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Posted by on Jul 15, 2013 in Crime, Featured, International, Law, Military, Politics, Science & Technology, Society, Terrorism, War | 7 comments

The NSA Director’s Passion to ‘Collect the Whole Haystack’


As the Washington Post article mentions, his successes “have won accolades from political leaders of both parties as well as from counterterrorism and intelligence professionals,” but his controversial approach has also “drawn attack from civil rights groups and a bipartisan group of lawmakers.”

His supporters portray him as being “animated by a spymaster’s awareness of serious, overlapping threats arrayed against the United States.” Included in those threats are foreign and homegrown terrorists and “a host of adversaries who are constantly probing the country’s cyber defenses, looking for opportunities to steal secrets or unleash mayhem by shutting down critical infrastructure,” according to the Post.

His critics see him as head of an agency “so enamored of technological prowess that they have sacrificed privacy rights.” According to Thomas Drake, a former NSA official and whistleblower, this man “is absolutely obsessed and completely driven to take it all, whenever possible.” Drake adds, according to the Post, that the continuation of this man’s policies would result in the “complete evisceration of our civil liberties.”

Of course readers realize by now that this patriot or, in some minds, “overzealous” man, is General Keith B. Alexander, whose title reads, Commander, U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) and Director, National Security Agency/Chief, Central Security Service (NSA/CSS).

His official biography says, “as Commander, USCYBERCOM, he is responsible for planning, coordinating and conducting operations and defense of DoD computer networks as directed by USSTRATCOM. As the Director of NSA and Chief of CSS, he is responsible for a Department of Defense agency with national foreign intelligence, combat support, and U.S. national security information system protection responsibilities. NSA/CSS civilian and military personnel are stationed worldwide.

As Commander of USCYBERCOM Alexander also has the task of conducting cyberattacks on adversaries, “when authorized.”

Whether one approves or not of the job Alexander is doing, the Washington Post article provides an interesting glimpse into the mind-set of a man whose “sensibilities were shaped by a series of painful intelligence lapses leading up to the 9/11 attacks,” sensibilities like those of many national security officials of his generation and a man who very likely was motivated by the carnage he saw in Iraq in late 2005, when “Iraqi roadside bombings were nearing an all-time peak…and were killing or wounding a dozen Americans a day.”

Read here how the then-new NSA Director devised a plan that rather than looking “for a single needle in the haystack” collected the “whole haystack” — a plan that “would play a role in breaking up Iraqi insurgent networks and significantly reducing the monthly death toll from improvised explosive devices by late 2008.”

The same plan also “encapsulated Alexander’s controversial approach to safeguarding Americans from what he sees as a host of imminent threats, from terrorism to devastating cyberattacks.”

Read more here about how Alexander, just as in Iraq, remains fiercely committed to the belief that “we need to get it all,” but how he is also mindful to “do everything you can to protect civil liberties and privacy,” with the warning: “Everyone also understands that if we give up a capability that is critical to the defense of this nation, people will die.”

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  • ShannonLeee

    So he is basically the lead character from Homeland, obsessed with his failure and possessed by the desire to make sure it never happens again…great. I would not be so worried if we had decent oversight from Congress, but we know how worthless those yahoos are…

  • JSpencer

    I suppose we could continue going a road in which any and all information can be mined by government agencies, where privacy and civil liberties become antiquated concepts, and where massive resources are gradually shifted from what we all once regarded as civilized endeavors to some sort of global protection racket. I’m guessing most citizens either can’t or won’t invest in concerns about it either. Our country is changing year by year and the changes are making it more and more unrecognizable to this citizen. My sensibilities were forged in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. It seems like a hundred years ago now.

  • DaGoat

    Haystack is a euphemism. What Alexander is collecting is private information that should be constitutionally protected. That Alexander thinks he might have a need for the information some day doesn’t make his actions less unconstitutional. It’s inconsistent to say you want to “do everything you can to protect civil liberties and privacy” while continually damaging them. If he wants to do everything he can he should just quit collecting the information.

    And I have to say that after seeing Alexander on the Sunday AM talk shows I was not impressed by the man. He dodged questions and answered ones that weren’t asked just like any other politician.

  • slamfu

    “Everyone also understands that if we give up a capability that is critical to the defense of this nation, people will die.”

    The next line after this is, “So I am justified in doing whatever I want to do.” That there is tyrant talk.

  • ordinarysparrow

    All healthy relationships are build on one foundation; trust. One of the ways that trust is assured for both parties to have healthy BOUNDARIES. This guy is a cyber predator. We are a country of laws, and for this country to have trust among its citizens and those that we entrust to regulate the rules, then we need the basic decency of being informed as to the extent of their reach into our private and personal lives. Without respectful BOUNDARIES based on laws that have been implemented by its citizen we are living in a country that promotes interpersonal perpetration. This is another example of cyber rape. The U.S. has become very predatory to the world and it’s own citizens, all to often…

  • DaGoat

    Sparrow you have cut to the heart of the issue here. If the government doesn’t tell us where the boundaries are, there is no way we can judge if they are fair or proper.

  • More apologist drivel.

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