Former government CIO wants security agencies to have ‘as much data as possible’

The former chief information officer of the UK government John Suffolk has defended the spying practices of the US National Security Agency, while at the same time calling for more transparency and oversight.

In a blogpost written shortly after revelations that the NSA's Tailored Access Operations unit has been secretly planting back doors in consumer electronics, Suffolk stated that governments around the world should have access to as much data as possible in order to protect from external threats.

"In relation to my views I am quite clear I want my Government to have as much data as possible," Suffolk said. "I want them to have the tools, techniques and resources to mine this data to stop a terrible event from occurring – stopping one event is good enough for me.

"The alternative is we have to sift through the body parts once an event has occurred."

The NSA has been widely criticised by privacy advocates for violating the constitutional rights of citizens, with one US judge claiming last month that the agency's practice of dragnet surveillance was "almost certainly" in violation of the fourth amendment.

Suffolk, who now works as the global head of cyber security at Huawei, instead argues that questioning the morality or legality of TAO "misses the point".

He suggests that those who have a problem with the actions of such units should direct their frustration and anger towards the politicians, policy makers and legislators who have "little understanding of technology, security and probably many other things".

"I want the legal frameworks to be in place, I want transparency, I want oversight and I do not want my Government (or any Government) to cross the line and weaken security for all by building in backdoors, weakening crypto or any of the shenanigans that have occurred with the American tech Industry," Suffolk said.

"The moment we confuse the role of the state in national security and the private sector in national security we are all doomed to a life where there are no holds barred – he or she with the deepest pockets and the greatest resources and brains wins the race to the bottom of the pit – there are only losers with this scenario."