NSA Chief Begs His Public To Help Agency 'Get The Facts Out'
from the ohhhh...-that-'public' dept
Apparently sitting in the captain’s chair on the bridge of the USS Surveillance has lost its thrill. With more than 20 pieces of legislation in the works aimed at curtailing or eliminating the NSA’s surveillance programs and Patrick Leahy calling for an end of the phone data program, Gen. Alexander’s future spying plans are facing the threat of cancellation.
Sadly, the proud “cowboy” who once ordered underlings to damn the legality and “collect it all” seems to have lost a whole lot of swagger over the past few weeks. He’s been reduced to pleading with “the public” for its help and understanding.
Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, called Wednesday on the public to help defend his agency’s powers as Congress mulls restrictions aimed at protecting privacy.
“We need your help. We need to get these facts out,” Alexander said during a cybersecurity summit at the National Press Club. “We need our nation to understand why we need these tools.”
It seems like a rather odd proposition: asking victims to defend their violator. Not sure that’s going to play well
in the sticks anywhere. This new plea seems to suggest the NSA’s recent “Friends and Family” reputation resuscitation plan isn’t expected to result in a groundswell of support. But Alexander isn’t referring to the American public, he’s referring to his kind of public — a small, sympathetic group of insiders who stand to benefit from the continuation of large-scale surveillance programs.
Important to remember who Alexander's audience ACTUALLY was at this cyber event. Wasnt really the "public" per se.
— Tony Romm (@TonyRomm) September 25, 2013
It was contractors, cyber firms, businesses already working with Pentagon, NSA, more. Businesses with fed dollars. He wants THEIR help
— Tony Romm (@TonyRomm) September 25, 2013
[If you can’t read the above, it says: “Important to remember who Alexander’s audience ACTUALLY was at this cyber event. Wasnt really the “public” per se. It was contractors, cyber firms, businesses already working with Pentagon, NSA, more. Businesses with fed dollars. He wants THEIR help”]
If you need to “get the facts out,” we’ve got just the guy for it. However, you’ll have to dial long-distance and there’s a very good chance he won’t take your call. The facts are coming out, General. But what you’re asking for here, from this small subset of “the public,” is help pushing a narrative.
One of the best drivers of this narrative is the always-looming (but largely intangible) threat of terrorism. That’s why he’s once again pimping fear out on the rhetorical corner.
He warned that if Congress hampers the NSA’s ability to gather information, it could allow for terrorist attacks in the United States similar to last week’s massacre in a mall in Nairobi, Kenya.
“If you take those [surveillance powers] away, think about the last week and what will happen in the future,” he said. “If you think it’s bad now, wait until you get some of those things that happened in Nairobi.”
In the course of peddling this fear, he might want to point a few fingers at the intelligence community itself, which completely failed to warn anyone, anywhere about the attack. I assume we’re still listening in on worldwide terrorist “chatter,” so you’d think we’d have had some sort of heads up about the Nairobi attack, considering the many dragnets we have deployed. Or do we only step in when it’s targeted against the US?
Either way, Alexander is digging himself into a rhetorical hole. And he just can’t stop digging.
He said the program [phone data collection] is key for “connecting the dots” and foiling terrorist attacks.
“I can tell you, although I can’t go into detail, it provides the speed and agility in crises like the Boston marathon and the threats this summer,” Alexander said.
What? I thought this data was being gathered to stop terrorist attacks, not speedily connect the dots post-tragedy. As was covered here earlier, these intelligence agencies seem to want to be rewarded for their remarkable hindsight. I don’t think anyone views the NSA as a “crisis-response team.” I’m fairly sure everyone sees it as tasked with preventing terrorist attacks, quite possibly because EVERY NSA DEFENDER PORTRAYS IT AS EXACTLY THAT. See also: Gen. Alexander, previous paragraph, “…program is key for ‘connecting the dots and foiling terrorist attacks.”
The intelligence agency has worked its way from denial through anger and now seems to have hit the “bargaining” stage, albeit the sort of low-pressure bargaining that hinges on the implicit threat that “as goes the NSA, so do these sweet government contracts.” By sometime in early November the agency should be settling into “depression,” an emotional stage an intelligence agency has never experienced before. Should be very interesting.