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Gen. Keith Alexander On Metadata, Snowden, and the NSA: "We're At Greater Risk"

timothy posted about 5 months ago | from the let's-say-this-is-jeopardy dept.

The Military 238

An anonymous reader writes with some snippets pulled from a lengthy Q&A session at The New Yorker with former NSA head Keith Alexander, in which Alexander defends the collection of metadata by U.S. spy agencies both abroad and within the United States: "The probability of an attack getting through to the United States, just based on the sheer numbers, from 2012 to 2013, that I gave you—look at the statistics. If you go from just eleven thousand to twenty thousand, what does that tell you? That's more. That's fair, right? [..] These aren't my stats. The University of Maryland does it for the State Department. [...] The probability is growing. What I saw at N.S.A. is that there is a lot more coming our way. Just as someone is revealing all the tools and the capabilities we have. What that tells me is we're at greater risk. I can't measure it. You can't say, Well, is that enough to get through? I don't know. It means that the intel community, the military community, and law enforcement are going to work harder."

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probabilities? (4, Insightful)

iggymanz (596061) | about 5 months ago | (#47018817)

why is this shithead talking of probabilities? let's talk about REAL attacks. Like the one where the government of an immigrant called our Homeland Security morons and actually warned us about someone. And our Homeland Security statsi did exactly nothing. Then, the person who was the subject of that call blew up the finish area of the Boston Marathon. For that matter, what about 9/11, our intelligence and national police watching those Saudi terrorists for years to see what they would do; well, we saw what they did.

Re:probabilities? (2)

Kremmy (793693) | about 5 months ago | (#47018857)

He's talking probabilities because that's all they base anything on these days. When we have a presidential election, the results are announced the same day through statistics and probabilities then an awful lot of votes get lost in the noise. Our entire economy is debt, to the degree that there is no money which is not owed to someone else. There are no real attacks because the system is entirely predicated on the POSSIBILITY of attack. It's bullshit from the top down, at every level.

Re:probabilities? (5, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 5 months ago | (#47019067)

Why listing to a gold-plated, brass-hatted liar?

Hitler had Generals with more personal and professional integrity.

This man has less veracity than a 70's era Politburo Apparatchik, more mendacity than Midway Huckster and greater venality than a Back Street Cutthroat.

Re:probabilities? (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 months ago | (#47018983)

If you had as little to show for your handiwork as he did, and what you did have was as dire as it is, you'd be speaking as vaguely as possible as well...

The results that the NSA has achieved, apparently a hilarious variety of diplomatically touchy shenanigans extending throughout our alleged allies, are the ones that they just dig the hole deeper by talking about. They blew the pretense that they were playing defense for us and offense only against commie-nazi-fascists ages ago, so any talk about actual examples of competent work just makes them look creepy (and, unfortunately, they are pretty good at mass spying; but they apparently can't turn that into useful results, and their only plan is even more massive mass spying...)

In the area where they could earn back some PR karma, they basically have fuck all to show, only vague handwaving about how their surveillance could have been so super effective that it stopped attacks before they even became visible, even as it repelled elephants. Unfalsifiabile; but even less satisfying than the assorted 3rd-string idiots the FBI has managed to perp-walk after foiling some pitiful little scheme that they had to be coached through.

What the agency is good at are mostly things that they would just dig the hole deeper by talking about, and it's what they aren't good at that people would actually want to hear. So, we get vacuous nonsense.

Re:probabilities? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019153)

The real profit from NSA's mass-spying spree isn't the terrorist menace detection, but the ability to forecast any possible collective action which might endanger the statu quo, and deactivate it without any real military action which might cause economic loss and discredit to the accommodated oligarchy. The so-called "Islam Spring" was just a testbed, with the massive people gatherings being driven through Twitter and Facebook. They still need to place the foreign attack threat as the frontend in order to appeal to the US nationalism to support their activities. But in the end, they are just one small branch in the Ministry of Truth from a modern version of Orwell's 1984. Snowden's revelations came also handy as a way to make people start accepting we live in a panoptic world, as described by Foucault... It's like saying "we will watch all your movements anyway, so just relax and hit "Like" in Facebook".

Re:probabilities? (1)

PaddyM (45763) | about 5 months ago | (#47019029)

That's what I don't understand. All this metadata, and yet they couldn't prevent Boston bomber? This is a guy who got away with murdering people. He should have been in prison. Instead "statistics say we need to invade everyone's liberties". I haven't seen a single reporter ask about the metadata they had on the Boston bomber. If they couldn't prevent that attack, what attacks are they actually preventing?

Re:probabilities? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019063)

Just part of big brother's plan.

Re:probabilities? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019207)

So, let me first state that I think the NSA has gone too far with their intel operations.

Then let me state that this is exactly what the NSA *should* be doing. They need to make their focus to be "what has to be done to reduce the risk of threats to the US as much as possible". The flip side is that the operations of the NSA need to be overseen by someone who has a broader perspective (and hence, cannot therefore be part of the NSA) and can then balance the needs of the intel community against the needs of the other communities in the US (such as the rights and privileges of the US public, but there are other communities as well). In my opinion, the oversight was not there to create the appropriate balance and tell the NSA that while certain actions might have been inline with the narrow focus of reducing risk as much as possible, they ran sufficiently counter to other societal needs as to be ultimately counter productive to the well being of society as a whole.

In terms of talking about probabilities, that is what the game is *anytime* that one is talking about trying to reduce risk. Risk is all about figuring out and controlling the probabilities of various eventualities.

