NSA Director Claims He's Protecting Americans' Privacy And Civil Liberties… By Spying On Them All

from the well,-uh,-huh? dept

NSA boss Keith Alexander continues to fail at damage control in response to the Snowden leaks, but he keeps on trying. The latest is an interview conducted with the NY Times in which he continues to babble on as if no one will ever call out his more ridiculous statements:

“We followed the law, we follow our policies, we self-report, we identify problems, we fix them,” he said. “And I think we do a great job, and we do, I think, more to protect people’s civil liberties and privacy than they’ll ever know.”

Yes, by collecting pretty much every bit of data they can on everyone. That protects their privacy and civil liberties? How? By trampling the 4th Amendment? I don’t think so. The whole “self-report… identify problems” claim is also hogwash. As we’ve noted, many of that “self-reporting” came years after the fact, and it’s almost certain that plenty of other abuses have never been caught or reported.

Then there’s General Alexander trying to claim he supports more transparency and that the American people need to know what’s going on. I know. Stop laughing. He really said it:

“Given where we are and all the issues that are on the table, I do feel it’s important to have a public, transparent discussion on cyber so that the American people know what’s going on,” General Alexander said. “And in order to have that, they need to understand the truth about what’s going on.”

Of course, in the very same interview he insisted that this discussion that we’re now having has done “significant and irreversible damage” to national security. So… he wants to have an open discussion and tell people what’s going on, but solely on his own terms, and if anyone else brings up anything, we’re all at risk.

He insisted that it would have been impossible to have made public, in advance of the revelations by Mr. Snowden, the fact that the agency collected what it calls the “business records” of all telephone calls, and many other electronic communications, made in the United States.

Why? This is a serious question, because it wouldn’t have been impossible at all. The government could have easily said (as they’re trying to now after Snowden revealed it) that they’re doing this in a manner that (they believe) doesn’t compromise our privacy, and it’s for a good reason. And then let us have a public debate to see if people believe you or if they think you’re full of it. That’s what transparency is about.

The NY Times actually does a decent job in some points highlighting the ridiculousness of Alexander’s answers, such as with this tidbit:

But he said the agency had not told its story well. As an example, he said, the agency itself killed a program in 2011 that collected the metadata of about 1 percent of all of the e-mails sent in the United States. “We terminated it,” he said. “It was not operationally relevant to what we needed.”

However, until it was killed, the N.S.A. had repeatedly defended that program as vital in reports to Congress.

Yup. The same way they continue to insist the telephone records are “vital” despite not actually showing how they’ve been necessary in stopping a single terrorist attack on the US.

At this point, you have to wonder what Alexander thinks he’s accomplishing with each of these interviews or talks. It just seems like this strained, repetitive “but, really, I’m not such a bad guy, you just have to trust me!!!” exclamation over and over again that doesn’t give us any reason to actually trust him. In fact, nearly all of the evidence that’s come out from Snowden has actually shown (over and over and over again) why Alexander shouldn’t be trusted at all.

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 “NSA Director Claims He's Protecting Americans' Privacy And Civil Liberties… By Spying On Them All”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Make FISA records of all american citizens public then we’ll have access to the courts to challenge them. At that point, we will be able to verify ourselves. I trust that the intelligence community murders peaceful and generally law abiding americans. I trust that because they have been caught. I’m not speaking of NSA specifically, but cybercommand may. Other agencies have been caught and Obama admin thinks it can kill any american for any reason… Because terrorism and pirares and to protect children, except when they kill children. And to protect the public… Except when they lie to and kill the public. A good rule of thumb may be don’t trust people that have threatened tp kill you if they feel like it.

Anonymous Coward says:

I keep hearing this thing about public debate. Omaba has said it, Alexander says it… so where is it? We’ve had since back in what, July to have this debate? So far what we hear is the Senate Oversight committee has to play 20 questions in hopes they ask the right one, then they turn around and claim what a great job the NSA is doing.

But that is not what the Snowden articles are about is it? They are about abuse of privacy, about bullying those internet places that have access to communications, about secret courts making secret laws over secret acts, about corporate espionage (which I have yet to figure out where terrorism fits in that one), about hacking or setting up weaker security for items that are supposed to protect people so that they can break in easier, and about spying on anything that generates communication data, including collecting massive amounts of spam.

Nothing in all that generates one iota of trust, in fact it damages much, much, beyond what it should have if Alexander was truthful in what he speaks of in this article.

There is only one thing I am sure of at this point. Our government has gone amuck and no one is overseeing anything providing any sort of accountability to anyone except whistleblowers, whom it appears it is open season on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I keep hearing this thing about public debate. Omaba has said it, Alexander says it… so where is it?

Politics 101.
Public Debate, Politicians standing up in public and telling the citizens what they will be doing to them.

Terrorist, anybody who disagrees with, or argues with a politician or government official.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Public debate is happening whether they like it or not. What they want is to be able to spin and control it which they have not been able to do. The public is debating it and they are handily losing that debate. The sooner that they realize and accept that the better. Unfortunately ill gotten power is a powerful elixir that warps perception and the ability to think rationally for a very long time. It is time to treat these people like the addicts that they are. Perhaps, as with many addicts, the only way they will come to their senses is to bottom out.

