Keith Alexander's Lobbying Calls To Congress Kicked Off With A Joke About How He Already Had Their Number

from the not-so-funny dept

Last week we had a story about how Nancy Pelosi helped kill the Amash Amendment to defund the controversial practice of having the NSA collect tons of info on every phone call made, in part by dragging along a bunch of Democratic representatives. Now, the National Review has some of the story from the other side of the aisle, about how the GOP leadership tried very very hard to keep the amendment from even coming to the floor, trying all sorts of procedural tricks. Eventually, it appears that John Boehner allowed the amendment to be voted on after a brief chat with Amash -- though no one seems exactly sure why. Boehner supports the surveillance program and voted against the amendment (which they note is rare, since he normally abstains from such votes).

However, there is one tidbit in the article that struck me as interesting. We'd already mentioned how Keith Alexander of the NSA went on an emergency lobbying campaign with Congressional reps after learning that the amendment would actually come to a vote, but there's this little tidbit to add some color:
Alexander, the NSA chief, was forced to personally lobby members, calling their cell phones and opening with a joke that, yes, he already had their number.
I'm all for people in government having a sense of humor. In fact, I think the world might be a better place if more people had a sense of humor, but somehow it seems insanely out of line and not particularly funny that the guy in charge of this massive spy program that we now know is collecting data on every single phone call would then call someone and kick off with a joke about his access to their phone numbers. This is not exactly a joking matter.


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    Mark Harrill (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:09am

    Blackmail

    Maybe that is how so many people voted against the amendement, the next line was "and we know who you've been sexting with."

     

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    Atkray (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 9:39am

    No Joke

    It wasn't a joke, it was a message.

     

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      Tom, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 11:26am

      Re: No Joke

      My thoughts exactly. He wasn't joking, he was not so subtly reminding them that he had call data on them too.

      Nothing scares a politician like knowing there's someone with more power than them who can link them to all their illicit, illegal, and immoral activities.

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 1:06pm

      Re: No Joke

      It's funny because it's true.

       

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    Ninja (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 9:50am

    Female lover: Awww, you hang up honey!
    Male lover: No, you hang up, I can't stop listening to your voice!
    Keith: Aw, you two hang up!

    *awkward silence before all hang up*

    Now imagine if the NSA wiretaps Sexy Lines all over the country. They could share the lulz with us eh?

     

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      Wally (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 10:31am

      Re:

      Oh dear god...this better get first and last word....you Ninja, have the funny vote!

       

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      Baldaur Regis (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 10:36am

      Re: the NSA already did this

      According to reports from 2008:
      David Murfee Faulk, a former U.S. Navy Arab linguist, said in the news report that he and his colleagues were listening to the conversations of military officers in Iraq who were talking with their spouses or girlfriends in the United States.

      According to Faulk, they would often share the contents of some of the more salacious calls stored on their computers, listening to what he called "phone sex" and "pillow talk."

      Both Kinne and Faulk worked at the NSA listening facility at Fort Gordon, Georgia. They told ABC that when linguists complained to supervisors about eavesdropping on personal conversations, they were ordered to continue transcribing the calls

       

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        Ninja (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 10:45am

        Re: Re: the NSA already did this

        I read about it. Sure it was the military and they could have officers working infiltrated using their private calls to pass sensitive information to the enemy so it COULD make sense in this point of view (and I'd need to stretch my ethics to accept such thing) but with the recent leaks one is left to wonder if it isn't happening outside the war zone...

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 11:27am

      Re:

      That was freaking hilarious.

      +funny

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 10:26am

    Unless the "Number" he was talking about did not kick off with an area code, but instead with a dollar sign.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 10:27am

    Yeah, that's so..."funny".

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 10:34am

    Knock knock.
    Who's there?
    We know where your children are right now and hope that you make the right decision in the Amash vote.

     

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    Nastybutler77 (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 10:41am

    This is not exactly a joking matter.

    Not only is it in poor taste, but it seems an odd way to convince someone to vote against an amendment. Along the lines of an accused murderer starting his interrogation by the police with, "Who do I have to kill to get a drink around here?"

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 10:46am

    "Alexander, the NSA chief, was forced to personally lobby members, calling their cell phones and opening with a joke that, yes, he already had their number."

