Why does the NSA spy?

Director of the National Security Agency Gen. Keith Alexander (L) speaks as general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence Robert Litt (R) listens during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee December 11, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. 

The National Security Agency says it only spies to protect us from cyberattacks.  Or so it told the New York Times. A Times article says the NSA has inserted software in almost 100,000 computers across the globe.  Using them to spy. And launch cyberattacks of its own. 

Washington has repeatedly accused China of giving intelligence to Chinese companies, to give them a leg up on their international competitors. The U.S. says it never does that for American firms. The NSA told the Times, quote, "We do not use foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of…US companies."   

Endpoint Technologies founder and president Roger Kay says, don’t you believe it.

"It’s another instance of the pot calling the kettle black," he says. 

Kay doesn’t buy the NSA’s insistence that it never shares secrets with U.S. CEOs. He says it’s just too easy to let juicy stuff slip. 

"It would be easy enough to have somebody who knows how to do these things approach the company directly and just say, hey -- by the way, this might be of interest to you," he explains.

Kay says it would be of interest to the NSA because more and more, getting an advantage economically, is part of national security.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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