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Former NSA director: Having notice collection suggested puts U.S. in larger harm

Former NSA director: Having notice collection suggested puts U.S. in larger harm


JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to a tighten demeanour during a U.S. government’s notice programs.

It’s a theme of tonight’s “Frontline” on PBS, a initial of a two-part array patrician “The United States of Secrets.” Their stating focuses on inside accounts of a argumentative espionage operations put in place after a attacks of Sep 11, 2001.

Here, we will see former National Security Agency employees dependent with a module called ThinThread, a apparatus that could constraint and arrange large amounts of phone and e-mail data, though had an encryption duty to strengthen a remoteness of particular Americans. They and others report a impulse they found out that a record was being used though a remoteness protection.

NARRATOR: It didn’t take prolonged for clues to emerge that something many bigger was going on.

WILLIAM BINNEY, Former National Security Agency Technical Director: They started observant stacks of servers piled in corners and so forth.

So we had to travel proceed around all this hardware that was pier adult out there. And so we knew, we know, something was happening.

JAMES BAMFORD, Author, “The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA From 9/11 to a Eavesdropping on America”: All of a sudden, people who routinely would promulgate with any other were gripping tip this new operation of some sort.

NARRATOR: Dozens of NSA employees were sworn to secrecy, though before long, sum were leaked to Drake.

THOMAS DRAKE, Former National Security Agency Senior Executive: we had people entrance to me with grave concerns of, what are we doing, Tom? we suspicion we’re ostensible to have a warrant. I’m being destined to muster what’s routinely unfamiliar intelligence, outward-facing equipment, I’m being now destined to place it on inner networks.

NARRATOR: At a same time, Bill Binney and a ThinThread organisation listened that a module was regulating ThinThread, though stripping out a remoteness protections.

JANE MAYER, “The New Yorker”: What they’re conference is that a module they designed is in some form being put into use, though though a protections that they had designed in.

WILLIAM BINNEY: What they did was they got absolved of a territory of a formula that encrypted any of a attributes of U.S. citizens.

NARRATOR: Even Ed Loomis, who had wanted a some-more strong approach, was astounded during how distant a organisation was peaceful to go.

ED LOOMIS, National Security Agency Cryptologist: we usually refused to believe, after all we had been by for 37 years, that all of a remarkable things would change and they’d go behind to a aged ways, behind to a early ’70s.

I didn’t trust that they could presumably have usually flip-flopped and left 180 degrees a other way. we usually didn’t trust it.

NARRATOR: To a ThinThread team, collecting information though a aver seemed like a approach defilement of a manners they had followed for years.

J. KIRK WIEBE, National Security Agency Senior Analyst: All these years, carrying grown adult we never view on Americans, we had unexpected spin criminals by association. The organisation had left down a trail that we had been preached to we never do. We were very, very, unequivocally concerned.

NARRATOR: And a fact that their ThinThread complement had been incorporated into a module was a final straw.

WILLIAM BINNEY: We said, we can’t hang around and be a celebration to this. This — we can’t be an appendage to all these crimes, so we have to get out.

NARRATOR: At a finish of Oct 2001, Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe and Ed Loomis all sensitively retired.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The film goes on to explain a government’s motive for a new argumentative programs during a Bush and Obama administrations. And it looks during a vital revelations by former supervision NSA executive Edward Snowden.

And that’s where we collect adult tonight’s newsmaker interview.

General Keith Alexander was a executive of a NSA from 2005 until he late during a finish of Mar this year. He also headed a U.S. Cyber Command.

And acquire to a NewsHour.

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER (RET.), Former Director, National Security Agency: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, given all a news, all a stories that have been out there over a final year given a Snowden revelations, we cruise there are some people out there examination who cruise a NSA contingency collect whatever it wants to on anybody it wants to during any time. What do we wish a American people to know about what a NSA does?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: Well, we cruise we move out a good point. First, they have to have a facts, given a contribution are mostly improper that’s being put out there, that a NSA would be collecting all a U.S. persons’ information, a calm of their e-mails and their phone calls.

I cruise this is where a courts unequivocally play a pivotal part, and what a judges have found and what they have asked us to do and authorised us to do indeed comports with a Constitution. When we make a mistake, they scold it.

I cruise a pivotal thing that we see in a lot of these discussions and a ones that we usually saw is people looking during things and jumping to conclusions they’re collecting everything, they’re doing all this, when a programs, a 215 and a 702, are tailored to residence problems that were found after 9/11.

If we remember where a republic was after 9/11 and what we now have to pitch to do, and it brought in all 3 branches of a government, Congress, a courts and a administration.

JUDY WOODRUFF: To pointer off on…

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: Well, to pointer off, though also to manage that we’re doing it right.

And we know that a examination groups that have looked during this, in each case, they found that NSA is doing it accurately right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, though removing into a numbers, General Alexander, of these opposite programs, usually to demeanour during that mention that we watched, we had 3 longtime veterans of a NSA who unexpected satisfied that American adults were being tracked, that their data, their phone calls were being tracked.