    It continues:

    "The NSA chief, however, conceded that his accuracy wasn't too great. One time, Alexander admits, after calling a supposed congressman and opening with his ice-breaking joke, the other side of the line answered with 'Do you want fries with that?'. Tuns out that he was calling Joe's Pizza shop. According to our sources (Joe), this actually happened several times.

    When asked if this was the kind of accuracy we should expect from the NSA's anti-terrorism efforts, the NSA boss pointed at the sky and said 'Hey! What's that over there?' and scurried away.".

     

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    Guardian, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 10:56am

    @12

    NO it just means some smart congress critters use Joe's phone a lot....

    :P

     

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    Winston Smith, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 11:08am

    I have just one question for these chuckleheads...

    ...in Washington:

    "Whom do you serve?"

    Because it would appear that you have collectively divorced yourselves completely from both the U.S. Constitution and "We the People", the self-same for whom the government is for, by and of.

    - Winston

     

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    Bengie, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 11:11am

    Opinion

    "This is not exactly a joking matter."

    As much as I loath the NSA right now, I have to disagree with you and think that this actually is "funny".

    Growing up on the Internet has taught me how to enjoy must humor, short of "hate" based humor. I can appreciate racial/religious stereo-type jokes and other "taboo" stuff, but leave out racial slurs and other hate based stuff.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 11:30am

      Re: Opinion

      I don't know, given everything that's come out i can't imagine you can work your way into positions like this without a good deal of favors and political handshaking. Leads me to believe that there probably isn't a lot of joking going on at this level. Everything has to have a public face, and people want to believe this is a joke. So when asked by the media, well it's a joke.

      It wouldn't surprise me at all if it were a threat though.

      Here you have an NSA chief phoning your personal cell phone. His opening line is a "Joke" about already having your number. It's not hard to imagine all sorts of people and resources he might have access to in his position, and given that it's a very very grey area on whether or not any of this is legal already...

      It's one thing to say you'd knowingly put your life on the line for someone else, it's an entirely different matter to actually do it.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 11:19am

    The Amendment was allowed because they knew they had the voted to kill it.

    Politics is no longer really a two party system in this country anymore. Sure there are the rare exceptions (I'd say Ron Paul for the conservatives, Ron Wyden for the liberals, Bernie Sanders for the Independents, and maybe another handful here or there) but by and large most of them simply pander to, and throw out talking points (mostly about "hot button" concerns like abortion or gay rights) for whatever base they are pretending to cater to. Then after getting elected they simply follow the whims of the large corporate entities that supplied the funding and media access that got them elected.

    Those corporate interest sometimes face enough pushback that they have to let some initiatives, like a SOPA or ACTA, die or become delayed for a while, but generally speaking once they have a wedge into the freedom of the general population it is rare they will give that wedge up.

     

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    RyanNerd (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 11:20am

    NSA is Ethically Bankrupt

    I wonder how many Funny votes this article WON'T get?

     

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    FM Hilton, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 11:34am

    Tired old lines

    So Keith Alexander went on the rampage and told a very old punch line to a tired joke.

    Guess what? I find it offensive because he's running the biggest and most invasive spying program in the world, and all he can do is lobby for it to continue on the same lines.

    Something about this story is very bad..I can't pinpoint it because it just is too pathetic.

    I bet he has more than just their 'number'.

    J. Edgar Hoover would be envious of it.

     

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    Wolfy, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 11:36am

    Atkray nailed it.

     

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    Mike, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 11:55am

    Doesn't this also make him a liar?

    I thought that the NSA only used the big database for national security purposes? How does, "I need the personal cell numbers of congressmen for lobbying purposes" fit into that? Did he commit a crime by using NSA resources for lobbying purposes?

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 12:07pm

    My only question is, who forced him to make the calls?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 12:45pm

    All of a sudden I read J. Edgar Hoover's name instead of Alexander's, and FBI instead of NSA. Did I go back in time?

     

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    michael, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 4:04pm

    Small government?

    I'm still trying to figure out how Republicans and (especially) Tea Partiers -- who never shut up about how they're for "Small Government" -- are justifying their support of the government secretly spying on EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2013 @ 4:01am

    And he's in charge of both the NSA and the Cyber security Command?

     

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