Friday, December 20, 2013

NSA Honcho Keith Alexander Bloviates on '60 Minutes' - But Few Are Impressed

Alexander in his ridiculous 'dress blues' for a TV Interview

The dog and pony show that CBS put out on Sunday night, featuring  Keith B. Alexander in his dress blues, was absolutely pathetic. Pathetic first because it accomplished nothing in terms of converting anyone of sense to the belief the NSA mass surveillance is needed, and second because Alexander had to 'dude' it up to try to make the case.

Incredibly, the general felt the need to wear his dress blues to the interview. Dress blues are the most formal versions of military uniforms, normally worn for special occasions like state dinners, academy graduations, various formal receptions, funerals of high-status military and political figures, etc. NOT 60 Minutes. So why do it? Because he sought to project the patina of military authority to try to confer gravitas on the softball questions asked by  "reporter," John Miller , an NSA homer if ever there was one. (Miller's never made any bones about having long standing ties to the Agency)

But Alexander's blather about the need not to change anything about the way the NSA grabs up data is particularly outrageous, especially in the wake of a  300-page report  released two days after Alexander's performance. The report, prepared by a commission appointed by Obama, made 46 recommendations including that the NSA be stripped of its power to collect phone records in bulk.  In addition, the panel advised that the NSA be banned from attempting to undermine the security of the internet- themes pounded by tech companies when they met with Obama on Monday.

True, the report is far less sweeping than many of us would have liked, but the fact it comes on the heels of the tech companies pressure (they're losing market share because of the NSA hijinks and 4th amendment violations) ought to warm the cockles of a civil libertarian's heart.  The firms warned Obama that failure to rebuild public trust in communications privacy could damage the US economy.

Then there was  the ruling of a federal court judge that the spying is unconstitutional. Taken together there is cause to rejoice. It means Obama, like it or not, will be under immense pressure to ratify the sweeping changes. It also means Obama's usual game of "splitting differences" (which he honed to perfection in the Illinois state senate)is likely to be a loser, and not accepted. Obama really has only two choices when he reaches his decision next month: 1) Accept all the recommendations in the report and show us that as a former constitutional law professor he respects the will of the people and the country, OR, 2) cop to the NSA's demands and make only cosmetic changes - if any at all - showing he's a puppet of the national security state. Which, let us recall, is not a unique position for a President to be in, see e.g.

The next best option for Obama? Grant amnesty for Edward Snowden for having the balls to reveal how badly fucked we are with a nascent security state that threatens to rival the Stasi and Gestapo unless checked. Alexander, for his part, asserts this can't be done because....hey...if Snowden gets off Scott-free, others might then leak too....

To which I say, Bravo!   We need more leakers, not fewer!

We need to know more of what the government is up to, than it knows about us. The reverse is the basis for tyranny.

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