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United States Security

NSA Director Defends Surveillance To Unsympathetic Black Hat Crowd 358

Trailrunner7 writes "NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander's keynote today at Black Hat USA 2013 was a tense confessional, an hour-long emotional and sometimes angry ride that shed some new insight into the spy agency's two notorious data collection programs, inspired moments of loud applause in support of the NSA, and likewise, profane heckling that called into question the legality and morality of the agency's practices. Loud voices from the overflowing crowd called out Alexander on his claims that the NSA stands for freedom while at the same time collecting, storing and analyzing telephone business records, metadata and Internet records on Americans. He also denied lying to Congress about the NSA's capabilities and activities in the name of protecting Americans from terrorism in response to such a claim from a member of the audience."
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NSA Director Defends Surveillance To Unsympathetic Black Hat Crowd

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  • by bonch ( 38532 ) * on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @06:56PM (#44441335)

    The NSA scandal has been so earth-shattering with regards to raising awareness of government surveillance that concerns over civil liberties now outweigh concerns over protecting the country []. The shift is across party lines as well. It's no wonder politicians of either party have been decrying a rising trend of libertarianism. Whether or not it's accurate to classify today's anti-government fears as such, the fact that the U.S. has become the kind of country to seek asylum from is staggeringly insane. The "trust us" defense isn't good enough.

    • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @07:16PM (#44441511) Journal

      And yet they still want to hang Snowden from the highest tree they can find.

      What's really happened is that Congress, which has spent the last decade after the Patriot Act was passed jacking off and doing piss all to keep the Executive in check, is now suddenly been embarrassed by the revelations, and wants to look all huffy-and-puffy. But make no mistake, they want Snowden disemboweled just as much as the Administration, if for no other reason than having the audacity to interrupt that partisan circle jerk with some meaningful and critical to the national interest.

      • by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @07:53PM (#44441787) Homepage Journal
        Knowing their average IQ, i bet that most blame Snowden for having no privacity now. Shooting the messenger should be the next american sport.
      • by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @08:41PM (#44442085)

        They weren't jacking off, they were raking in billions of dollars in "campaign contributions" from the corporations that have been getting all of the contracts these agencies need.

    • by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @07:22PM (#44441555) Journal

      > The "trust us" defense isn't good enough
      It's not, because we are unsatisfied.

      But it is enough, because what do they even need a defense for? What threat must they defend themselves from?

      Congress? If Congress does anything, it will expand NSA powers, not reduce them.

      SCOTUS? Somebody has to sue the gov first and prove harm. But it's all secret, so nobody can do that. If anyone managed to get proof, they'd end up in a jail cell with Bradley Manning.

      • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @07:27PM (#44441597) Journal

        Or hanging out in a Moscow airport waiting for the President to offer the appropriate bribe to Vladimir Putin to have your ass sent back to the United States for the crime of causing the Surveillance State a little trouble.

        • by Grog6 ( 85859 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @08:08PM (#44441901)

          That's the way I see this ending, pretty much.

          It's amazed me that he hasn't been "accidentally" killed in a plane crash, or other public disaster; it's not like the Russian Govt cares.

          It Does amaze me that America is now a place to seek asylum From. :facepalm:

          • by dyingtolive ( 1393037 ) <brad.arnett@n o t f> on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @08:49PM (#44442147)
            I'm guessing that if they did anything too overt, they'd just risk making a martyr of him. Better to find some way to bury him in the public eye (dodgy rape case) or, more likely, wait a few years for him to fade into obscurity, and then he gets hit by a drunk driver.

            One way or another, I don't see him seeing his 35th birthday.
          • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @11:29PM (#44443137) Journal

            It's amazed me that he hasn't been "accidentally" killed in a plane crash, or other public disaster; it's not like the Russian Govt cares.

            Of course the Russian government cares; as long as he's around he's a thumb in the eye of the US, and that's sufficient reason to care.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Oh please. If this country we more libertarian in nature the spying would just be done in backroom deals.

      Libertarianism is a disease of immature minds desperate to cling to the certainty of selfish and conformation-biased concepts. It's like you can't or don't want to admit that the world doesn't work in stark theoretical extremes. That you wont admit that something like a government can be both oppressive and beneficial at the same time.

