Keith Alexander Sarcastically Blames Ambassadors For NSA's Foreign Spying

from the winning-friends,-left-and-right dept

It would appear that NSA boss Keith Alexander is beginning to get tired of all these questions about the NSA, and the supposed lack of support from the White House concerning the revelations of spying on foreign leaders. One of the things that is most often said about Alexander is that he can be very charming and charismatic in talking to people one on one, which has helped him in various political matters for years, but given his latest exchange, it sounds like he’s beginning to crack a bit. When confronted by Maryland state senator James Rosapepe, who had been the US ambassador to Romania back in the 90s, Alexander decided to get sarcastic and blame US diplomats and the administration for having the NSA spy on foreign leaders:

“We all joke that everyone is spying on everyone,” [Rosapepe] said. “But that is not a national security justification.”

Alexander replied: “That is a great question, in fact as an ambassador you have part of the answer. Because we the intelligence agencies don’t come up with the requirements. The policymakers come up with the requirements.”

He went on: “One of those groups would have been, let me think, hold on, oh: ambassadors.”

Of course, even if this is true, it’s a fairly incredible statement, where the head of the NSA now seems to think it’s appropriate to go sarcastic over such a question. It may be true that the NSA is “just following orders,” but that hardly excuses the behavior, nor the near constant stream of misleading to outright false statements spread by the NSA, even while it searches for every loophole it can find to expand its spying efforts.

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Comments on “Keith Alexander Sarcastically Blames Ambassadors For NSA's Foreign Spying”

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blaktron (profile) says:

This is a terrible misnomer, because while the administration and diplomatic corps might set high level policy for what information they would like to have, its the NSA’s internal organization that has (clearly) been making tactical decisions on what data to grab and what to leave alone.

This is an excellent attempt to make the conversation about whether or not the NSA *should* be spying on people, rather than the more nuanced, and more important discussion around *how* the NSA should be spying on people. And *who* those people should be.

As long as he can keep the conversation centered around “should the NSA be spying” he is going to win, because that’s his charter. We need journalists like you guys to keep the discussion focused on what’s important.

Anonymous Coward says:

How much does it cost to become a US ambassador?

Speaking of ambassadors?

?Study Puts ?Cost? to Landing Embassy Post? by Nicholas Confessore, New York Times, Jan 31, 2013

It is the unspoken question on every big donor?s lips: How much do I have to give ? really ? to get appointed to a desirable diplomatic post by the president?


[P]olitical ambassadors who had made campaign donations of $550,000, or bundled contributions of $750,000, had a 90 percent chance of being posted to a country in Western Europe.


Shawn (profile) says:

Now why would the Diplomats have Spying on their mind.. Maybe because the State Department ordered them to??
In July 2009, a confidential cable originating from the United States Department of State, and under US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s name,
ordered US diplomats to spy on Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and other top UN officials. The intelligence information the diplomats
were ordered to gather included biometric information (which apparently included DNA, fingerprints, and iris scans), passwords, and personal encryption keys
used in private and commercial networks for official communications. It also included Internet and intranet usernames, e-mail addresses, web site URLs useful
for identification, credit card numbers, frequent flier account numbers, and work schedules. The targeted human intelligence was requested in a process known
as the National Humint Collection Directive, and was aimed at foreign diplomats of US allies as well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: And who asked for ...

And who specifically asked for them to grab all that data on Domestic calls?

Oh, that was the ambassadorial corps ?the ambassadors? the ambassadors all the way!

They were behind the domestic call collection program, for sure. In fact, they’re the one’s who thought of it, originally. They came up with the concept. Developed it. And then they pushed the program forward.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not the priority

Let me guess, they’re going to eliminate foreign spying before they do anything about domestic spying.

I don’t think you understand diplomacy real well.

They are going to talk about eliminating foreign espionage. And they are going to talk about it, and talk about it some more, and hold meetings, and issue whitepapers and go to conferences, and send cables, and draft resolutions, and discard resolutions, and walk out of conferences in a huff, and then be reluctantly pursuaded to restart negotiations ?without implied commitment?, and then the talks will go well, and then the talks will go poorly, and there will be leaks about the talks, and headlines about the talks, and then the republicans will ask ?why are we even talking about this? and the democrats will say ?we have to talk?, and the pundits will give their opinions, but the talks will go on and on and on? and on and off and on and on again?

That’s diplomacy 101 for you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not a bit of humility. It’s everyone else’s fault. This is exactly the sort of answer you would get from a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Newsflash. Had the NSA not jumped in to get all it could without worrying about legal consequences, no one would be pointing fingers at the NSA. This was one of the very sticking points over Alexander becoming head of the NSA by his predecessor. The fact that Alexander would ignore legal boundaries to grab ever how he could what ever it was he sought. As the head of the NSA Alexander is directly to blame. It is he that has set up this mentality in the NSA.

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