With respect to people having a fit over the fact that some threats got through - well, grow up. Nothing is 100%. Engaging in a bunch of rhetoric because something is not 100% is simply being a politician, and we already have enough of those. The people on slashdot like to consider themselves to be rational thinkers. So be rational. Part of being rational is understanding that risk is a game of probabilities, and that therefore it can never be completely eliminated. That means that despite best efforts bad things will still happen. When one throws in the additional constraint that the security/intel communities have to balance their needs with the needs of other communities, the risk of bad things happening becomes higher.

The game all boils down to a very hazy idea of balancing risks to rewards - accepting slightly higher risks because it allows other actions that may result in some other benefit. It is all fundamentally a game of talking about hypotheticals, which means that risk is inherent and probabilities are all that we have to work with.

Re:probabilities? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 5 months ago | (#47019943)

It is not that they have gone to far, it's that staff members are using this information for personel gain; that's what's chilling.

Re:probabilities? (2, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 5 months ago | (#47019277)

While I hate the security theater industry, that's not quite a fair criticism. They get a lot of noise, and his name was misspelled [reuters.com] .

Infinitely more important though, lets not fall into the trap of using their logic. No government agency can protect against any possible psycho wanting to kill people. We should reject the premise that homeland security CAN protect us against such people if we just allow them to keep secret watchlists and give up our rights.

Instead I'd frame it as "Homeland security did the best job they possibly could, which was pathetically short of the job we give them billions of dollars and our rights to do, thus we should scrap the whole department and the approach. Instead just close security holes where they don't interfere with rights. For instance: locking cockpit doors and having bomb-sniffing dogs good, secret no fly lists bad."

Re:probabilities? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019731)

While I hate the security theater industry, that's not quite a fair criticism. They get a lot of noise, and his name was misspelled [reuters.com] .

Your post seems to imply that it was the Russians who misspelled the name. According to your link though:

"In September 2011, the FSB sent a cable to the CIA, restating the warnings of the first memo. NBC News quoted sources close to the congressional investigation as saying a second note about Tsarnaev was entered into the TECS system the next month, but spelled his name "Tsarnayev.""

So, maybe "our Homeland Security statsi did exactly nothing" is not quite a fair criticism. It's more like "our Homeland Security statsi can't even copy and paste a name properly, though they did at least try so let's give them credit for that". The rest of your post I agree with, except "Homeland security did the best job they possibly could" - they did a shitty job, on top of all the other reasons we should get rid of them.

Live Free or Die! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019545)

"It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace â" but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"--accredited to Patrick Henry

Giving up the Freedoms that so many have died to protect does an extreme disservice and dishonor to those that died, including those that died simply enjoying those Freedoms as did those on 9/11.

Probabilited be damned! We have not been a "shining light" for a long time, if ever. If we can't live with honor, if we can't demonstrate and allow the Freedoms we have promoted so much around the world rather then denying it to ourselves and others while destroying "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" then how can we (citizens of the USA) be so surprised when others attack us? When our own government contributes to such events? When we steadily lose those much ballied Liberties?

It is but simple Common Sense that all governments are evil! It is a measure of the citizens of a government as to how well they limit that evil. Lets get this protection racket under control!

Re:probabilities? (0)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 5 months ago | (#47019931)

What you are painfully missing is that Kieth is burned out. It's tragic, but it happens to people who have been successful in the past and finally run out of soutions to the current set of problems their job incounters. The one thing that Kieth is resisting is that the more educated people are, the better decsions people make. His basic flaw of his own logic is, "I have all the knowledge, I know best." As long as proud ignorence is promoted, it hard for usefull Solutions.

Re:probabilities? (1)

BilI_the_Engineer (3618871) | about 5 months ago | (#47020021)

More importantly, we're supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Free or brave people wouldn't sacrifice their fundamental liberties for security.

What an authoritarian asshole this guy is, though that's to be expected.

Fearmongering at it's worst (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47018827)

We are less likely to be attacked on our own soil right now than we were at any point in the preceding two centuries. That likelihood hit a plateau in the 1970s. The World Trade Center collapse was a statistical anomaly.

Re:Fearmongering at it's worst (2)

stevez67 (2374822) | about 5 months ago | (#47018963)

Source please.

Re:Fearmongering at it's worst (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 5 months ago | (#47019965)

I think when the A/C regains consciousness, it will not even remember its post.

Re:Fearmongering at it's worst (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 months ago | (#47019053)

We are less likely to be attacked on our own soil right now than we were at any point in the preceding two centuries. That likelihood hit a plateau in the 1970s. The World Trade Center collapse was a statistical anomaly.

It looks even worse if you consider mortality generally not just the (admittedly emotionally salient; but still just another way of dying) flavor caused by overt enemy action. Even if you entirely disregard the corrosive effects of having a wildly unaccountable intelligence apparatus, which are massive, the NSA's case is pretty tepid even in purely financial terms. If you want to allocate a given dollar to reducing American morbidity and mortality, or increasing American prosperity, you have a pretty strong list of contenders ahead of the various black budgets.

Re:Fearmongering at it's worst (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019059)

We are less likely to be attacked on our own soil right now than we were at any point in the preceding two centuries. That likelihood hit a plateau in the 1970s. The World Trade Center collapse was a statistical anomaly.

I was surprised to see Gen. Alexander trotting out the "a life is a life. How many does it take to make it worth it?" fallacy. Amusingly, the General brings up the story of Enigma; it might have saved just one life with regards to the ethical question raised by the semi-apocrypal story of Coventry in WW2.

When we were up against the Russians, it was "better dead than Red." We were taught not that Communism was evil because it came from Russia, but because Communism requires a system of government that requires pervasive surveillance and monitoring of dissidents.

There was a time in which Russia and China had more prisoners per capita than America. I remember reading about it as part of a lesson on why parliamentary democracy and representative republics were better than communism.

There was a time in which the KGB and the Stasi (and their Maoist equivalents, and the events of Tienanmen Square, and even as recently as the Great Firewall of China) were held up to Americans as examples of what not to do.