And we listened them say, this disregarded all they had ever famous to be a manners during a NSA. Weren’t they right to be dumbfounded about that?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: Well, this happened 5 years before we got there, that part.


GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: But let me tell you, my time there, and we know General Mike Hayden as well, we have not seen people doing what they are observant that they’re doing.

So we don’t see that, and each examination organisation that’s looked during it has not seen that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But we know what’s been going on during a agency.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Basically, they were observant a encryption went divided and it was afterwards probable to listen in and not usually collect, though listen in on information about American adults and their phone calls.

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: So, let’s — let’s excavate into that.

It’s metadata on a 215 program. It has zero to do with…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Without regulating a word 215.

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: OK, so a metadata module usually has a dual phone numbers, a generation and a date, time organisation of a call. You can encrypt it, though there’s no other U.S. persons’ information other than their number, and NSA doesn’t know whose series that is.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, for a people out — again, there’s this — it seems to me, we speak to people in a organisation and out, there’s this elemental sequence between those who contend what’s going on is what we usually described, this non-personal brush of collection, collection of meta — ostensible metadata.


JUDY WOODRUFF: And on a other hand, those who say, yes, they do that, and they listen, they have a ability to listen in on a essence of phone conversations.

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: So, we move out a good point. You can see where a difficulty immediately arises.

They have a ability or they could be doing this, though what each examination group, Congress and a courts, have found out is, they’re not doing it. And if they do, we reason them accountable. The 12 cases are a good box in point.

So, it’s critical that we step behind and say, given do we have these programs or given is NSA involved? Look during this. The Church-Pike elect in a ’70s pronounced we don’t wish NSA collecting inside a United States, and, actually, we don’t wish NSA collecting.

So given is NSA involved? And when we demeanour during it, NSA’s imagination is overseas, unfamiliar comprehension targets, terrorists. And that’s what we found in 9/11 is what we knew abroad wasn’t connected to a dot that FBI had. So it has zero to do with us going after a calm of U.S. persons. And we unequivocally cruise that’s a partial we have got to assistance a American people understand.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, can we flatly announce that Americans’ phone calls are never listened to unless there’s been a justice order?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: Not in accurately those words.

And we don’t wish to be — we don’t wish to travel divided from this, given we do cruise this is an critical point. So, NSA goes after a unfamiliar target. And given people prevaricate is, if a unfamiliar aim is articulate to a U.S. person, afterwards it’s going to be covered.

And what we don’t wish to do is say, well, OK, we didn’t meant that one. And so, as shortly as we contend that, people say, oh, though we lied. So what we wish to contend is, underneath FISA, NSA is not certified to aim a calm of U.S. persons’ e-mail or phone, period.

Now, we are certified to go after other targets, and there will be things like immaterial collection, and a courts say, if we do that, here’s a routine and procedures we contingency approve with, and we will check it, and they do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re observant those procedures are always followed?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: I trust they are always followed.

Now, people make mistakes. If they make a mistake, we reason them accountable. We retrain them. Now — go ahead.

JUDY WOODRUFF: No, we was usually going to — given we wish to spin to a integrate of other questions that are out there.

President Obama, when he ran for president, among other things, he pledged, in so many words, no some-more bootleg wiretapping, no some-more what he called inhabitant confidence letters that would concede espionage on adults not suspected of a crime.

Were we astounded that once he got in bureau — and we were in bureau underneath President Bush and underneath President Obama — that President Obama was prepared to accept some of these things that he had pronounced he wouldn’t?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: Well, we didn’t lane a choosing as tighten — we was indeed looking overseas, as we would wish me to.

But we indeed sat down with him in a organisation in a White House Sit Room not prolonged after he came in to examination these programs. We’d had some correspondence issues. We’d worked by a justice how we were going to repair those. We had a possibility to lay down with him.

Here’s where we saw it on both presidents. Their Article 2 management to urge this republic is paramount. And what we contend were good people, both sides, doing their pursuit to strengthen a republic and a allies. And President Obama is a improved counsel than me, inherent law, saw that what a courts and a Congress was doing and what we were doing is accurately right.

Now, he did say, OK, how are we going to residence these correspondence issues in a future? How do we work that with a court? We set adult improved procedures that were some-more technical. We worked with Congress. It was a prolonged 6 months, not given of him, though given of things we indispensable to fix.

So when we demeanour during that, what it tells me is, there’s a lot some-more going on here than a American people get insights to, and it has zero to do with us listening to U.S. persons or usually trolling by U.S. persons’ data.

Our pursuit — demeanour during a militant attacks from 2012 to 2013, we saw some of that data. The series of people killed rose from 11,000 in 2012 to over 20,000 in 2013. Now, given is it that we and Europe have been so secure? And it’s these collection that assistance you. So, this is an emanate that we, we and others, are going to have to assistance us face. How do we do this?

