John McCain Says That Keith Alexander Should Be Fired... For All The Wrong Reasons

from the what-about-prosecuted dept

Senator John McCain, who is certainly considered more "hawkish" on national intelligence and thus a lot more likely to support the NSA, made some interesting statements in a recent interview with the German paper Der Spiegel, including saying that President Obama should fire Keith Alexander. While that might surprise you, the reality is that he does so for all the wrong reasons -- mainly, he doesn't blame Alexander for illegal spying. He blames Alexander for letting word get out that we were spying on "friends."
SPIEGEL: Are the intelligence services out of control?

McCain: There has not been sufficient congressional oversight, and there has been an absolutely disgraceful sharing of information that never should have taken place. For many years, we had an absolute provision that any classified information, which was going to be shared, is based on need-to-know information. I was a Navy pilot and had Top Secret clearance because I was in a squadron that in case of war with Russia would carry nuclear weapons. But that did not mean that I was privy to everything to do with all of our war plans in case of a nuclear war.

SPIEGEL: That means that you only knew what you absolutely had to know.

McCain: Yes. Then along came 9/11 and we said, "Oh, one of the reasons why we didn't know about 9/11 is that we didn't do enough information sharing." So now we have a private in the Army with access to most secret cables.

SPIEGEL: You mean Private First Class Bradley Manning, now Chelsea, who leaked thousands of secret documents to Wikileaks.

McCain: And now we have a contractor employee, not a government employee, who has access to information which is, when revealed, most damaging to the standing prestige of the United States and our relations with some of our best friends. Why did Edward Snowden have that information? And what are we doing as far as screening people who have access to this information? It's outrageous, and someone ought to be held accountable.

SPIEGEL: Who must be held accountable?

McCain: The head of the NSA, the president of the United States, the Congressional Intelligence Committees, all of these contractors we pay that were responsible for performing the background checks. There should be a wholesale housecleaning.

SPIEGEL: Should Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, resign?

McCain: Of course, they should resign or be fired. We no longer hold anybody accountable in Washington. The Commandant of the Marine Corps fired a couple of generals because of failure of security at a base in Afghanistan. Tell me who has been fired for anything that's gone bad in this town.
Notice that it's not because of the spying that Alexander should be fired... but rather because people like Manning and Snowden were able to leak documents.

And, yes, elsewhere in the interview, McCain does complain about the extent of the NSA's spying... but not on ordinary Americans. No, the only thing that seems to upset him about it is when it impacts our relationships with "friends" in foreign governments. Look at this key quote:
SPIEGEL: In your opinion, how should intelligence services define the lines that must not be crossed?

McCain: The limit should be the potential damage to relations with that country. In other words, is it worth the collateral damage that could result in those techniques being revealed? What would be the reaction of our friends to it?
Notice absolutely no mention of things like people's rights to privacy? Notice absolutely no mention of concern for citizens either in the US or elsewhere? Nope. His only concern is when the spying might "damage relations" with a friendly country. Incredible.

Elsewhere in the interview, McCain scoffs at the idea that Germany might offer Snowden asylum, saying "we're too good friends" for Germany to do such a horrible thing. He also insists that he knows Snowden revealed everything to the Russians, despite no evidence to support this. He says that if you don't believe Snowden revealed everything to the Russians, "then you believe that pigs can fly." Furthermore, he calls Snowden a "defector," which is simply factually inaccurate. Snowden was forced into the Russians' hands by the US's clumsy approach to trying to stop him.

The only thing that seems to offend McCain is (1) that we let "low level" people like Manning and Snowden have access to secrets and (2) that we might offend a few "high level" friends. It's the complaint of an ultimate insider, who only cares about friends in high places and has absolutely no concern whatsoever for the common people he hasn't been in touch with in decades.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 6:05am

    Hey, Arizona...

    One of your crazies got away. Can you take him back now?

    /s

    But, seriously, he's like Feinstein, he's too old and needs to go.

     

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  2.  
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    Violynne (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 6:10am

    The concept behind "Logans Run" is starting to look better every day, once the sliding scale is moved to 50 (thanks to the advancement of standard of living and zombie-inducing pills).

    Now I see why everyone celebrated in the movie.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 7:50am

    All the 20th century politicians need to be forcibly retired.

