Hide Techdirt is off for the long weekend! We'll be back with our regular posts tomorrow.

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.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

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

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

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

Ninja (profile) says:

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…

Anonymous Coward says:

“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.”.

Bengie says:


“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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

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.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...