Keith Alexander's Big Idea: What If The NSA Just Collected Phone Data On Suspected Terrorists?

from the this-option-just-came-to-you? dept

In what may be NSA boss Keith Alexander's final appearance before Congress before retiring in a few weeks, he appeared to (for the first time publicly) acknowledge that perhaps they don't need to track everyone and could, instead, try just watching the phone records of suspected terrorists. He acts as if this is a brand new idea. Seriously:
One option that Alexander called feasible involves sharing what amounts to a watch list of suspected terrorists’ phone numbers with phone companies. The companies would search for links to other numbers, returning that data to the government.

He said if the government could work out a system in which it could share those “terrorist selectors” in a classified manner, “it sets the case in precedent” for sharing classified threat data with industry for cybersecurity purposes.
Of course, as others have pointed out, you don't need "a precedent" for that -- we have it already. It's called a pen register and has been widely used by law enforcement for a decade, and there's a whole law discussing how it can be used.

Alexander said that there were "pros and cons" to that particular approach, but that's a pretty big shift from the man whose mantra has long been "collect it all." Also, all this may not matter at all since Alexander is about to be out of the job -- so perhaps it's just in his final moments as NSA boss that he finally admits what plenty of people have been saying all along: there's simply no justifiable explanation for the NSA collecting information on just about everyone.

Filed Under: keith alexander, nsa, privacy, surveillance


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Feb 2014 @ 11:54am

    Baby steps for Little Keith...

    Ok, we have a start in the right direction. Now, that you've come this far, next let's address what needs to happen to put someone on that list. You take what you have to support why you suspect this person needs to be on that list to a judge and ask them if they will give you permission to put them on that list. If they agree, they will then give you something known as a warrant. I know you've never heard of such a thing before, but they do actually exist, and you can get one quite easily if can show that you have a really good reason to suspect the person is actually a terrorist. You then take that warrant and give it to the telco and they will give you the information you requested. Start doing that, and we will also get you an nice doormat for your office so you can stop wiping your feet on the Constitution.

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