     

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  4.  
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    Brazenly Anonymous, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 7:50am

    A simple strategy

    Those in favor of the NSA spying, or whom the NSA are able to control through the threat of blackmail, are working on a rather simple strategy devised to make the fervor over the leaks go away. That strategy consists of:

    1) Pin blame for any fallout on Snowden as much as possible
    2) Scapegoat Alexander/Clapper (due to retire anyway)
    3) A false defeat of the NSA (Feinstein's bill)

    #2 and #3 together are designed to assuage public sentiment against the NSA, including those who insist that someone must pay while presenting a new face under new laws. That they will continue with business as usual they hope to get the vast majority of the public to ignore.

    #1 is designed to ensure that their is no public backlash against their moves to prevent whistle blowers from exposing the lack of change.

    This move should not come as any surprise to anyone, and allows us to pin McCain as a supporter of the NSA. Avoid those he endorses.

     

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    Wally (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 7:50am

    In short, McCain is basically saying that there are two things that shouldn't have happened...First, the Congrssional Intel. Oversight Committee should have looked into the spying and that the head of that committee needs to be fired...

    Second, the NSA is supposed to be using gvt employees, not private contractors, to screen security issues and that if people had been doing what they are supposed to do, the "leaks" wouldn't have to happen.

    He basically knows what can and should be classified and his stating his war history says that. Remember this is the same guy that introduced a bill to allow cable packages to be more customizable...

     

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    Miles Barnett (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 8:01am

    "And now we have a contractor employee, not a government employee, who has access to information which is, when revealed, most damaging to the standing prestige of the United States and our relations with some of our best friends." There, he said it. The real reason everybody is pissed off at Snowden is because he embarrassed the US government.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 8:08am

    McCain is a puppy killer. I know this because pigs don't fly.

     

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  8. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 8:14am

    Hey, Mike: don't pay attention to what they say, look at what they do.

    Save ya a lot of time NOT analyzing politicians. But then what would you have to draw eyeballs?

    Even if Mike is absolutely right about problems, he has no solutions to even suggest.

    04:13:58[f-170-4]

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 8:17am

    Re: Hey, Mike: don't pay attention to what they say, look at what they do.

    Here's a mirror blue, you should look into it.

     

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  10.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 8:22am

    True, but,,,

    The only thing that seems to offend McCain is (1) that we let "low level" people like Manning and Snowden have access to secrets and (2) that we might offend a few "high level" friends. It's the complaint of an ultimate insider, who only cares about friends in high places and has absolutely no concern whatsoever for the common people he hasn't been in touch with in decades.
    Absolutely true and ideally the man shouldn't be anywhere near public office. On the other hand, if his rant led to firing an even bigger knucklehead, would that be so bad?
    Plus there is at least a tiny sliver of merit in his argument. I think the expectation that "spy" agencies are going to follow all the rules is probably hopeless. I suspect that most agencies have never followed the rules since they were created and the real questions become "How far do they stray from strictly legal and against whom?" and "How is the straying monitored and limited and by whom?". In that context the question of who gets to see the "naughty stuff" is indeed a key one.
    If access to the kind of information they clearly have were limited to "genuinely critical need to know" instead of "I'd kinda like to know please, coz it might be related to this other unrelated thing I'm working on", I'd still be far from happy but I'd certainly be a lot less unhappy.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 8:35am

    Meaningless

    Alexander will retire in a couple of months anyway. Calling for him to resign isn't that bold a statement right now.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 8:53am

    I found McCain's answers to be extremely offensive. All these politicians talk about Snowden's pledge not to harm the United States of America.

    What about every single politician's pledge, to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America.

    That includes the 1st and 4th Amendments, which have been grossly violated.

    McCain never once mentioned that "his" pledge to the American People has been broken. McCain needs to work on keeping his pledge, before demonizing someone, such as Snowden. Snowden was attempting to uphold McCain's broken pledge for him.

    Any politician who demonizes Snowden, is demonizing the Constitution of the United States along with.

    This just shows the HUGE disconnect politicians have with the rest of their constituents. When the disconnect becomes so obvious, it's time for the politicians to go. Because they no longer able to acknowledge their constituent's concerns.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 9:15am

    To be honest McCain do have a point, the top spy master there, dropped the ball doesn't matter what the reason was, he is not competent to hold that position he already proved that for one reason or another he can't keep or guard any secrets securely.