      It's not regulation vs free market, tyranny vs freedom. Effective

    • by Tough Love ( 215404 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @09:01PM (#44442223)

      the fact that the U.S. has become the kind of country to seek asylum from is staggeringly insane

      Not as insane as the fact that the U.S. executive is determined to prevent sovereign nations from providing asylum.

      • by Sean ( 422 )

        As far as the US government is concerned nothing is sovereign but themselves.

    • by slick7 ( 1703596 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @09:01PM (#44442229)
      Like the Honey Badger, the NSA Director don't give a damn.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

      Is it really that hard to understand? Seems pretty clear to me. You fuckers are not allowed to search through or gather any info about me without probable cause and a warran
  • by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @07:03PM (#44441395) Homepage

    Alexander's defense seems to amount to "See? We stopped terrorist plots using these programs!"

    That's not really much of a defense, since it doesn't claim that these programs are the ONLY way to stop the terrorist plots in question. At least FTA, it seems he did not make any attempt to argue that a less invasive program would have been unsuccessful.

    • by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @07:10PM (#44441451)

      Alexander's defense seems to amount to "See? We stopped terrorist plots using these programs!"

      That's not really much of a defense, since it doesn't claim that these programs are the ONLY way to stop the terrorist plots in question.

      It also completely glosses over the ethical/moral questions that a lot of people have about these programs. I haven't heard a single complaint that the programs should be stopped because they aren't working, the complaints are about the ethical and moral problems associated with total government surveillance of its people, and the question of whether or not our rights are being violated. They like to skip those questions and instead answer the question they wish you asked, which is "are these programs effective".

      • I have the solution to all crime. If an authorized person would shoot every American in the head, including me, there would be no crime. Does that make it a good plan? Or a legal plan?

        Reductio ad absurdum is usually a very terrible idea. But we aren't dealing with the best and the brightest here, and sometimes beating people over the head to prove a point is the only way.

    • It's not a defense for people who care about privacy rights. But, about 1/2 this country *doesn't* care and the other half doesn't care enough for things to change.

    • If not even the subhuman halfwits in Congress believe the claim of 54 plots being discovered, then I fail to see the bright people at Black Hat should be convinced.

    • by gmuslera ( 3436 )
      They should buy Lisa Simpson's tiger repelling rocks []. There is some point where you should just concede that can't be all idiocy and should be some malice in that fallacy generating machine that are politics.
  • by Robert Goatse ( 984232 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @07:05PM (#44441413)
    Agree or disagree with what the NSA is doing, Alexander has some set of cojones to speak in front of an unfriendly mob. Hell hath no fury like a room of sweaty nerds!
  • “There are allegations [the NSA] listen to all our emails; that’s wrong. We don’t,” Alexander said, adding that of 54 different terrorist-related activities identified through PRISM, 42 [...] were disrupted

    “We’re talking about future terror attacks and the success we’ve had the last 10 years. What will we have in the next 10? What if the 42 of 54 [terrorist attacks] were executed, what would that have meant to our civil liberties and privacy?” Alexander said; a response that was met with loud applause.

    Just reminds me of this. []

    • I guess it's true they don't listen to our emails. They read them.
      • With a nice friendly search engine!

    • by Curunir_wolf ( 588405 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @11:39PM (#44443173) Homepage Journal

      “There are allegations [the NSA] listen to all our emails; that’s wrong. We don’t,” Alexander said.

      Words matter.

      What he said is almost certainly true - these spokes holes are trained how to deceive without lying. Sometimes they use performatives [] in deceitful ways, but this one is easy: They don't listen to your emails - he didn't say they don't read them.

  • by sshir ( 623215 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @07:29PM (#44441619)
    Do those who defend these programs understand that they're crippling the country's immune system? The tools they deploy are extremely efficient at subverting, nipping in the bud 'undesirable' popular movements (indispensable tool for keeping US democratic). Given well documented (COINTELPRO []) things FBI tried to pull against civil rights and untiwar movements, argument that they are not doing it now does not wash - they did it before and they WILL do it again.
  • The United States is not it's boarders. It's we, the people. Protecting our rights is something every government employee took an oath to do, above all else. It's their Oath of Office. Nation Security IS protecting our rights.

