Summer Sale! Get unlimited digital access for 13 weeks for $13.
News Opinion Op-Eds

Let's get the NSA to fix

If we could get NSA hackers to go to work on the Obamacare website, health care for every American would be delivered before Christmas.

At least, it seems as if that would be the case. The folks who brought us cannot seem to keep the site from freezing up and shunting people seeking insurance coverage to a virtual waiting room with no doors. Meanwhile, the cyberspies at the National Security Agency are apparently smart enough to break into the telephones and electronic communications of every head of state from Berlin to Rio.

Why does one set of government techies seem as smart as Q, James Bond's gadgets guy, and another set seem as knuckle-headed as Dwight Schrute on "The Office?" Associated Press science writer Seth Borenstein may have found the answer.

"The same government that reportedly intercepted the communications of America's leading consumer technology firms, Google and Yahoo, without leaving a trace is scorned because it can't build a working federal website for health insurance," Mr. Borenstein writes. The fallacy, he says, is to equate the two jobs. Hacking is one thing, building a website is quite another. Both are complex, but one is just a lot more fun.

The fun job is with the NSA. The spy agency is working with a nearly bottomless budget and high tech specialists who are the best in the business. The NSA gets the best because the work is engaging and exotic. Website construction? Not so much.

"Breaking in, it feels like special ops," Chris Wysopal, a former hacker, told Mr. Borenstein. "Building something feels probably like you're in the Corps of Engineers. You're just moving a lot of dirt around."

Those dirt movers working on the Obamacare site are simply not the same caliber as the whiz kids at the NSA. That's why the federal government has had a devil of a time getting you signed up for a health plan that you want, but can keep a file of every phone call you make and every message you send, even if you would rather they didn't.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to to see more of his work.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Taming 'Big Brother'

    Taming 'Big Brother'

    A week after a federal appeals court ruled that the National Security Agency's bulk data collection program was unconstitutional, the Obama administration is urging Congress to approve legislation that would put new limitations on the agency's power to track the private phone calls and emails of...

  • Reining in the surveillance state

    Reining in the surveillance state

    In a sign that the possibility of bipartisan cooperation in Congress is not completely dead, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have moved closer to a consensus on modifying the U.S. Patriot Act, which authorizes the government's secret spying program targeting the private phone calls and email...

  • Spying forever

    Spying forever

    Ever since former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's revelations last year that the NSA was collecting information on the phone calls and emails of millions of U.S. citizens without their knowledge or consent, lawmakers have been assuring the public they will act to amend the...

  • Intelligence reform bill is important to safeguarding our security and privacy

    Intelligence reform bill is important to safeguarding our security and privacy

    A recent Baltimore Sun editorial described legislation to reform the government's collection of Americans' phone and email data as a sign that "bipartisan cooperation in Congress is not completely dead" ("Reining in the surveillance state," May 5). We'd like to remind The Sun that similar legislation...

  • Congress is not transparent enough about its intelligence oversight [Commentary]

    Congress is not transparent enough about its intelligence oversight [Commentary]

    Members criticize the hardworking employees of the National Security Agency, yet they aren't transparent about their oversight role

  • Unaccountable intelligence agencies [Letter]

    Unaccountable intelligence agencies [Letter]

    Attorney and former CIA officer Matthew Ferraro contends that U.S. intelligence agencies operate within "strict legal controls under the review of lawyers embedded at all levels, inspectors general, courts and Congress" ("The Snowden stigma," June 9).