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An Interesting LA Times Piece on the Legacy of NSA Leader Gen. Keith Alexander

“Once-fruitful tactics have become all but useless”
US News • Views: 15,903

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Here’s a good piece by LA Times reporter Ken Dilanian on NSA leader Gen. Keith Alexander, and the vast expansion of NSA digital surveillance over which he presided: NSA Chief’s Legacy Is Shaped by Big Data, for Better and Worse.

The overhaul, which Alexander ordered shortly after taking leadership of the agency in August 2005, enabled U.S. ground commanders to find out when an insurgent leader had turned on his cellphone, where he was and whom he was calling.

“Absolutely invaluable,” retired Gen. David H. Petraeus, the former U.S. commander in Iraq, said in an interview as he described the NSA’s efforts, which led to the dismantling of networks devoted to burying roadside bombs.

Alexander “sped the place up,” Inglis said.

But something else seems likely to shape the legacy of the NSA’s longest-serving director, who retired Friday: something that Alexander failed to anticipate, did not prepare for and even now has trouble understanding.

An especially interesting note: the NSA’s spokespeople, after years of living in an insular culture protected from view, were clearly unprepared for the radical misrepresentations of Glenn Greenwald and his cronies and were too slow to make their case.

When Snowden’s disclosures began, Alexander and his deputies knew they were in for a storm. But they felt sure the American public would be comforted when they learned of the agency’s internal controls and the layers of oversight by Congress, the White House and a federal court.

“For the first week or so, we all had this idea that we had nothing to be ashamed of, and that everyone who looked at this in context would quickly agree with us,” [NSA top civilian official John “Chris”] Inglis said.

Instead, polls show, many Americans believe that the NSA is reading their emails and listening to their phone calls. A libertarian group put an advertisement in the Washington transit system calling Alexander, a 62-year-old career military officer, a liar. U.S. technology companies are crying betrayal.

The axis of Greenwald constantly denies there’s even a possibility that leaking these secret documents will cause harm to US national security, but the people who actually deal with these issues have a very different opinion:

…Eventually, in five or 10 years, the United States will recover from the Snowden affair, Alexander said. But for now, once-fruitful tactics have become all but useless.

Sophisticated adversaries already knew a lot about U.S. capabilities, of course. But often, “the reason that we’re successful is because people are lazy. They don’t do what they’re supposed to do,” said retired Lt. Gen. Richard Zahner, a former senior NSA official.
Now, Russian ground commanders and Al Qaeda cell leaders are on notice that the NSA is nearly everywhere.

Alexander leaves office not knowing how deep the damage will go. It’s a frustrating situation for a man who made his mark acquiring more information than anyone before him. Officials believe Snowden accessed as many as 1.7 million documents, but Alexander said investigators don’t know how many of those he actually took, nor what he’s passed to others.

“What the reporters have, what the Russians have, what the Chinese have” all remain questions, he said. “We don’t know for sure on a lot of those things.”

Read the whole thing for more details; meanwhile, this article has predictably sent the Mighty Glenn Greenwald into a rage. All morning he’s been tweeting insults at Ken Dilanian.

(He retweeted the next two insulting comments from his sycophants…)

In response, Ken Dilanian had a single comment about this barrage of abuse:

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