A video broadcast by Democracy Now! argues for some house cleaning at the intelligence agencies, starting at the top. The video shows National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander denying the existence of domestic surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden, the former employee of an NSA contractor.The Deputy Director of NSA admitted on Wednesday that the agency engages in bulk collection of domestic communications and told Congress the program played a key role in detecting only one terror plot. Previously, however, Director Alexander alleged to Congress that the wholesale collection of communications had been “crucial” to preventing dozens of terrorist attacks.
Six minutes into Amy Goodman’s videotaped interview of Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky), she shows a video clip of Alexander at last year’s Aspen security forum where a reporter asks him to comment on allegations that NSA was collecting information on all Americans, not just terrorism suspects.
PETE WILLIAMS: I want to ask you one other question about privacy, and this—read to you a statement from a former NSA employee named William Binney, who recently told a hackers’ conference that the NSA is putting together dossiers on every U.S. citizen, listing who we have relations with, what our activities are. Is there any truth to that? And why do stories like this persist, that you’re spying on all of us?
GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: Yeah, first of all, it’s not true. We aren’t putting dossiers up on every—every U.S. citizen. In fact, we don’t have a dossier on you. I’ve never seen one of your emails, from an intelligence perspective or otherwise, actually. So, from my perspective, these are grossly out of the truth. They really are. To think that we would be collecting on every U.S. person, one, that would be against the law. Two, we get great oversight by all branches of the government. You know, I must have been bad when I was a kid. We get supervised by the Defense Department—I’m—not just the general counsel; by the DNI, their general counsel—so they see everything that we do; by the Justice Department; by the White House; by Congress, SSCI and HPSCI; and by the court. So all branches of government can see that what we’re doing is correct.
And so, my concern is that false statements like these seem to persist. And you see those bounce around. And it only hurts, because people think, “Well, they must have something there. There must be some element of truth there.” And from my perspective, when you walk all the way through this, the reality is Congress knows we’re not doing that, all branches of our government see that we’re not doing it. And all of them can audit it. So, from my perspective, it’s—you know, one of the—I would add that to Bill McRaven’s: Not only should we stop leaks, but we should stop reporting this, not—it’s clearly not right. [Democracy Now!]
In the 20th century, a dossier was a single file with compiled information about a person. Today, a dossier is an electronic report compiled instantaneously from information stored in a database. Alexander may have convinced himself that using an outmoded definition of “dossier” was not lying. But, he knowingly hid the fact that the NSA was collecting all of the elements of a dossier–the phone calls, chats, emails, and Facebook messages of millions of Americans with no ties to terrorism, no foreign contacts, and no criminal history. His claim that Congress knew what NSA was doing has been contradicted by members of Congress. Having given false assurances about both the scope of oversight and surveillance (which he admits is illegal), Alexander outrageously tells the reporter he should stop reporting on the disclosures of government wrongdoing.
The Obama administration has issued a worldwide terrorism alert, reviving a tactic used by the Bush administration to stampede Americans into acquiescing to expanded government powers. But, Americans have become a little wiser as a result of Snowden’s courageous whistle blowing (and he IS a whistleblower no matter what the White House and its camp-followers say). A recent poll found that Americans today fear surveillance abuses more than terrorist groups.
Whistleblowers and their advocates have warned for years that national security whistleblowing is vital to protecting the freedoms cherished by all. But, Congress has repeatedly failed to pass legislation to protect whistleblowers with security clearances from retaliation. Snowden’s situation demonstrates how desperately that protection is needed, but what was the U.S. Senate’s response? Passing a resolution for a National Whistleblower Appreciation Day that provides no substantive benefits or protections for whistleblowers. That is cold comfort, whistleblowers say, for truth-tellers like John Kiriakou and Bradley Manning who have been imprisoned for reporting government abuses. If the senators expected resolution S.Res.202 to provide political cover, they are probably in for some disappointment.
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