perfect Citizen is NOT Big Brother. It is a program that is done only at the request of the people who own the infrastructure on which it resides. I predict that as this program goes forward, more firms will opt to join in. In fact, I also predict that once it starts to work for the Defense Industrial Base companies (which already have the best public/private info sharing arrangements in industry), others will clamor to join. Cyber Industrial Espionage is killing American businesses and will continue to do so until we can put effective monitoring capabilities in place.  Perfect Citizen is good first step.

Dr. Steven Bucci is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He was previously a lead consultant to IBM on cyber security policy. Bucci’s military and government service make him a recognized expert in the interagency process and defense of U.S. interests, particularly with regard to critical infrastructure and what he calls the productive interplay of government and the private sector. Read More