The consensus appears to be that General Keith Alexander is highly intelligent, extremely capable, and likeable. Despite these things the power vested in the man is disturbing. It’s even more disturbing that most of what he engages in, and the budget he has at his disposal is secret. We have a sense of what is going on at the NSA but we don’t really know the full power of the agency. Many people in government who probably should likely don’t know either.
Alexander has pioneered the NSA’s efforts since 2005 and is the driving force behind the massive collection of “metadata” from private companies.
He says however that the American people should trust him and his secret agency.
Alexander’s argument is that though the NSA gathers up everything, we shouldn’t worry because the NSA only dips into this pool of data if it suspects terrorist activity.
That’s reassuring. Time has shown us over and over that government programs only expand. General Alexander may not be interested in what I have to say online, but someone down the road just might be. Programs which people think are a good idea initially always turn into bureaucratic juggernauts which roll over the rights of citizens.
Mission creep happens, pretty much without exception. In the case of the NSA this mission creep is happening in the shadows, and that isn’t good.
(From The Washington Post)
Alexander also pushed hard for expanded authority to see into U.S. private sector networks to help defend them against foreign cyberattacks.
Quiet concerns also have been voiced by some of the private companies that would potentially benefit from government protection against cyberattack.
At a private meeting with financial industry officials a few years ago, Alexander spoke about the proliferation of computer malware aimed at siphoning data from networks, including those of banks. The meeting was described by a participant who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussion was off the record.
His proposed solution: Private companies should give the government access to their networks so it could screen out the harmful software. The NSA chief was offering to serve as an all-knowing virus-protection service, but at the cost, industry officials felt, of an unprecedented intrusion into the financial institutions’ databases.