Daniel Swann is exactly the type of person the National Security Agency would love to have working for it. The 22-year-old is a fourth-year concurrent bachelor's-master's student at Johns Hopkins University with a bright future in cybersecurity.
And growing up in Annapolis, Md., not far from the NSA's headquarters, Swann thought he might work at the agency, which intercepts phone calls, emails and other so-called "signals intelligence" from U.S. adversaries.
"When I was a senior in high school I thought I would end up working for a defense contractor or the NSA itself," Swann says. Then, in 2013, NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked a treasure-trove of top-secret documents. They showed that the agency's programs to collect intelligence were far more sweeping than Americans realized.
After Snowden's revelations, Swann's thinking changed. The NSA's tactics, which include retaining data from American citizens, raise too many questions in his mind: "I can't see myself working there," he says, "partially because of these moral reasons."
Partially, huh. And what's the rest of the reason?
Ever since the Snowden leaks, cybersecurity has been hot in Silicon Valley. In part that's because the industry no longer trusts the government as much as it once did. Companies want to develop their own security, and they're willing to pay top dollar to get the same people the NSA is trying to recruit.
Students like Swann. Last summer Microsoft paid him $7,000 a month to work as an intern. The company even rented him a car.
"It was actually really nice," Swann says. "It was a Subaru Legacy."
Yeah, I mean if Microsoft is going to offer you six figures and a Subaru to be a student intern in InfoSec, it's not like the NSA is going to be able to compete with that. Kinda nice then that the whole morals thing isn't quite as important as that Silicon Valley paycheck so you can afford that place in San Francisco down the line.
Conveniently neat how that works out in the absolution department considering how big companies want their white hats to figure out how to use all that customer information as best they can. You know, totally unlike the NSA.
Once again, if your major goal was long-term, lasting, amybe even generational damage to the US intelligence community and to the NSA in particular, you could not have done a better job than what Dudebro Defector did.