"Better dead than Red" is overstating it, and to take such a principle on an absolutist basis would have resulted in MAD over Korea and/or Vietnam. But by that same token, an absolutist adherence to the fallacy of "because it just might save one life" is not an acceptable reason transform the land of the free and the home of the brave into a panopticon, General.

P.S. When we consider that a single attack that did about $1-2B in damages prompted us not only to disregard our civil liberties, but also to expend multiple trillions of dollars in order to defend against things as banal as plane crashes? A politician might make that tradeoff, because our underinformed electorate tends to fall for "if it saves just one life" at any cost - particularly when a successful attack might result in the loss of a politician's ability to get re-elected. For someone holding the rank of General, he completely fails to understand the principle behind asymettric warfare. And that is why, 13 years after 9/11, regardless of whether we won or lost the battles of Afghanistan and Iraq, we still lost the war.

Re:Fearmongering at it's worst (1)

MondoGordo (2277808) | about 5 months ago | (#47019499)

So wishing i had Mod points +10 well put.

Re:Fearmongering at it's worst (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019519)

"a life is a life. How many does it take to make it worth it?" then what about better AFFORDABLE healthcare, homes for the homeless , domestic abuse shelters and other things that can easily and demonstrably save lives.

Oh I forgot those dont keep put masters in power.

Re:Fearmongering at it's worst (1)

Raseri (812266) | about 5 months ago | (#47019463)

Are you saying the WTC "attack" wasn't carried out by Silverstein, Bush, Cheney, et al?

Sign (5, Informative)

cultiv8 (1660093) | about 5 months ago | (#47018831)

Well worth the watch if you have the time, gives a very good overview of how the NSA amassed as much power as it has: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/... [pbs.org]

Boo hoo. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47018843)

Cry me a river. I'm sure that we could reduce that possibility ten fold if we placed cameras and microphones inside everyone's house. Does that mean we should do it? Absolutely not.

Re:Boo hoo. (4, Interesting)

plover (150551) | about 5 months ago | (#47019203)

Cry me a river. I'm sure that we could reduce that possibility ten fold if we placed cameras and microphones inside everyone's house. Does that mean we should do it? Absolutely not.

But we already have voluntarily carried microphones and cameras into our houses, pockets, and purses. Does that mean the NSA should ignore them?

Re:Boo hoo. (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 5 months ago | (#47020023)

Are you submitting yourself as a Test Subject?

Had to check (3, Insightful)

lagomorpha2 (1376475) | about 5 months ago | (#47018877)

If you go from just eleven thousand to twenty thousand, what does that tell you? That's more. That's fair, right?

Given who is speaking I had to do some fact checking before accepting it as truth.

Obligatory. (3, Funny)

Scot Seese (137975) | about 5 months ago | (#47018881)

Gen. Keith Alexander,

http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/... [quickmeme.com]

No (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47018883)

It means that the intel community, the military community, and law enforcement are going to work harder.

No. It means that your efforts are turning more and more people against the United States of America. It means that your actions have made people hate you more. Rather than putting more efforts into improving people's feelings towards America, you're turning more people against you.

And it should be noted that it's no longer just foreign individuals who are growing to hate you - your efforts are making more and more Americans hate you too.

Maybe - and this is just a wild idea here - you should stop being complete asses. You know, stop treating everyone in the damn world like the enemy. Maybe, just maybe, that might help make people hate you less which will probably help reduce the number of actions against you.

But, let's be honest here, that's not what the power brokers want. The power brokers want to clamp down a polio state upon America and the world at large and the only way to do that is to foster the hate and continue to make America the victim of increasing hostility from malicious interests. You're fostering the hatred because it makes it easier for you and your ilk to justify strengthening the police state that you so dearly want.

bleh.

Re:No (1)

stevez67 (2374822) | about 5 months ago | (#47018999)

Really no one has to make certain cultures hat the USA, they've been at war with everyone around them for centuries. In the US what is feeding the hate are pseudo news organizations who fan the flames of bigotry and xenophobia to draw viewers and sell more ads. Oh, and "polio" state?

Re:Poilio state (1)

MondoGordo (2277808) | about 5 months ago | (#47019913)

Auto-correct (from police) I'm guessing ... but considering the recent outbreaks ... it may have been intentional.

Re:No (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019061)

How does this intelligence gathering turn people against us? Everybody in other countries with an ounce of brains in their heads could reasonable assumed that this is going on, and everybody in America with an ounce of brains can reasonably assume that other countries (including our allies) is either doing the same thing or trying to gain the means to do so. The revelations by Snowden only serves to rile up those with their heads in the sand (and inflate his sense of self-worth), but serves little other useful purpose.

Re:No (1)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | about 5 months ago | (#47019919)

My summation is similar but goes like this:

from 2012 to 2013, that I gave you—look at the statistics. If you go from just eleven thousand to twenty thousand, what does that tell you?

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Abridged version: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47018893)

There's like, a lot of numbers.. ya'know? that means stuff can happen. If stuff might happen, then stuff can happen because ... stuff!

Re:Abridged version: (1)

NeoNormal (594362) | about 5 months ago | (#47019099)

There's like, a lot of numbers.. ya'know? that means stuff can happen. If stuff might happen, then stuff can happen because ... stuff!

That's exactly what I got out of the summary. Blathering.

A Spymaster Says Spying is Important?! (4, Insightful)

mtrachtenberg (67780) | about 5 months ago | (#47018897)

A spymaster asserts spying is important! Details at 11.

Re:A Spymaster Says Spying is Important?! (3, Funny)

mtrachtenberg (67780) | about 5 months ago | (#47018911)

Coming up next -- investment bankers on why investment bankers deserve billions of dollars.

