Keith Alexander

Emails reveal Google executives’ creepy man crush on NSA official

Leading American tech firms were silent after the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs were exposed last summer. As more disclosures came out and their bottom lines were put at risk, these firms finally broke their silence and began urging President Obama and members of Congress to enact reforms to restore Americans civil liberties.

Google was among the tech firms that had been unusually silent about the NSA before joining a coalition of Silicon Valley-based giants to launch a campaign to end the controversial domestic spying programs.

Some speculated that the hesitance to criticize the NSA was due to fear of retribution. But emails obtained by al-Jazeera show that Google executives, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt, and former NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander had pretty cozy, almost BFF-style relationship:

On the morning of June 28, 2012, an email from Alexander invited Schmidt to attend a four-hour-long “classified threat briefing” on Aug. 8 at a “secure facility in proximity to the San Jose, CA airport.”

Today in Liberty: Obama’s approval rating tanks, Kerry deals with “apartheid” fallout

“Your mountains are breathtaking, your coffee is fair trade, and everywhere you go you hear the sound of f**king ukuleles. That’s all very charming until you waste tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money on a website that doesn’t work.”John Oliver on Oregon’s Obamacare website

— WaPo/ABC poll brings bad news for Obama: A new Washington Post/ABC News poll released this morning finds that President Obama’s approval rating has taken a nosedive. “The poll shows Obama’s approval rating is down to 41 percent, a point below its previous low of 42 percent, in November,” the Washington Post reports. “The president’s disapproval rating is at 52 percent, three points lower than the previous high. Six percent have no opinion on Obama.” #PANIC #DOOM

— Yeah, that Obamacare “boost” is gone: the WaPo/ABC News poll also found that the boost President Obama got from the Obamacare enrollment numbers is gone, just a couple weeks after he spiked the football at a White House press conference. “Following some rare good news about the law — including meeting its sign-ups goal despite a rough launch— 44 percent of voters approved of his handling of it. That number is now down to 37 percent, with 57 percent disapproving,” the paper explains. “Views of Obamacare overall have also dropped after a slight boost. While 49 percent approved of the law last month, 44 percent approve of it this month — the lowest that number has been since November. Forty-eight percent of Americans disapprove of the law.”

Today in Liberty: CPAC 2014 kicks off today, Crimea to hold secession referendum, NSA chief threatens press

“Sometimes you have to beat the Republicans before you beat the Democrats.” — Matt Kibbe

— Happy Anniversary, Rand Paul!: One year ago today, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made history in the Senate by with a 13-hour talking filibuster against John Brennan’s CIA nomination. Though it didn’t stop Brennan’s confirmation, it did raise awareness to the Obama administration’s drone strikes policy and, almost single-handedly, changed public opinion on the issue. You see our coverage of the filibuster here and here. You can also watch the filibuster, if you have 13 hours to spare, in full via C-SPAN.

Stand With Rand

— CPAC  2014 begins today: The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the largest annual gathering of conservatives, will begin this morning at 9 am with a speech from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Other speakers today include Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). C-SPAN will air part of today’s events, beginning at 12:40 pm. Politico has a list of things to watch for this weekend.

Report: NSA program had “no discernible impact” in preventing terrorist attacks

President Barack Obama and senior intelligence officials have insisted that the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program has prevented or foiled dozens of terrorist attacks. They, of course, wouldn’t provide many details about the nature of the attacks or whether the program was truly beneficial in thwarting terrorism.

Probably because it’s not true.

The New American Foundation released an analysis of 225 individuals who were investigated by federal law enforcement since 9/11. The analysis, first reported by the Washington Post, found that there is no evidence that bulk data collection program prevented acts of terrorism.

“Surveillance of American phone metadata has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism and only the most marginal of impacts on preventing terrorist-related activity, such as fundraising for a terrorist group,” noted the authors of the report — Peter Bergen, David Sterman, Emily Schneider, and Bailey Cahall.

“Furthermore,” they continued, “our examination of the role of the database of U.S. citizens’ telephone metadata in the single plot the government uses to justify the importance of the program – that of Basaaly Moalin, a San Diego cabdriver who in 2007 and 2008 provided $8,500 to al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia – calls into question the necessity of the Section 215 bulk collection program.”

NSA report undermines government claims of foiled terrorist attacks

Since the disclosures of the National Security Agency’s vast domestic surveillance programs became public knowledge, President Barack Obama and congressional supporters have repeatedly said that the bulk data collection of phone records is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks.

Intelligence officials have gone so far to claim that some 50 terror plots have been foiled because of the program. That number was repeated by President Obama. “Lives have been saved,” he insisted in June shortly after the initial disclosures by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The credibility of this claim was already significantly diminished in October, when NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander admitted in congressional testimony that he had inflated the number of purportedly foiled plots.

“These weren’t all plots, and they weren’t all foiled, would you agree with that, yes or no?” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked the NSA chief. “Yes,” said Alexander.