JUDY WOODRUFF: And many people listen to that and they say, well, that — can we give us an example?


JUDY WOODRUFF: Can we give us an instance of a militant occurrence that was prevented given of this kind of work?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: Absolutely, 2009, Najibullah Zazi.

It wasn’t for them a 702 — we know we don’t wish me to use numbers, though a PRISM program, or a one that allows us to indeed lane bad guys who could be communicating with people in a U.S., went in foreign, we’re tracking a bad guy, though now they are going to speak to somebody in a U.S. and speak about bombs. That was found by this program.

It would not, was not found any other way. That box is out there. And afterwards a other module came in and helped when a FBI said, this is his phone number. It gave us even larger legs.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Something else that got a lot of attention, General…

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: Well, usually one thing on that, given that was a New York City transport bomb.

That’s a one that people pronounced would have been a biggest conflict on a dirt given 2001, 9/11. And if we didn’t have that program, we trust we wouldn’t have stopped it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Something else that got a lot of courtesy was, of course, a — when it became known, by Edward Snowden’s revelations, that a U.S. was espionage on other heads of state, including German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Did President Obama know about this procedure, a fact that other heads of state, including Chancellor Merkel, were being spied on, listened to?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: Well, we don’t know what President Obama knows and doesn’t know.

I do know that there’s a inhabitant comprehension priority horizon that lays out what we’re ostensible to do and how we do it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So that would explain it?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: That would explain it.

It wouldn’t indispensably go by all this. we do know that he’s given out guidance. And we cruise a proceed he looks during this — I’m giving my sense — is that he pronounced — and he pronounced this publicly in his 17 Jan debate — in traffic with a allies, we will ask them. we won’t need comprehension support.

That’s a process decision, and we cruise that that’s I’m comfortable, he’s gentle with it. He’s removing a information he needs. That’s great. We have other things that we should go on and do, like terrorism, and cyber and other things.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask we about Edward Snowden.

You have argued time and again that he’s finished good repairs to U.S. inhabitant security. How do we quantify that?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: Well, it goes behind to that militant numbers that we gave you.

Here’s what we see. Terrorists and others are adjusting how they operate. We have been unequivocally good given we have good tools, good people in a troops and a comprehension village assisting to urge this republic and in law enforcement.

When we take those collection away, it’s equivalent to a “Wheel of Fortune,” when we can theory vowels and stuff. And, all of a sudden, they say, well, we can’t theory A and O anymore. You can’t theory some of these, though we have to figure out a puzzle.

And what we’re doing is, we’re holding divided some of a collection that a comprehension analysts use to stop militant attacks. And we believe, given a fact that militant attacks are augmenting and that a collection are being publicly revealed, that we put a republic and a allies in larger harm, and we trust that’s given we have pronounced people are going to compensate for this with their lives.

And that’s what caused me concern. So, that unequivocally gets us to, where do we need to be going?  You don’t wish me meditative about Snowden. You wish me and a rest of NSA — now, we know I’m late — though we wish them saying, OK, what’s a subsequent step?


GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: What can we do to strengthen a nation?

We will follow a laws. You tell us what collection we can use, we will tell we what gaps there are. But that’s what a republic unequivocally needs us to demeanour at, a future.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And what do we worry a many about now? we know Congress is looking during laws. There’s no denote they’re going to do anything, they’re going to pass a law, though they are looking during laws that would shorten some of what a NSA is doing.

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: Well, that’s a Constitution. You wish a Congress, a courts and a administration.

What a pursuit would be to say, here’s what we can do, and don’t be surprised, if we take divided tools, that these forms of things — and so here is where this has got to get formed on facts. And it’s not today. You have already brought that out.

And that is, if a American people trust that NSA is espionage on them, when we are entirely employed going out after bad guys, afterwards we have got this in a wrong place. We have led them to a wrong place, given that’s factually not what’s going on.

And it’s interesting. Look during a Geoff Stone article. He was on a house of a ACLU. He’s on a president’s examination group. He said, as did Judge Pauley, NSA is doing what we have asked them to do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: These are some articles that have appeared.

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: That’s right. That’s right.

And so, from my perspective, here’s a box that we’re going to have. You will be here in a few months and somebody will say, how did we let this go through? And a answer is given we mislaid some of those tools. And so this is a time where we trust a politicians need to step behind and delicately cruise how we strengthen a republic and a polite liberties and privacy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re disturbed that might not be happening?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: Well, I’m disturbed that people burst too quickly, rush to a conclusion, instead of station behind and saying, what’s good for this country? we was during NSA eight-and-a-half years.

I never saw anyone perplexing to do something opposite a polite liabilities and privacy. And if we did do that, we punished them. And that was a 12. Think of that, in eight-plus years, 12 people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: General Keith Alexander, former executive of a National Security Agency, appreciate we for articulate with us.

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: Thank you. Thank we for a time.

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