Re:A Spymaster Says Spying is Important?! (1)

Richy_T (111409) | about 5 months ago | (#47019613)

Followed by "That guy who stole your car stereo" explaining how it's society's fault.

Re:A Spymaster Says Spying is Important?! (4, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 5 months ago | (#47019139)

Well, let's take what he says at face value for a moment.

Basically, he is arguing the ends justify the means. There's nothing in the US Constitution to support that, though, so it's an invalid argument. The Constitution states - pretty much as absolutes - what our rights as citizens are. There's no "well, you can have this freedom only if it doesn't make things too hard on the police" clause... as far as I can tell, anyway.

He also says that, because of the Snowden revelations, "the intel community, the military community, and law enforcement are going to work harder." Well, good! If the threat is indeed growing, they *should* work harder. To stop threats against the country and its citizens, they should use every tool that's available to them within the law. But what they *shouldn't* do is violate the constitution or civil laws in pursuit of those goals.

Re:A Spymaster Says Spying is Important?! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019565)

" The Constitution states - pretty much as absolutes - what our rights as citizens are." - No it dosnt it merely states some of the thing we allow the government to do and some of the things we do not.

The remaining power is supposed to belong to 'We the people'.

Re:A Spymaster Says Spying is Important?! (1)

hjf (703092) | about 5 months ago | (#47019749)

Your bit about the constitution is wrong.

The constitution is just a set of guidelines to prevent abuse from a totalitarian government. Laws routinely limit the rights of citizens.

You have a right to free speech, but you can't say CUNT on TV.

Re:A Spymaster Says Spying is Important?! (1)

MondoGordo (2277808) | about 5 months ago | (#47019945)

sure you can ... you just can't broadcast it publicly. HBO is "on TV"

Re:A Spymaster Says Spying is Important?! (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | about 5 months ago | (#47019205)

Yes but a Spymaster saying that they need to get data about the general population to fight terrorists is news. It's like a researcher stressing the importance of false positives.

Hint: concentrating on potential terrorists instead of amassing data about everyone should make agencies work less, not harder.

SO! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47018899)

Who gives a shit?

Work harder at what? (4, Insightful)

alphatel (1450715) | about 5 months ago | (#47018919)

If you own a clothing store and want to prevent theft by increasing security you can:

Add metal tags to clothing
Hire more security guards inside the store
Install cameras in the ceiling and watch shoppers

The NSA opts instead to
Ask shoppers to wear metal tags
Hire agents to follow them after they leave
Install video cameras in their homes

And now we call it "America"

Re:Work harder at what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47018987)

They hold a gun to the head of everyone on earth and call it security.
  -- Capt. America

Re:Work harder at what? (3, Interesting)

TheCarp (96830) | about 5 months ago | (#47019123)

....and in the end, you might still spend more on those cameras and guards than the reduction in theft; possibly even more than the total of all the theft, including the part you didn't stop.

Bruce Schnieir made a nice observation in one of his newsletters a while back about how security never makes money for anyone but security folks....for everyone else it is a cost...always a cost. A cost that may mitigate other costs, but, its always a cost itself....in fact, it can ONLY be a benefit up to the extent that it mitigates other costs.

That is, if you lose $10,000 a year to theft.... the absolute maximum you can ever save by implementing security is $10,000 a year, and every dollar you spend on that security reduces that benefit. If you hire a security gaurd for $40k/year... you are actually losing 4 times the maximum benefit his job can provide, before he even provides any benefit.... which is likely to only be a portion of that maximum.

So the absolute maximum benefit of all this surveillance, of all this tampering with equipment, of invading privacy and creating a massive database that would be the wet dream of the Stasi and only needs a change in policy to be used to terrible effect....the likely unachievable maximum benefit is bound.....well really fucking small.

Re:Work harder at what? (1)

ewieling (90662) | about 5 months ago | (#47019289)

I mostly agree with what you say, but want to point out your estimate of a security guards salary is grossly inflated.

"According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, security guards earned an average of $23,970 in 2012. The bottom 10% of security guards earned less than $17,390, while the top 10% earned at least $42,490."

Re:Work harder at what? (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 5 months ago | (#47019717)

"According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, security guards earned an average of $23,970 in 2012.

Which, after you add in benefits, taxes, and other non-paycheck costs of hiring him, will come to about $40k a year.

Re:Work harder at what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019501)

The problem with this kind of rational thinking is that you're going to have to put a value on a person's life. If you say that "this whole national security circus ain't worth a gazillion dollars," someone is going to reply "well, it may save a tiny amount of lives, and maybe even a child's!" At this point you're going to have to do some simple maths a divide a gazillion with a tiny amount (plus a child!), and end up being a jerk for having put a monetary value on a person's life (and a child - he had his whole life in front of him, mind you, and he loved football and cherry pie, you soulless beast!)

Irrelevant data (5, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 5 months ago | (#47018947)

Look, there is no question that spying on people will reveal some crimes.

There is also no question that spying on people will damage our society. Some innocent people will have their non-criminal secrets revealed, damaging their lives beyond reason. Some innocent people will be falsely accused of crimes they did not commit - perhaps even going to jail or being killed by a drone. Certain people will become accustomed to violating the law for valid reasons and will start to violate it for personal reasons - the cases where US intelligence agents spied on ex-lovers are just the start.

The question is, is the damage done greater than the damage prevented. From the huge and vast history of spying, we also know that we can not simply take the government's word. Even if they start good, they too often end up going too far.

So we set up a system that is supposed to not only prevent the worst damage done by spying, but to prevent even the APPEARANCE that that damage might be occurring.

General Keith Alexander's article talks a lot about the damage the spying prevents. It totally ignores the massive damage he and his ilk does.