Anonymous Coward says:

More white noise !!

How do you do it ??

I mean, hour after hour being able to constantly drone on about NSA? You’re rapidly becoming a one trick pony on this one.

Do you know what having a fixation means?

I guess it’s as good to drone on about your hatred for the Government and the NSA as any other subject next to no one cares about anymore.

One day, when you call wolf the townies wont come and help you. They most certainly aren’t listening to you now.

Way too much noise, if no one cares now, do you think post after post on the subject is going to change that.

How many minds have you changed ?? It’s easy to convince your followers, apart from catering to their paranoia we are still waiting for you to make a point ??

How many of your posts today will include the initials NSA ??
Let me hazard a guess, MOST(if not all).

Ferel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

In the original elvish inscription:


Valis (profile) says:

Law enforcement worse than terrorists.

You are six times more likely to be killed by a police officer in the US than by a terrorist. So why are they not sending in SEAL teams to assasinate police officers in the US? Why are they not bombing their children’s schools? Why are they not sending in drones to blow up their weddings? Bunch of hypocrites!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Law enforcement worse than terrorists.

That statistic is wrong. You are actually 8 times more likely to be killed by a cop than by a terrorist. Your odds of being killed by a terrorist are 20,000,000 to one.

These numbers were derived from the National Center for Health statistic and the Census Bureau. Here’s a handy compilation from the National Safety Council: http://www.nsc.org/nsc_library/Documents/Odds%20of%20Dying%20From%20Graphic%202013%20ed.pdf

Anonymous Coward says:

Michael Hastings report?

Well now we know the extent of the records, the NSA must have files on Michael Hastings in the ‘lockbox’.

If you recall Michael Hastings was a Rolling Stone journalist that died this year when his car accelerated to its top speed and crashed.

He was investigating something and just a few hours earlier had contacted a Wikileaks lawyer, and a friend of his to say he’d be going off grid for a while working on a big story. So the timing was suspicious.

The Coroner declared no foul play and sent the body back cremated, against the wishes of the family. Cremation closes down that avenue of investigation, but now we know the NSA is spying on everyone, they must have a lot of files about Hastings.

They must have his emails, phone calls data, buddy lists, phone location, his log in data, any hacks on his home network, any hacks on his car computer and a bunch of other surveillance stuff. Likewise the stuff he gave to his lawyer as a safeguard, they’d have intercepted that.

I think at this point the courts should start demanding these files. The NSA has illegally obtained the data, so the courts must be able to compel disclosure.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Michael Hastings report?

What you mentioned brought to mind this episode of the anime Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Would not put it past the NSA to be working on the interceptors mentioned in that episode plotline and to secretly give it to the general populace.
(similar scenario as what you wrote about happened in that episode. A cop found out that his own superiors were illegally monitoring his team via devices planted into their eyes, he tells an old buddy of his he’s coming over with this information, but his superiors, wanting to silence him, cause him to crash).

Bad Analogy Guy to the rescue ! says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes – very bad analogy indeed, keep up the good work.

You choose to deposit your assets in the bank of your choice rather than put them in your mattress or bury them in your back yard … this you claim is the same thing as the government revoking your rights (all of them) whilst claiming it is done to protect your rights. – This is beyond retarded.

DannyB (profile) says:

The NSA needs a new sales pitch

The NSA should use this line to rationalize and justify it’s spying on all Americans.

The NSA is not engaged in racial profiling. Nor is it profiling people based on their gender. The NSA does not single people out based on their religious beliefs or lack thereof. True Americans(tm) who are supportive of whatever party currently is in power are never singled out for spying activities. Persons are never selected for spying based on their sexual orientation or gender identity because some of their conversations and messages make for more interesting listening and reading. The NSA does not single out people based on their national origin because the NSA is equally suspicious of you no matter where you or your ancestors were born.

The NSA carefully follows all secret laws and secret interpretations of non secret laws. The NSA is carefully overseen by secret courts with secret judges and secret warrants and secret court rulings and findings. We can assure you that you will not hear of NSA arrests nor will you find the NSA holding or detaining people anywhere on American soil.

In short, the NSA wants to reassure you that you have nothing to worry about. Everything is fine. Keep working. Pay your taxes. Be happy. Do not complain. Obey.

The NSA is your friend. Trust the NSA.

Anonymous Coward says:

And I think we do a great job, and we do, I think, more to protect people?s civil liberties and privacy than they?ll ever know.

So by pouring over all the emails / IM’s / buddy lists and contacts / financial records / phone ‘meta-data’ of everyone in the United States without a warrant or due cause actually protects peoples civil liberties and privacy? How fucking stupid does he think people are?

The Real Michael says:

?Given where we are and all the issues that are on the table, I do feel it?s important to have a public, transparent discussion on cyber so that the American people know what?s going on,? General Alexander said.

We don’t need to have a discussion; we already know what’s going on. The NSA is a rogue agency spying on every American with an internet connection or phone. Even if the government or courts enable this wholesale snooping via legislature or law, it’s still a violation of Constitutional law and is therefore illegal, not to mention immoral. Considering that the NSA hasn’t prevented a single terrorist attack since their inception, I seriously question their true motives.

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...