from the this-again? dept
Drawing an analogy to how the military detects an incoming missile with radar and other sensors, Alexander imagined the NSA being able to spot "a cyberpacket that's about to destroy Wall Street." In an ideal world, he said, the agency would be getting real-time information from the banks themselves, as well as from the NSA's traditional channels of intelligence, and have the power to take action before a cyberattack caused major damage.The thing is, this isn't new. Back in July, the Washington Post's excellent profile of Keith "collect it all" Alexander pointed out that he'd been pushing this exact solution for quite some time, though execs from Wall Street found the idea to be ridiculous, since they fully understood what it meant:
His proposed solution: Private companies should give the government access to their networks so it could screen out the harmful software. The NSA chief was offering to serve as an all-knowing virus-protection service, but at the cost, industry officials felt, of an unprecedented intrusion into the financial institutions’ databases.In other words, even well before all the details of Alexander's overreach as NSA director came out, Wall Street execs had no interest in giving him such access to their networks.
The group of financial industry officials, sitting around a table at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, were stunned, immediately grasping the privacy implications of what Alexander was politely but urgently suggesting. As a group, they demurred.
“He’s an impressive person,” the participant said, recalling the group’s collective reaction to Alexander. “You feel very comfortable with him. He instills a high degree of trust.”
But he was proposing something they thought was high-risk.
“Folks in the room looked at each other like, ‘Wow. That’s kind of wild.’ ”
But this is the same basic pitch that Alexander has been making for years. The biggest joke in the intelligence community is the fact that Alexander technically has two jobs: he's both the head of the NSA -- in charge of collecting information for surveillance -- and the head of US Cyber Command, which runs the military's "cyber" initiatives. Alexander loves to use the cover of his Cybercommand position to pretend that his focus is on protecting data and networks.
You may recall that, the NSA's talking points on the breaking ground for the massive Utah datacenter were entirely focused on how the center would be used to protect the internet -- leaving out how it would actually be used to spy on the network. Members of Congress have raised concerns for a while about the conflict of interest between Alexander's two roles. The fact that he uses the Cybercommand role to pretend his focus is on cybersecurity, while in actuality he's been destroying cybersecurity by undermining standards, creating backdoors and encouraging vulnerabilities is a huge problem.
But, perhaps even more stunning, is his inability to recognize that people aren't believing what he says any more, such that he'd start pushing this ridiculous desire to get access to Wall Street's networks yet again, years after it was rejected -- but also after the evidence of his efforts to trample the 4th Amendment have become clear.