The claim has been even further undermined by the White House Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, the five-member panel that reviewed the programs and made a number recommendations to President Barack Obama that would reform the NSA and provide for more accountability and transparency.

NSA official: “I have some reforms for the First Amendment”

Daniel Drezner, contributing editor at Foreign Policy, recently paid a visit to the National Security Agency’s complex in Fort Meade, Maryland and chatted with various employees at the intelligence agency.

The article Drezner wrote about the visit, which was published earlier this week, presents a fairly sympathetic view of the NSA and its frustrated employees in light of the heavy public scrutiny due to its controversial domestic surveillance programs. But he recounted a conversation with one unnamed agency official that shows a very real, terrifying disconnect over the concerns with its spying (emphasis added):

The NSA’s attitude toward the press is, well, disturbing. There were repeated complaints about the ways in which recent reportage of the NSA was warped or lacking context. To be fair, this kind of griping is a staple of officials across the entire federal government. Some of the NSA folks went further, however. One official accused some media outlets of “intentionally misleading the American people,” which is a pretty serious accusation. This official also hoped that the Obama administration would crack down on these reporters, saying, “I have some reforms for the First Amendment.” I honestly do not know whether that last statement was a joke or not. Either way, it’s not funny.

Yeah, that’s not funny, whether it was meant as meant as a joke or not. But the sad thing is that these comments echo a sentiment expressed by NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander in government-sponsored propaganda.

Obama promises to restrain the NSA, continues to praise the agency’s tactics

President Obama took the time to address some concerns linked to the NSA’s spying programs on Thursday by proposing some “self-restraint on the NSA”, but all he seemed to accomplish was to sound somewhat inconsistent.

According to Obama, “the people at the NSA, generally, are looking out for the safety of the American people. They are not interested in reading your emails. They’re not interested in reading your text messages. And that’s not something that’s done.” Multiple reports however, appear to contradict what President Obama stated. Reading our text messages or going over our emails might not be the type of things “people at the NSA” should be doing, but that does not seem to keep them from taking part in them anyway.

Many critics have been accusing President Obama of being misleading at best by stating that “we’ve got a big system of checks and balances, including the courts and Congress, who have the capacity to prevent that [spying on text messages, emails] from happening.”

NSA chief wants to limit freedom of the press

Keith Alexander

Amid growing concerns from foreign governments of the NSA’s alleged spying and backlash domestically over the collection of innocent Americans phone and Internet data, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander wants to stop the press from reporting on the information provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden:

The head of the embattled National Security Agency, Gen. Keith Alexander, is accusing journalists of “selling” his agency’s documents and is calling for an end to the steady stream of public disclosures of secrets snatched by former contractor Edward Snowden.

“I think it’s wrong that that newspaper reporters have all these documents, the 50,000—whatever they have and are selling them and giving them out as if these—you know it just doesn’t make sense,” Alexander said in an interview with the Defense Department’s “Armed With Science” blog.

“We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don’t know how to do that. That’s more of the courts and the policymakers but, from my perspective, it’s wrong to allow this to go on,” the NSA director declared.

Alexander did not elaborate on what he meant by reporters “selling” documents or what options he might consider for halting the disclosures. An NSA spokeswoman declined to expand on the general’s comments.

NSA director to step down soon

NSA Director Keith Alexander

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander and his deputy, John Inglis, will step down in the next few months amid growing concerns and criticism over the intelligence agency’s surveillance programs, which have been used to collect data of Americans phone callsInternet recordsemails, and even their social media connections:

The director of the U.S. National Security Agency and his deputy are expected to depart in the coming months, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, in a development that could give President Barack Obama a chance to reshape the eavesdropping agency.

Army General Keith Alexander’s eight-year tenure was rocked this year by revelations contained in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the agency’s widespread scooping up of telephone, email and social-media data.
[…]
There has been no final decision on selecting Rogers to succeed Alexander, and other candidates may be considered, the officials said.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said Alexander planned to leave office in the spring after three extensions to his tenure, and the process for picking his successor was still under way.

Obama Administration lied about terror plots foiled by bulk data collection

NSA Director Keith Alexander

Shortly after the National Security Agency’s broad surveillance of Americans became public knowledge, the Obama Administration and intelligence officials quickly sought to mitigate the damage by telling the public that the collection of phone records helped foil more than 50 terrorist plots.

But during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander admitted that the Obama Administration lied to the public about the number of terrorist attacks that had been prevented by the snooping (emphasis added):

During Wednesday’s hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy pushed Alexander to admit that plot numbers had been fudged in a revealing interchange:

“There is no evidence that [bulk] phone records collection helped to thwart dozens or even several terrorist plots,” said Leahy. The Vermont Democrat then asked the NSA chief to admit that only 13 out of a previously cited 54 cases of foiled plots were genuinely the fruits of the government’s vast dragnet surveillance systems:

“These weren’t all plots, and they weren’t all foiled,” Leahy said, asking Alexander, “Would you agree with that, yes or no?”

“Yes,” replied Alexander.


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