As such it is not convincing at all. It's like a gold miner talking about how much gold they are going to get out of the mountain without even mentioning the massive amounts of toxic materials he is dumping directly into the town's reservoir.

Re:Irrelevant data (4, Interesting)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 5 months ago | (#47019075)

It's like a gold miner talking about how much gold they are going to get out of the mountain without even mentioning the massive amounts of toxic materials he is dumping directly into the town's reservoir.

This is by far the BEST analogy I've seen on this recently.

Re:Irrelevant data (2)

mariox19 (632969) | about 5 months ago | (#47019085)

The question is, is the damage done greater than the damage prevented.

In a free country, such Utilitarian arguments take place only within the ruling principle of liberty. We don't weigh the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th amendments against some kind of first year philosophy student's bullshit session. We've established a constitutional framework for very good reasons.

Re:Irrelevant data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019101)

I'm not sure I'd be even that generous. There's scant evidence that the massive dragnet spying is effective at all in its stated purpose. Even apart from the damage that it causes, it's a huge resource drain, in terms of both money and institutional attention. It's quite likely getting in the way of more effective means of combating terrorism.

Re:Irrelevant data (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019201)

The rich people funding the military compound (and getting vast amounts of money out of it) don't care about the people you are talking about. They just care bout amassing enough power to become unbeatable. And part of that power comes from knowing the way everyday people thinks, and knowing the way to change those thoughts in case they become dangerous for those who run the strings. That's what these metadata searches are all about. Dismantling a seditious group before it even has a chance to form pose great advantages in terms of maximizing the profit you could get from the people...

Re:Irrelevant data (2)

TheCarp (96830) | about 5 months ago | (#47019233)

Not only that but there is a real hidden trust issue here.

What is the difference between The US government collecting this sort of data and North Korea doing it? If someone came out with evidence that the DPRK was doing exactly this same stuff both to their own people and abroad (and don't get me wrong, to some extent they likely are...even if its unlikely they have the same level of capability) What is the difference?

The answer is very simple: Policy. we are protected, to some extent, by policies which try to prevent some of the worst abuses. The problem is, policy can be skirted or changed. It isn't a question of whether we trust Keith's boys. Its a question of whether we trust them, and the people who will replace them and the people who will replace them. Can we really be certain that this capability would necessarily be destroyed before those policies could ever change or be subverted?

Fact is we already know they can be subverted, and that no system has ever prevented abuses. We know they have templates for abusing it ("Parallel construction") and have defended the use of that template for far lesser issues than "terrorism".

Can we really afford to trust them that much?

 

Re:Irrelevant data (1)

Simulant (528590) | about 5 months ago | (#47019265)

The reaction to 9/11 pretty much proves that the US will accept no risk unless it's self inflicted.

Re:Irrelevant data (2)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 5 months ago | (#47019729)

basically, we decided we should destroy our own freedoms before anyone else can get a chance to.

it just is that simple. and if we keep people in a false sense of fear, they can be controlled and manipulated to do the Big Man's bidding, whatever and whoever that is, this week.

I don't think at all about terrorists. but I do think about the loss of freedom, almost weekly, now. I know who 'broke' things and I won't listen to their lies ever again. if their lips are moving, they are lying; its very easy, now.

Re:Irrelevant data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019897)

Save your toes from the damage done by stubbing them once by shooting your foot off.

Re:Irrelevant data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019291)

You need to watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Re:Irrelevant data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019855)

Look, there is no question that spying on people will reveal some crimes.

Irrelevant, none of it is supposed to be used for ordinary, domestic crimes. The whole system is only supposed to be used for nation-endangering crimes such as actual terrorism. The fact that its only being used as an intelligence wing for the DEA and regular police forces shows that the reason for which it was built doesn't really exist.

watch out for conspiracies! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47018959)

i take the 911 conspiracies with a pinch of salt. but if something were to happen now... that the NSA could turn around and say see - we need these capabilities then it would scream conspiracy at me...

I agree . . . (1)

Kimomaru (2579489) | about 5 months ago | (#47018961)

"It means that the intel community, the military community, and law enforcement are going to work harder."

Yes, I agree. Good conclusion.

goverment efficiency (0)

Anomalyst (742352) | about 5 months ago | (#47018967)

intel community, the military community, and law enforcement are going to work harder

The freedom of a people is inversely proportional to the effeciency of its govermental instituions.
The more hurdles in the way of these bozos the better

Whos Security (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47018973)

If they are at greater risk, it is because of their own activities and decisions. Corruption and illegal activity should not be shielded by National Security. Or more simply put, their security is not national security.

best offense is a good defense (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 5 months ago | (#47018977)

Why is this guy still called a General, he's a fucking politician already, a political appointee and from his spintalk he's learning the DC shuffle pretty well. A real general would lead his troops into battle and kill the fucking enemy, not continually spy on the citizens or trample on the constitution he's sworn to protect. You have soliders to fight wars, not play political games and trying to color everything with spintalk.

Re:best offense is a good defense (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | about 5 months ago | (#47019709)

Why is this guy still called a General, he's a fucking politician already, a political appointee and from his spintalk he's learning the DC shuffle pretty well. A real general would lead his troops into battle and kill the fucking enemy, not continually spy on the citizens or trample on the constitution he's sworn to protect. You have soliders to fight wars, not play political games and trying to color everything with spintalk.

If you are in the USA then he is, in effect, a politician as are all your Generals. Until the corporates get enough leverage to be able to neutralise these Generals and replace them as your de-facto politicians.

Then why did you break the law? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47018985)

If the NSA mission is so important, they should never have broken the law and betrayed the trust Americans placed in them. The NSA is supposed to use targeted intelligence on foreign agents. Instead they spy on the citizens they are expressly forbidden from spying on.

