Former NSA Head Says You Can Avoid Government Spying By Using This One Simple Trick
from the 'simple'-as-in-'slow' dept
Former NSA head Keith Alexander — the original Million Dollar (a month) Man and premier cybersecurity consultant to the banking industry — is taking his years of expertise (and several mysteriously non-public patents) on the road, speaking at whatever venue will have him.
He recently delivered remarks at MIRcon in Washington, explaining exactly how simple it is for Americans to avoid the sort of domestic surveillance they always assumed they’d never have to worry about (you know, because of the Constitution and its various amendments, etc.). And remember, this man is asking $1 million a month to rent his brain.
“Our data’s in there (NSA databases), my data’s in there. If I talk to an Al Qaeda operative, the chances of my data being looked at is really good, so I try not to do that. If you don’t want to you shouldn’t either,” he told MIRcon delegates.
Easy for Alexander to say. He probably has a general idea who they are. But what about the rest of us? It’s not like Al Qaeda operatives are particularly forthcoming about their day jobs. How are we supposed to stay off the NSA’s radar? And what if it’s not us, but a friend of a friend talking to… I don’t know… students of Yemeni descent who currently reside in the Alabama area?
This advice is less than useless. Those who actively seek contact with terrorists likely know to stay clear of surveilled channels. Those who aren’t seeking contact have their data (and sometimes communications) agnostically hoovered up by the US government’s various surveillance and investigatory arms.
And what about other threats, both acknowledged and unacknowledged? Lots of rumbling is being heard about new strains of domestic extremism and threats, many of which sound suspiciously like groups the government finds annoying rather than actually dangerous.
Alexander’s answer is worse than just being overly-simplistic. It’s glib. It’s the sort of flip answer no one who exited a national security agency mid-crisis should be handing out. While I understand that going much deeper into the subject matter would soon take it into classified areas, this is the sort of obtuse answer one expects from a clueless, low-level local politician, rather than from someone who spent more than a decade overseeing the NSA’s operations.
It’s the same sort of condescension we see far too often from people in positions of power. Don’t want trouble with the cops? Well, don’t break laws and don’t give us any lip. Except that being law-abiding doesn’t keep you from having your car impounded or your house raided. Don’t want extra attention from the NSA? Follow Keith Alexander’s advice — advice that’s nullified if anyone a hop or two away on the communication chain has communicated with Al Qaeda operatives. Or if your communications are routed through overseas internet ‘backbones.’ Or any number of other variables.
I guess one of the few things we have to look forward to is Keith Alexander turning some of our nation’s banks into temporary homes for document-leaking insiders. Installing an NSA head as a security consultant will probably prompt a few suited revolutionaries to spring into action, finally putting those administrative privileges and USB drives to work for the public good.