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Of course the NSA is defending its data gathering

Well you wouldn’t expect it to do a Microsoft now would you?

Putting its big dog forward, the NSA chief General Keith Alexander spoke out at a cyber security conference yesterday, where he addressed security professionals from around the world, promising to answer any questions they had. While Wired points out that he wasn’t exactly that open in his responses, preferring to stick to a set few queries, he did address a points brought forward by the recent Edward Snowden revelations.

“What comes out is we’re collecting everything. That is not true,” he said, suggesting that there was a lot of internal auditing procedures that prevent NSA agents from abusing their powers. Continuing, he suggested that as many as 54 potential terror plots have been prevented because of the PRISM monitoring system. It was also reiterated, that a lot of the surveillance came about because of the US’ inability to prevent the 11th September attack on the World Trade Centre.


“We had intercepts of one of the 9/11 hijackers from Yemen,” he said, “[but] we didn’t know because we didn’t have the tools and the capabilities to see that he was actually in California […] The intelligence community failed to connect those dots, and now what we’re doing is putting in to the existence these programmes.”

Alexander also chose to highlight the phone records collection scheme, that’s legally allowed under the Patriot act introduced by George Bush junior, saying that only meta data is collected and that no content of calls, texts or location data is record. This means that only the length of the call and the phone numbers of those involved in the communication are saved.

“The NSA only has the number […] FBI can take that to see where it connects to, using the NSL and the legal authorities given to them to take the next step,” he said.

The FISA act, extended by President Obama last year, allows for a bit more information to be gathered, namely the content of email and social networking chats, but that does have to involved non-US citizens on some level. It can be a conversation with US and non-US persons, but at least one of them has to be a foreign national that the NSA has some interest in, for reasons of potential terrorism.

There were a few that didn’t believe Alexander now however, one suggesting that since he lied to congress, why wouldn’t he lie to them?

Kitguru Says: Part of the problem with the whole PRISM scheme, is we don’t believe these claims that it’s only terrorism that’s being targeted. It’s harder still when we have David Cameron here in the UK lumping traditional porn viewers and child pornographers in the same paragraphs about internet crackdowns. How long before Tempora or something similar is used to check who’s looking at “illegal porn?”

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