Obama Okays NSA Zero-Day Policy

President Obama has announced that his administration would now require the NSA to publish any unknown zero-day viruses, malware, backdoors, and exploits they discover in the interest of national security.

Under one condition…

Of course, that condition is about as flexible, stetchable, and malleable as it could possibly be, only requiring the NSA to provide a “clear national security or law enforcement need” for any zero days they might accidentally stumble upon or intentionally purchase from here on out.

In almost too-convenient fashion, this announcement from the White House comes only a few short days after the NSA found themselves on the defensive, rebutting claims from sources at Bloomberg News who allege the NSA was not only aware of the Heartbleed bug from its inception, they intentionally kept information about it hidden from developers in order to keep the channel open for clandestine surveillance operations domestically and abroad.

obama

Photo: Pete Souza

The speculation of what the timing means doesn’t hold as you might think though, with the Times reporting that this announcement is the culmination of nearly three months of work on behalf of the President and the committee he consults on matters of national security.

“We don’t eliminate nuclear weapons until the Russians do,” one senior intelligence official said recently. “You are not going to see the Chinese give up on ‘zero days’ just because we do.” Even a senior White House official who was sympathetic to broad reforms after the N.S.A. disclosures said last month, “I can’t imagine the president — any president — entirely giving up a technology that might enable him some day to take a covert action that could avoid a shooting war.”

Either way, it’s clear that the NSA is going to likely be hiring a team of legal experts in the next few days whose only task will be to find out how far they can stretch these limitations down to the last micrometer, and be sure that as few of their programs currently in operation are affected by the new referendum of strong suggestions posing as amateur laws.