Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported on the “Perfect Citizen” program. It would “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.”
Now, Wired reports on a response from the NSA. “[I]n a statement put out by NSA spokeswoman Judith Emmel Thursday, the agency denies there is any monitoring activities and called on the public to trust the NSA’s adherence to the law (despite the Bush-era warrantless wiretapping to the contrary). The NSA did, however, confirm the creepy code name.” Here is the full response from the NSA received by Wired:
Today’s Wall Street Journal article by Siobhan Gorman, titled “US Plans Cyber Shield for Utilities, Companies,” is an inaccurate portrayal of the work performed at the National Security Agency. Because of the high sensitivity surrounding what we do to defend our nation, it is inappropriate to confirm or deny all of the specific allegations made in the article. We will, however, provide the following facts:
- PERFECT CITIZEN is purely a vulnerabilities-assessment and capabilities-development contract. This is a research and engineering effort. There is no monitoring activity involved, and no sensors are employed in this endeavor.
- Specifically, it does not involve the monitoring of communications or the placement of sensors on utility company systems.
- 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 U.S. laws and regulations.
- 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.