  • Private Companies (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ubeatha ( 531412 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @08:16PM (#44441961)
    What I'm amazed about is the fact that private corporations have access to this data and no one seems to care. Snowden wasn't even a member of the NSA he was just a contractor. I highly doubt that private security companies are above reproach in using tools only for the intended purposes. I can't even imagine what Blackwater would have gotten up to with access to such tools.
  • by dgharmon ( 2564621 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @08:23PM (#44441995) Homepage
    If the cost of protecting us from the terrorists is to live in a police state, then I would prefer to take my chances with the terrorists. The odds of me being a target are minimal while the risks of a corrupt government using this total awareness system to oppress my freedom are that much greater. Fact is, you are more in danger from your own state security apparatus that any foreign terrorist. Iraq never attacked the US. Saddam Hussein was a puppet president installed by the CIA and an ally of the US, at least until he invaded Kuwait and threatened to stop trading his Oil in petrodollars. Al-Qaeda was formed from the remnants of a guerilla army armed and financed by the CIA to oppose the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. As such, US state security would have been aware of their capability, ideology and intentions. As such the state security apparatus didn't need the NSA to know this as they - state security - helped create it. What this lawful intercept program is really about is silencing political dissent [], such as the Occupy Wall St [] movement.

    27:25 "We comply with the court orders and do this exactly right", Gen. Keith Alexander

    There are NO court orders !

    NSA Director General Keith Alexander at Blackhat 2013 []
    • If the cost of protecting us from the terrorists is to live in a police state, then I would prefer to take my chances with the terrorists.

      But to the people in power making the decisions, people having rights and freedoms does not make them any richer or hand them more power over ever more people.

      Ginning up fears over terrorist attacks in order to bring Orwell's police/surveillance-state nightmare to reality, does.


  • by dgharmon ( 2564621 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @08:52PM (#44442173) Homepage
    Why shouldn't I work for the NSA? That's a tough one. But I'll take a shot. Say I'm working at the NSA, and somebody puts a code on my desk, somethin' no one else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I'm real happy with myself, cus' I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East and once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels are hiding... Fifteen hundred people that I never met, never had no problem with get killed. Now the politicians are sayin', "Oh, Send in the marines to secure the area" cus' they don't give a shit. It won't be their kid over there, gettin' shot.

    Just like it wasn't them when their number got called, cus' they were off pullin' a tour in the National Guard. It'll be some kid from Southie over there takin' shrapnel in the ass. He comes back to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, cus' he'll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so that we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And of course the oil companies used the little skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices.

    A cute little ancillary benefit for them but it ain't helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. They're takin' their sweet time bringin' the oil back, of course, maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and fuckin' play slalom with the icebergs, it ain't too long 'til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy's out of work. He can't afford to drive, so he's walking to the fuckin' job interviews, which sucks because the shrapnel in his ass is givin' him chronic hemorrhoids. And meanwhile he's starvin' cus' every time he tries to get a bite to eat the only blue plate special they're servin' is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what did I think? I'm holdin' out for somethin' better. I figure fuck it, while I'm at it why not just shoot my buddy, take his job, give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected President. Good Will Hunting [] (1997)
  • There is 100 percent auditability on what we do.

    How does that jibe with the recent story NSA Can't Search Its Own Email []

  • Sir, we have all this data that we are storing forever, and we had a little extra time. So we wrote a program that collated the data (ie , shows they watched on netflix, sites they browsed, stuff they've said) we now have this list that we can call "interesting people". Great work son! I needed something to justify another datacenter and this just could be it!

  • Did anyone record and upload a video of this?

  • by bingbong ( 115802 ) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @03:38AM (#44444169)

    I attended both this morning's keynote with the general and he also spoke at the blackhat executive summit.

    This morning there were a few thousand people in the ballroom for his presentation. There were at most 2 vocal 'hecklers' - though really I think it was just one person. The heckling was met with very limited support, maybe a dozen or two people clapped. However, when the general countered the heckler(s), his comments were met with applause from most of the crowd.

    For the record, I'm not commenting on either side of this debate. I am just arguing against the artistic license taken by the author of the story. As I said, I was there for both talks and the alleged tension and heckling was dramatically overstated.

  • by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @07:55AM (#44445027)
    Time to revoke Obama's fake prize and give to a real hero: Eric Snowden.

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham