Former NSA Director: ‘An Attack Is Going to Come’

Keith Alexander sees poor PR, not illegal surveillance programs, as the agency’s biggest failure.

National Journal
Kaveh Waddell
June 6, 2014, 1:10 a.m.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 5010) }}

Keith Al­ex­an­der blames the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency’s poor com­mu­nic­a­tion with the pub­lic for the loss of trust and tar­nished im­age it has suffered since the first Snowden leaks ex­actly one year ago.

“We’ve got to have a way of put­ting the facts out so that the Amer­ic­an people know,” the former NSA dir­ect­or said in an in­ter­view with CNN’s Chris­ti­ane Aman­pour on Thursday. “Be­cause I do think an at­tack is go­ing to come and hit us or Europe, and then people are go­ing to swing this right around.”

Al­ex­an­der said that the NSA “got way be­hind in the me­dia on this.” But he said his former em­ploy­er is not the only one at fault. “The me­dia took off with a lot of in­form­a­tion that wasn’t fac­tu­ally cor­rect,” he said.

The former dir­ect­or sug­ges­ted a “re­set,” but cla­ri­fied that he’s not pro­pos­ing chan­ging NSA policy. “I’m not talk­ing about tak­ing the pro­grams off the table. I think what we’ve done a ter­rible job in is ex­plain­ing what those pro­grams do.”

A bill to re­form the NSA that has passed the House would cur­tail NSA op­er­a­tions by end­ing bulk col­lec­tion of Amer­ic­ans’ metadata, lim­it­ing elec­tron­ic sur­veil­lance pro­grams like PRISM, and al­low­ing com­pan­ies to dis­close gov­ern­ment re­quests for their cus­tom­ers’ data.

Al­ex­an­der warned against any move that would dis­mantle the NSA’s struc­ture.

“There are a series of pro­grams; each of those help us build the pic­ture. And if you start tak­ing some of those off the table, the ques­tion is, when does it be­come too dif­fi­cult for the ana­lysts to con­clude what happened? That’s how 9/11 oc­curred.”

What We're Following See More »
Sanders and Clinton Spar Over … President Obama
1 hours ago

President Obama became a surprise topic of contention toward the end of the Democratic debate, as Hillary Clinton reminded viewers that Sanders had challenged the progressive bona fides of President Obama in 2011 and suggested that someone might challenge him from the left. “The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans, I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama,” she said. “Madame Secretary, that is a low blow,” replied Sanders, before getting in another dig during his closing statement: “One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate.”

THE 1%
Sanders’s Appeals to Minorities Still Filtered Through Wall Street Talk
2 hours ago

It’s all about the 1% and Wall Street versus everyone else for Bernie Sanders—even when he’s talking about race relations. Like Hillary Clinton, he needs to appeal to African-American and Hispanic voters in coming states, but he insists on doing so through his lens of class warfare. When he got a question from the moderators about the plight of black America, he noted that during the great recession, African Americans “lost half their wealth,” and “instead of tax breaks for billionaires,” a Sanders presidency would deliver jobs for kids. On the very next question, he downplayed the role of race in inequality, saying, “It’s a racial issue, but it’s also a general economic issue.”

Clinton Already Pivoting Her Messaging
3 hours ago

It’s been said in just about every news story since New Hampshire: the primaries are headed to states where Hillary Clinton will do well among minority voters. Leaving nothing to chance, she underscored that point in her opening statement in the Milwaukee debate tonight, saying more needs to be done to help “African Americans who face discrimination in the job market” and immigrant families. She also made an explicit reference to “equal pay for women’s work.” Those boxes she’s checking are no coincidence: if she wins women, blacks and Hispanics, she wins the nomination.

How Many Jobs Would Be Lost Under Bernie Sanders’s Single-Payer System?
11 hours ago

More than 11 million, according to Manhattan Institute fellow Yevgeniy Feyman, writing in RealClearPolicy.

State to Release 550 More Clinton Emails on Saturday
11 hours ago

Under pressure from a judge, the State Department will release about 550 of Hillary Clinton’s emails—“roughly 14 percent of the 3,700 remaining Clinton emails—on Saturday, in the middle of the Presidents Day holiday weekend.” All of the emails were supposed to have been released last month. Related: State subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last year, which brings the total number of current Clinton investigations to four, says the Daily Caller.