NSA Chief Asks a Skeptical Crowd of Hackers to Help Agency Do Its Job

by , The Washington Post

Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, stood in front of a standing-room-only crowd Wednesday, selling the idea of government surveillance programs. He attempted to solicit the hacker community’s help in fulfilling his agency’s mission at the recent Black Hat conference, but was greeted by doubt and skepticism.

This is Black Hat, the annual hacker conference. For a few days every year, it takes center stage in the topsy-turvy worlds of cyberspace, network computing and digital security. The conference serves as a platform for hacking seminars, partying and — more and more — policy discussions about what the government and corporate worlds ought to be doing to confront problems like cyber-espionage and cyberattacks, growing threats with no clear-cut remedies.

Alexander’s participation seems to be part of the NSA’s efforts to better explain its operations and oversight to the public and deflect sharp criticism over its role in recently disclosed citizen surveillance programs. Alexander told conference attendees that they could help the NSA communicate the facts of the program to others, in particular agency employees’ agenda to hunt down and monitor terrorists and not regular Americans.

Alexander disputes assertions that NSA analysts regularly monitor ordinary citizens’ communications records, noting “we can audit the actions of our people, 100 percent, and we do that.” He also stresses that the system for collecting digital records from Internet companies is completely auditable.

Although Invincea founder Anup Ghosh says Alexander and NSA need the backing of the hacker community now more than ever, the chasm between the government’s claims about surveillance and lingering doubts about what is actually happening is “making distrust a bigger and bigger issue.”  Read the report

DCL: Anyone in our community who thought that Internet spying, by our government or by our commercial companies, was not going on should have their belief system examined by the NSA.

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