    Now for the reasons he state, well that is McCain the idiot talking, who cares the man is batshit crazy with his conspiracy theories and world views, but he is right even if for all the wrong reasons that Alexander must go.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 9:23am

    'only cares about friends in high places and has absolutely no concern whatsoever for the common people he hasn't been in touch with in decades' or gives a fuck about! but then you have to consider that, like 95% of the government, he cares about himself and his family, so if it were him or family on the receiving end of all the surveillance, he would make different comments!

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 9:33am

    Fired hell, jailed is the correct word!

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 10:05am

    Re: True, but,,,

    Actually I would defend his position on other accounts:

    His, "government secret service with far less private contractors" may be able to kill off some of the extremely damaging lobbyists and the unhealthily close bond between government and military/law enforcement/secret service. That could be an enormous move towards getting the oversight back on track instead of them constantly getting distracted by pleas for bloating the budgets etc. (not a complete solution for obvious reasons, since Rogers and Feinstein are part of the problem!)

    On the other hand, it would seem like the completely wrong track to stick with the bloated collection and reducing sharing of it. That is a recipe for a new 9/11 if there ever was one in these areas. Reducing the extend of several programs and further increasing cooperations with foreign services and FBI, CIA etc. seems like the only reasonable approach given that the bulk collections are the true problems here. A few foreign leaders getting pissed about their private lives getting seriously invaded, is just the cost of being a politician. Germany ao, should have blamed their own counter-spying efforts instead of blaming USA for that.

     

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  17.  
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    Wally (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 10:16am

    Re:

    He blamed lack of oversight of the NSA's activities and basically stated that the whole thing concerning Snowden and others would not be necessary if the Oversight committee and the NSA had been doing their jobs.

    McCain: There has not been sufficient congressional oversight, and there has been an absolutely disgraceful sharing of information that never should have taken place. For many years, we had an absolute provision that any classified information, which was going to be shared, is based on need-to-know information. I was a Navy pilot and had Top Secret clearance because I was in a squadron that in case of war with Russia would carry nuclear weapons. But that did not mean that I was privy to everything to do with all of our war plans in case of a nuclear war.

    He also states that he knows the meaning of national security a whole hell of a lot better than the NSA does...and what he means by "Low Level" merely indicates security clearances that Snowden and Manning didn't have, but easily gained access...

    So to put it short.

    1. He's not at all happy about the NSA spying (remember he voted to pass the Smith/Amash Act...)

    2. The situation with Snowden as a whistle blower would not have happened if it were not for the lack of oversight to the NSA's activities...

    3. He had top secret clearance or better when he was in the US Air Force.....a High Level security clearance.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 10:19am

    McCain cover blown

    Same on your Mike for pointing out the McCain is doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.

    It will be hard for him to shepherd once the sheep discover his motives.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 11:26am

    Re: Meaningless

    He needs to be retired to a federal jail cell.

     

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  20.  
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    Internet Zen Master (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 11:49am

    Considering he's ex-Air Force, this is probably the best we'll get

    I get the feeling this the best McCain's going to give us as far as calling for heads on the proverbial chopping block when it the intelligence community is concerned [moot point since Kirk Alexander's going to be retiring from command of the USS Surveillance in a few months anyway].

    We have to realize that a significant portion of the jury is still out on whether or not Snowden's a traitor. I've met several individuals with security clearances who considered the man a traitor and are still as pissed as the rest of us when we find out about the NSA's shennanigans. Hypocritical? Yeah, but that's human nature.

    And McCain's reasons for calling for Alexander's resignation are just as valid as everyone who wants the dear general gone for his "COLLECT ALL TEH DATA" Constitution-violating policies.

    Think of it this way: from McCain's view, the issue here is the intelligence community's sheer incompetence when it comes to protecting sensitive information (among other things), and I have to agree with the Senator when looking at things from the security angle. The interviewer mentions Manning and Cablegate. This was three years ago. The fact that Snowden was able to do all the things he did three years after the last time someone got their hands on the US' dirty secrets shows complete incompetence on the part of the US intel agencies to learn from past mistakes.

    I'd be calling for Keith's head on a platter if I were in McCain's shoes for those reasons alone. I mean, if you can't be trusted to keep your own dirty laundry under wraps (legality and whether Congress lets the NSA gett away with it is another issue), then any security measures you helped set up around real, honest to god issues of national security (i.e. military secrets, power grid systems, etc) are immediately seen as potential easy targets by foreign aggressors (it'll most likely be China or North Korea, but who knows in today's world).