So yeah, it's terrible that the NSA can't do their job, breaks the law, and people like Snowden have to hold them accountable. FFS. Stop whining about the fuck ups and go back to doing what Truman asked you to do in the first place. Jeeze. NSA acts like my kid who is angry that I caught him doing something he knows is wrong, knows he shouldn't be doing, and is upset that I found out. Hilarious. Bunch of children.

Re:Then why did you break the law? (1)

Devoidoid (1207090) | about 5 months ago | (#47019421)

You know spies. Bunch of bitchy little girls.

Rebbutal (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019017)

It'd be nice if someone would go through and engage in a point-by-point rebuttal of about everything that's said in the interview excerpt. It's quite clear that there's way too much conflation of the "War on Terrorism" as an actual war and the idea that it's a "World War" and hence plots that have nothing to do with the US are still in the purview of the US to stop. The idea of "fighting them over than" is a great idea from a political perspective since it limits the carnage of Americans in America, but it misses the point that this proxy fighting is precisely (1) one of the great evils of the Cold War and (2) almost entirely responsible for *why* we have these people wanting to attack America. I mean, it makes sense from a "if they're too busy fighting us on their home turf, they can't attack us" but it misses the point that (1) eventually we'll think we "succeeded" (or at least want to pull out the resources) and at that point we will have yet another 9/11 or (2) we'll just have to keep escalating the attacks indefinitely and turn the whole world against us.

I mean, either way I'm sure it looks like a rosy picture for the intel and military industries. But the long-term answers aren't to keep escalting the fighting or trying to wipe out people to wipe out an idea. It's to (1) try to make reasonable peace with other nations that will limit their willingness to cross borders to attack others (and yes, that means shit hole countries may form and well rot under the next Islamic Caliphate) and (2) responding in an appropriate scale if and when an attack does occur and not using it to justify an endless collection of wars. There should have been no invasion of Afghanistan. There should have been efforts to work with Afghanistan (and then Pakistan) to capture and try bin Laden, even if it meant he'd be merely jailed somewhere in Afghanistan or Pakistan for a time.

But, yea, that wouldn't have quelled the bloodlust of the "liberal" New Yorkers. That's the biggest, shameful truth of the whole incident. There's a very massive lack of character to turn the other cheek among liberals. I already didn't expect such among social conservatives since they joined the gun focused and money focused conservatives--they already sold their soul to the devil. *shrug* That's the real thing that died on 9/11. The illusion that at core at least some significant number of members of one of the major political parties was actually Christian.

Then work hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019033)

Remember when hard work was actually considered noble and highly valued?

I'd rather take my chances. (5, Insightful)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 5 months ago | (#47019043)

I'd rather take my chances and live in a free society with some "risk" than in an oppressive nanny state that feels the need to increasingly monitor every aspect of my life.

That's what he's missing, the 'risk' he's talking of is the price to pay for living in a free society.

Re:I'd rather take my chances. (4, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | about 5 months ago | (#47019753)

I'd rather take my chances and live in a free society with some "risk" than in an oppressive nanny state that feels the need to increasingly monitor every aspect of my life.

That's what he's missing, the 'risk' he's talking of is the price to pay for living in a free society.

This.

One of my favorite revolutionary war-era quotes is Jefferson's "What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it's natural manure."

Normally, we think -- as did Jefferson, I'm sure -- that the "blood of patriots" mentioned is that of citizens fighting to throw off an oppressive government. Sometimes we also think of it as the blood of soldiers defending against tyrannical forces threatening to invade. But it's equally valid to think of it as the blood of innocent citizens which is shed simply because freedom and safety are sometimes at odds with one another. Sometimes, the only way to be safer is to give up some freedom...and it's often not worth it.

I say "often" because this isn't a black and white issue. There is a balance that has to be found, a balance that takes into account the relative harms and the numbers of people. In this case, I think the right of 300 million US citizens[*] to live free of spying by their own government is really, really big. Moreover, it's also really important to our continued freedom in all areas that we be comfortable speaking our minds, and government spying directly damages that freedom. For example studies have shown that the NSA's actions have had a chilling effect on what reporters are willing to talk about. That's very, very dangerous.

9/11 was tragic, yes. We should try to avert future large-scale terror attacks, certainly. But against the scale of the nation as a whole, 9/11 -- the largest, most successful terror attack ever -- was a flea bite. It killed fewer people than die on our roads every three weeks, and did less property damage than a major hurricane. We could survive a 9/11 every year and not really feel the pain (as a nation -- obviously the people directly impacted would suffer greatly). And I reiterate that 9/11 was the largest, most successful terror attack ever. That's not the kind of thing that's easy to repeat, or, therefore, very likely to happen again.

Another serious consideration is that if we allow our government to obtain too much power over us then we might arrive at a point where we need to refresh the tree of liberty via Jefferson's method. That would be far deadlier than a few terror attacks, even big ones.

We need to accept that we can't have perfect safety. Hell, we can't have it even if we're willing to give up all freedom. So we should accept that part of the cost of freedom is a few lives, and we should honor those people as heroes who unwittingly sacrificed for the freedom of the rest of us. That's a far more effective way to preserve freedom than spending the lives of soldiers in foreign wars while voluntarily giving up the freedoms they're supposedly dying to defend.

[*]Yes, I realize that non-US citizens also want to live without being spied upon. That's a valid issue, but separate from the point I'm making.

Re:I'd rather take my chances. (1)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | about 5 months ago | (#47019935)

But what about the children?

Better for millions to die, than one freedom lost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019045)

Our fathers, grandparents, and great great great grandparents fought for this country on the basis of freedom, and if we're not going to maintain that freedom what is the point of fighting at all? There is none. Terrorism does not justify war.

If I had a choice between a 9/11 attack happening once a year in every major city until the day I died I'd rather see that than lose a single freedom. While 9/11 was a horrible and unnecessary tragedy the number of lives lost on 9/11 was minuscule in the scheme of the wars fought against terrorism.

