Friday, September 27, 2013

How To Dance That Old NSA Sidestep

It's easy... just follow Gen. Keith Alexander:
First you walk up to the mic,
Tell the Senate— to take a hike,
Tell 'em that your name is Keith, then
LIE— through yer teeth— through yer teeth—
    through yer teeth—

. . .
(Short excerpt from "That Old NSA Sidestep Rag" ... the rest of the text is classified.)

"If I ever get Sen. Wyden by the balls..."
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The head of the National Security Agency sidestepped questions Thursday from a senator about whether the NSA has ever used Americans cellphone signals to collect information on their whereabouts that would allow tracking of the movements of individual callers.

Asked twice by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., if NSA had ever collected or made plans to collect such data, NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander answered both times by reading from a letter provided to senators who had asked the same question last summer. He also cited a classified version of the letter that was sent to senators and said, "What I don't want to do ... is put out in an unclassified forum anything that's classified."

Wyden promised to keep asking.

Is anybody else old enough to remember when the word "classified" brought to mind a section in a newspaper?

Hell, I don't know if the real answer to the senators' questions is classified or not, but I do know this: if it is, it damned well shouldn't be. If you're collecting information about the location on the street of American citizens, with an eye toward determining where they go, what they do, what they buy and whom they meet, you'd damned well better obtain a warrant. Yes, I know, the Fourth Amendment is "soooo been-there, done-that" (Tom Engelhardt, about privacy), but it is still in the Bill of Rights...


  1. They have or are planning to collect the information and people know it, including Ron Wyden. If they weren't doing it, there would be nothing to classify and no reason for Wyden to ask the question.

    1. Bryan, it doesn't take a security expert or a cryptanalyst to see that; anyone who has ever dealt with a dishonest government official knows all the signs. Alexander really does remind me more and more of ROTC Doug, that fellow I knew in college who would lead someone to ask a question and then respond, through clenched teeth, "I can't tell you that." Yeah, right... and we know why, 'cause we weren't born yesterday.

      The question that's harder to answer is "why? why follow an arbitrarily large number of citizens in their daily rounds, when most people lead lives of unspeakable boredom?" The number of actual bad guys is surely small enough that obtaining warrants to track them should not be all that difficult. I think Alexander just likes having the power that comes with that information, even if it leads him nowhere in criminal cases or terrorist activities. Some students obsessed with being the teacher's hall or classroom monitor grow up with a need to be Alexander the Geek...

    2. Steve, he is paranoid and in full institutional CYA mode. He is so petrified that he will be accused of missing something that he is collecting all of the information he can think of to cover his butt. It doesn't sink in that he can't possibly do anything worthwhile with all of this stuff until after something happens. He is missing the whole point of the exercise - to warn the government before something happens.

      What he is collecting can't even be used at trial if you catch someone, because it is illegal and unConstitutional, which is why they classify it.

    3. Bryan, whatever Alexander himself may intend or believe, it is clear that over the years the NSA has suffered mission creep beyond all acceptability... and now that it is finally revealed, it must be stopped. The US does not need a secret police operating within its own borders targeting its own citizens.



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