    In short, McCain's reasons for doing this aren't wrong, they're just not the reasons most of the tech world, or at least the majority of TechDirt commentators, want him to use.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 12:20pm

    Re:

    "First, the Congrssional Intel. Oversight Committee should have looked into the spying"

    Wrong. They should have been looking at and said "NO" when the ideas were first floated not when someone suddenly said "I think something fishy is going on here." That is their job on that Committee. That is the primary purpose of the Committee in the first place.

    "Second, the NSA is supposed to be using gvt employees, not private contractors, to screen security issues and that if people had been doing what they are supposed to do, the "leaks" wouldn't have to happen."

    Wrong again. Manning was in the military (ie. government employee) not a contractor. Being a government employee doesn't mean you don't have a conscience. So no, just because it's only government employees doesn't mean there won't be leaks.

    I said it before and I'll say it again. If you want to stop the next Snowden, start following the Constitution instead of figuring out ways to subvert it then trying to hide it and justify it when it is exposed. If they did that, there would be nothing to leak.

     

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  22.  
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    Jeff (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Considering he's ex-Air Force, this is probably the best we'll get

    ummm - no he's not... he's ex-Navy.

     

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  23.  
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    R.H. (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 1:33pm

    Re:

    You do realize that no one born in the 21st century is old enough to hold office yet right? I don't know about you but I'm not OK with the idea of a group of 13 year old's running the American government. It may not be a huge step but it would still be a step in the wrong direction.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Re:

    My six year old daughter has more sense than some of them.

     

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  25.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 2:16pm

    Re: Re:

    They couldn't do much worse.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 3:15pm

    Is it true that McCain once had his fingers on the launch button of a nuclear head?

    Fuck me how we are still alive?

     

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  27.  
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    Wally (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 3:31pm

    Re: Re:

    So you agree with me a bit at least...

    Problem is that the Intelegence Subcommittee was lying to the rest of Congress and keeping it a secret from them...politicians often don't watch the news very much or very rarely read from politically biased sources because there is a fuckton of pressure that can come from the average unnecessary nitpicking some of the major media like CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews can get to your head..

    So the severe disconnect on this case is quite understandable from McCain when you consider how he's not at all happy with how this was handled.

    Now...as you can see...just because I did not say "and said NO" does not at all make my statement untrue or "wrong" as you put it...the Oversight Comittee's job is in fact to look into things...so in a literal sense we are both correct :-)


    Second...I never specified Manning or Snowden did I? Really the simple idea is that in order to prevent "leaks", the NSA has to be held accountable on illegal things it has done and McCain is seemingly quite livid that it was bad enough of an abuse of power by the NSA and the Intelegence subcommittee to make it necessary for a whistleblower to come out with the truth...Chelsea Manning's case is a whole other ball of wax from Snowden because of the type of intel she leaked...which had nothing to do with the unethical and illegal policies and procedures the NSA had put into place...We know who leaked what type of information..Honestly I would be quite livid too if people who were supposed to say and do something honest weren't doing their jobs of overseeing the NSA's activities to make sure that they did things accordingly with the Constitution..

    As for your last pontification about saying it once and again...that is EXACTIY the point McCain is trying to raise.

     

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  28.  
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    Jerrymiah, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 7:29pm

    John McCain

    I'm very disappointed in John McCAin. Having fought in Vietnam to protect the US and the Constitution, how can he support an Administration and Security apparatus thas has gone haywire and desecrated the Constitution.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 7:30pm

    Re: Re:

    Seriously? That's how you interpreted my comment?

    *Facepalm*

    I was talking about career politicians like McCain, Feinstein, etc. who have been in office way too long going back well into the 20th century. My comment was a call for fresh blood in D.C., people who haven't been long corrupted by money and special interests. I would consider a 21st century politician to be someone with no political history going back to the 20th century... someone first voted into office in the 21st century, not children.

     

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  30.  
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    tomj, Nov 19th, 2013 @ 8:01am

    warmongering McCain

    John McCain is certainly no military or foreign affairs expert. All McCain really is, is a war hungry bloodthirsty warmonger. H's a dangerously old madman that should retire.

     

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