NSA Bosses Mantra: Who Cares What The Law Says, 'Collect It All'

from the law-enforcement's-job-isn't-supposed-to-be-easy dept

The Washington Post has a profile of NSA boss Keith Alexander in which they make it clear that his passion is to "collect it all" when it comes to data.
“Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, his approach was, ‘Let’s collect the whole haystack,’ ” said one former senior U.S. intelligence official who tracked the plan’s implementation. “Collect it all, tag it, store it. . . . And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it.”
Others have certainly reported on this before, including long-time NSA watcher James Bamford, but more and more people are realizing how the NSA functions these days. Combine the "collect it all" mentality with the fact that Alexander is the head of both the NSA, which is supposed to do signal intelligence, and the US Cyber Command, which is supposed to handle cyber security, and you have a clear conflict of interests that can lead to some sticky situations.
“He is the only man in the land that can promote a problem by virtue of his intelligence hat and then promote a solution by virtue of his military hat,” said one former Pentagon official, voicing a concern that the lines governing the two authorities are not clearly demarcated and that Alexander can evade effective public oversight as a result. The former official spoke on the condition of anonymity to be able to talk freely.
Remember how we just had the talking points that the NSA used with the media concerning the Utah Bluffdale data center. In those talking points, the NSA played up the US Cyber Command aspects, and how they were "partnering" with tech companies for that purpose. They left out almost entirely the surveillance side of things. And that's the problem. The NSA under Alexander can hide under the claim that they're trying to "protect our networks" allowing them to avoid admitting that they're collecting everything and spying on everyone.

Furthermore, the moral panics and FUD that Alexander spews to make his job easier is really quite sickening:
“Everyone also understands,” he said, “that if we give up a capability that is critical to the defense of this nation, people will die.”
You can't have perfect security, and there are serious tradeoffs that Alexander doesn't seem to care about in collecting all data. There's little actual evidence that these activities have really prevented anything serious that couldn't have been prevented via more traditional means.

Furthermore, there's a key point in all of this that often gets ignored: the US Constitution was put in place, on purpose, with the idea that "making law enforcement's job easier" is not a valid excuse. The whole point of civil liberties is that we recognize that we give people more freedoms and that means law enforcement's job is harder. But we think that's a good thing, because we trust that on the whole, keeping the innocent from being spied upon and accused is much more important that stopping every possible crime or finding every criminal. But, General Alexander and others in the NSA appear to want to flip this concept on its head. And that's incredibly dangerous.

Filed Under: collect it all, cybersecurity, keith alexander, nsa, nsa surveillance, privacy, us cyber command


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2013 @ 4:36pm

    isn't that qoute about Iraq, not that it makes it better

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