There are more than 140,000 people in the world that die every day. 9/11 didn't even increase the daily death count by a noticeable figure. It increased it by at best 1.4%. Far more innocent lives were lost from frighting illogical wars against “terrorism”. Terrorism doesn't justify war. Terrorism doesn't justify terrorism, torture, or “irregular interrogation methods” . Wars the US gets involved in on the other hand kill millions of innocent people. A far worse thing in the scheme of things.

Don't support our leadership in these wars, or any action that attacks American's freedom, or that the of rest of the world.

Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019051)

If I go from eleven thousand to twenty thousand it means I'm rich and can go on a vacation. What's this nonsense about dangers?

That's right... Work Harder! (4, Insightful)

stink_eye (1582461) | about 5 months ago | (#47019109)

Rather than taking actions that short cuts the Constitution of the United States and infringes the rights of the citizen populace you claim to want to protect. Guess what, if the people of the US have lost faith and trust in the Military, Judiciary, Executive, and Legislative branches, as well as in Law Enfiorcement there is a reason for it. It's not some mass hallucination or mob mis-perception. The US Government has undermined the trust of the populace and now it is reaping the consequences. Don't bitch that the job is now harder because of infringements caused by corruption and incompetance within the highest corridors of power within the U.S.

does this guy listen to himself ever? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019131)

" It means that the intel community, the military community, and law enforcement are going to work harder."

the enforcement community working harder is what caused the problem with overreach in the first place.

if they aren't careful how they "work harder" they will create even more work for themselves

Don't trust you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019141)


Instead of spying on everyone why don't you go undermine that Wahhabi fount of fundamentalism that is the ultimate source of most of our terrorist fears.
We're trying to put out a fire we've been fueling for nearly a century. It's embarrassing.

Fear, uncertainty, and doubt: (1)

kheldan (1460303) | about 5 months ago | (#47019155)

The three main weapons in the arsenal against freedom.

Guess what, everyone? The number of threats against the United States has likely been about the same from year to year for decades and decades now, they're just trotting out these 'independently gathered statistics' because they've been caught with both hands in the surveillance cookie jar and crumbs all over their faces, so now they trot out the FU&D to try to justify themselves. Them, them, fuck them, I say. Go back to traditional spycraft techniques and stop rummaging around in America's underwear drawer, you fucking creeps.

Re:Fear, uncertainty, and doubt: (2)

WoOS (28173) | about 5 months ago | (#47019551)

The three main weapons in the arsenal against freedom.

And I always thought the three main weapons were: Surprise, fear, and ruthless efficiency [youtube.com] .
Could we get Mr. Alexander maybe join a reenaction of Monthy Phyton. It seems to fit quite well to the NSA.

Shouldn't we target the real criminals? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019177)

The portion of government workers that are criminals probably mirrors the levels of criminals in the general population. The percentage of elected officials that are criminals is probably higher than the percentage in the general population. The percentage of elected officials at the national level that are criminals is far higher than the general population, and the criminals at the national level can cause far more damage to the country than your average low-level criminal.

Since the government in general and the NSA in particular believes it is legal and proper to collect all this information on citizens and residents without obtaining warrants, why shouldn't they collect all of the same information for all politicians and then make it 100% public? Any argument they use against this practice should then be considered a valid reason why they shouldn't be able to do it against the general population.

To be even Safer ... (1)

PineHall (206441) | about 5 months ago | (#47019417)

I propose that we put at least 2 cameras in every room. This way we can catch everyone committing a crime and reduce dramatically the risk of crime in the USA. I propose that the NSA, who has the expertise, would expand its role and electronically monitor the cameras. The computers would flag potential crimes happening for the NSA experts to look at. They would maintain the database and rules would be in place to prevent any abuse by the NSA professionals. Oversight of this NSA operation will be by a secret court that will punish those breaking the rules. All proceedings and transcripts of the court will remain secret to protect the work of the NSA and not increase the risk of crime.

Without the exaggeration of "at least 2 cameras in every room", I feel this is what is happening right now around the world. By upping the surveillance we would be safer but our quality of life would be less without any privacy, and the potential for abuse would be very great. There is no significant oversight and transparency happening at the NSA. This needs to change and people's rights (including non-Americans) need to be respected. Knowing human nature, abuse is happening and the database is being misused. The NSA needs to be reigned in and its operations limited. We may end up being at a very slight larger risk for a terrorist attack but people's lives and rights would be respected.

PBS Frontline required viewing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019431)

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/united-states-of-secrets/

Required viewing.

Just kill all the populace already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019447)

All external and internal threats abated. So easy.

What the shit is this about making things easier anyway? Does somebody running a race complain that cutting corners would make it easier for him to finish?

So what? The Constitution is the set of rules the government has to operate with. No matter whether it is hard or easy.

If they want to have different rules, they should emigrate to states with a different constitution. The U.S. is not supposed to make fascism easy.

of waht? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 5 months ago | (#47019467)

What that tells me is we're at greater risk.

Risk of what exactly?

Because you're talking about taking away my constitutional freedoms. That's a big deal. You need to give me some idea of what I'm being protected from. A terrorist attack? Because, the chances of that are 1 in 9,138,785. I'm willing to take that risk if it means I get to remain free.

probablilities (1)

whistlingtony (691548) | about 5 months ago | (#47019561)

And yet despite his scaremongering, which coincidentally means he needs more money and resources, I'm more likely to die of a heart attack or get hit while riding my bike than to ever even SEE a terrorist.

We should take all their money and spend it on automobile safety and heart disease prevention....

