NSA Director to Bloomberg TV: NSA never infiltrated Google or Yahoo servers
Bloomberg Television’s Trish Regan interviewed NSA Director Keith Alexander today at Bloomberg Government’s “Cybersecurity: Costs and Solutions” conference in Washington D.C.
In response to a Washington Post report that claimed the agency has secretly tapped into main communication links that connect data centers internationally, Director Alexander said, NSA infiltration of servers “never happened,”
The director went on to call the report “spurious,” and insisted that the NSA does “not have access to Google servers, Yahoo servers,” and that ‘‘those companies work with us, they are compelled to work with us.” Director Alexander also said, the “NSA does collect information on terrorists and our national intelligence priorities, but we are not authorized to go into a U.S. company’s servers and take data”
source: Bloomberg Television
The second that we all face is vulnerabilities in much of our infrastructure, software vulnerabilities that allows those with bad intentions to get into the network, and once you’re in the network to do things. If you think about what happened to Saudi Aramco, someone got into their networks and brought what we call a pay load or a piece of destructive malware or a series of destructive malware that went into parts of their network and destroyed the data on that network.
ALEXANDER: No. There was – and there’s some great articles by some of the judges on this Judge Walton did recently. So you can look that up. The facts are – I know what everybody says, but you go look at the facts. In this area here, it’s harder than it is in a Title III warrant, a criminal case. So think about that. This was mentioned yesterday by the deputy attorney general in the hearing. And they said we are doing – making this harder for us to go after terrorist information than we do some of our own criminals. Does that make sense? That’s the way we’ve set up this framework. REGAN: A lot of Americans worry that it’s too easy to get a court order. Is it?
REGAN: Still not everyone agrees. I’ll cite Representative Sensenbrenner, who’s introducing legislation to end bulk collection of data such as what we’re talking about here. And he’s actually the very congressman who wrote the section of the Patriot Act that has been used to justify the NSA’s broad surveillance activities. Even he’s saying that it’s been misinterpreted. Do you think that the NSA’s program really stands on strong legal footing? And that’s to ensure you that we’re doing our part right. And so I believe if we could lay everything out, here becomes the issue. If we were to have all the terrorists in the room please leave for a minute, we could put this data out and get everybody everything that we know. The issue is not only are you listening, but they’re listening to. And they learn from this. We have seen them make changes. What this means is that the probability of successful terrorist attack has increased. That’s the irreversible substantial damage to this nation. That’s what causes us great concern.
ALEXANDER: Well, it stands on strong legal footing. The issue is what will the policymakers in Congress authorize in the future? That’s a decision that they have to make. My job is to explain the gap, the threat and the risks. Their job is to legislate knowing those gaps (inaudible) we will follow the rules and the laws and the policies as given to us. But you and the rest of the people need to know that there’s a gap. We want you to know.
So I think the question is there’s a risk. This will be a congressional debate. We’ll follow whatever it is. My job is to articulate those risks, Congress to legislate and the executive branch to weigh in. And this is where it needs to be transparent to the American people. Why – why have – why do we do it that way? That’s the way our process works. We’ll follow it. ALEXANDER: Well, it means we stop that part and it means there’s a gap. We’ll do the best we can. But the ability to see what’s inside and going on and us to provide that is – doesn’t exist there. We’d have to come up with a workaround, and those are very hard. We haven’t been able to come up with one. So that puts – do you remember the Midar (ph) San Diego 9/11? So Midar was in San Diego but we didn’t have a database that would allow us to see that he was actually in San Diego and part of the – of that call chain. He was one of the people on American Airlines flight ‘77 that crashed into the Pentagon. So how do we fix that?
REGAN: Let me – let me ask you about something that – that people are very curious about right now, and that’s the question of how does this all happen. In other words, if you’re collecting data on world leaders, how much does the president know? When does he know it? President Obama said he did not know that the NSA was eavesdropping on Merkel and other world leaders. Who’s actually deciding here who we should target? ALEXANDER: Well, it affects everybody. But I think there are good people working hard trying to make this country work. And we have some significant problems with our debt and other things. And how you solve that, that’s a big issue. That goes outside my area of expertise. Bloomberg’s got (inaudible).
ALEXANDER: So the national intelligence priority framework actually is the one that sets all that up. And again, I defer to the discussion that Jim Clapper put out yesterday because I thought that was an excellent overview of how that whole process works. So I’d just urge you to go to that.
ALEXANDER: I’m concerned that we give information out that impacts our ability to stop terrorist attacks. That’s what most of these programs are aimed to do. I think everything that we’ve done, we’ve put out there – I believe if you look at this and you go back through everything, none of this shows that NSA is doing something illegal or that it’s not been asked to do. And in all those cases, so it’s legal, it’s necessary, and it’s authorized in every case. If people say well I didn’t – in the press or the American people say, well I didn’t realize A, B and C, Congress, the courts, the executive branch all briefed on all those things. So from my perspective — REGAN: What do you anticipate in terms of further revelations from Edward Snowden? Here we were just moments ago and there was another report. We can probably assume that there are going to be many more over the coming weeks. What are you most concerned about there?
REGAN: So are you saying that they were briefed on (inaudible) for world leaders?
REGAN: You think a chance of a terror attack because of these – So from where I sit, I’m concerned that we will do things that continue to impact our nation’s security. That’s the key. And what that means is the chance of a terrorist act getting through has increased. And that’s wrong. ALEXANDER: No. I’m saying the business record FISA, FAA 702 and all this. What I’m talking about there is on these programs, we all came together as a country. And this is – I think from my perspective, that’s on the table. Some of that was done with the foreign intelligence surveillance court for a reason, a classified court. Because as we mentioned, if we bring it out to everybody in the room, then the terrorists will know how (inaudible). That’s not in our nation’s interest.
REGAN: You’ll be retiring from your position this spring. The timing of that, was that in any way linked to the Snowden revelation?
REGAN: Before I let you go, if you could just tell us, what do you tell Americans who are worried that the NSA is reading their emails or listening to their cell phones or seeing who they text? What do you tell the average person out there? ALEXANDER: The biggest challenge? Hopefully we’ll have addressed the issues that we’re currently facing and move forward with our partners, industries and allies. And so there’s will be building that new future, how we do that for the good of our nation and our allies. And we need to move beyond the media leaks. My job is to help us do that.
ALEXANDER: So that’s not true. We’re not doing that. And if we – and for one, and it would be the FBI that would go under a court order. So you need a court order to get the content of a communications, whether it’s email or phone. And for NSA, our job is foreign intelligence. So the fact that people say we’re listening to phone calls or reading emails, I see all the cartoons out there. But the reality is it’s factually incorrect. That’s not our mission. Our mission is to know what’s going on outside the country and tell you about the threats that are coming into it.