How threats are measured (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 5 months ago | (#47019607)

Everytime some dude says "Death to America!" or something like that on the Internet, that's a credible threat. Oh look, there's another one. If you don't stop it, it'll be like nine eleven times a hundred!

A Fair Trial (5, Insightful)

AndyCanfield (700565) | about 5 months ago | (#47019637)

Some people ask whether Edward Snowden can get a fair trial in the US. The real question is whether Keith Alexander can get a fair trial in the US. He was the head of an organization which was doing illegal things. Will he get a fair trial? Will he get a trial at all? No.

Conversation Successfully Reframed (4, Insightful)

dave562 (969951) | about 5 months ago | (#47019763)

The government does a great job of keeping the conversation focused on "terrorism" and the inevitability of it.

They never allow the dialogue to shift to the causes of terrorism. We never see discussions about the specific foreign policy elements that generate the hatred and anger that leads to people getting to the point where they are willing to sacrifice their lives to inflict harm to the American economy and way of life.

Until people begin having real conversations about what we are doing, why we are doing it, what the benefits of doing it are, and what the risks associated with it are, this is going to continue.

Unfortunately it seems that any sort of multi-faceted conversation like that is not of interest to most of the population. Those who are interested in having those conversations have already had them, and decided that the benefits outweigh the risks. Money in their pockets is worth the cost of a few lives and civil liberties.

It all comes back to the 1%. There is a small portion of the population that is gambling with the lives of everyone else. Everyone else is too disorganized to remove the 1% from power.

Until people get to the point where they are willing to publicly stand up and say, "I am tired of living in fear for my life so that WE can make money at the expense of the rest of the world." Nothing is going to change. And that is the truth of it. On some level, all of us, ALL OF US, benefit from the current system and are too comfortable with it to do anything more than whine about it online.

Re:Conversation Successfully Reframed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019975)

Until people get to the point where they are willing to publicly stand up and say, "I am tired of living in fear for my life so that WE can make money at the expense of the rest of the world."

"We"? What "we"? I'm not making any of that money, not even a fraction of a penny. A big problem is that most people don't even believe there is a problem. Another big problem is that far too many people think its ok because they consider themselves part of the profiteering oppressors, and constantly vote against their own interests (eg, anyone who claims to be Republican but isn't a multi-millionaire).

Skirting around the issue of undermining security. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019783)

Has the calculus really changed? The threat has always been quite low. Sure, there's people that hate the US and we've adopted the tactic of kicking the hornets nest to flush them out, but ignoring that, the single biggest threat was from the NSA involvement in undermining the integrity of ALL "secure" network traffic and leaving technical back-doors all over the place. Not only did the NSA have access to all this copies SIGINT, but so did anyone with an Internet connection, the know-how, and the inclination. It's not as simple as NSA agents eavesdropping on soldiers' phone calls to their spouses and laughing at the awkward sexy-talk. They exposed every bank transaction, every diplomatic cable, every phone system, everything to monitoring and subversion. The billion dollar back-lash against American tech firms is nothing compared to the collective cost of making swiss-cheese of security on a global scale. Of course the US government is worried about cyberwarfare, they themselves tore down the walls, stripped everyone naked, and marched them up to the front line.

To his credit, the General is towing the line. Whether or not it has made a difference, he absolutely has to say that it did.

BUT IT GOES TO ELEVEN !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019797)

And that's one more, isn't it !!

Probabilities & realities (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47019879)

There are more people in the world, therefore more bad people in the world with no respect for life, so yeah the 'chances of a single event over time increases'...even the number of people impacted will increase. Guess what, freedom means you are less safe...do NOT give up freedom for security.

Say what? (1)

mbone (558574) | about 5 months ago | (#47019929)

The military officers I have known have at least been coherent.

Interesting but false portrayal (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 5 months ago | (#47019955)

Cold hard reality check: More than 95 percent of all actual threats originate in or have data collection endpoints in one of the following: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, or Afghanistan.

Individual warrants on directly (not indirectly) connected US citizens could be done within the context of the US Constitution.

The methods that ARE in use, regardless of what he's telling you, are, for the most part, in direct and certain violation of the US Constitution and in direct and certain violation of the Data treaties (which have the force of law and override Congressional Law and any MOUs) with both the EU and Canada.

Period.

Oh, and this has been going on a lot longer than they pretend. No, even longer than that.

Stop being such a bully... (2)

SlovakWakko (1025878) | about 5 months ago | (#47020015)

...and start respecting other states' sovereignty. I mean for real, not just with words. Maybe then the number of attacks will start dropping...

I'm not willing to make this trade (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 5 months ago | (#47020045)

I'd rather deal with a higher level of threat then accept extra legal NSA/CIA spying within the US.

The politically incorrect reality is that we've probably let too many bad people into the US and the western world at large. Say you want to keep radical elements out and they cite you for racism because the people trying this crap lately tend to not be white. That said, were they white, I'd have the same attitude about it so I don't see how race comes into it. Obviously, people shouldn't be excluded based on their race. BUT ideology might be fair game. I don't think being islamic should be enough to trigger a ban. But if you are then it is a risk factor. Sorry... it is. And that risk factor might trigger a deeper evaluation and that evaulation might find that a particular person is dangerous.

Regardless we can have two types of security. Internal security and external security.

I prefer the heavy handed stuff be kept external. Which means filtering visas more aggressively, securing the boarders, and dealing with foreign threats on foreign soil.

The alternative is that we turn the US into a police state with intelligence agencies scouring the nation looking for all the enemies the external filters didn't stop.

Choose. Its that or we just get bombed whenever they want. External security means I stay safe AND free.

Internal security means I MIGHT be safe but I lose my freedoms. Neither means I could easily lose both my freedoms and my security.

So... is there really more then one option here? Secure the border, be more careful with travel visas, and make a point of dealing with foreign threats on foreign soil.

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