NSA Chief's Attitude: Forget Needle, Collect Haystack
WaPo profiles chief Keith Alexander, finds origins of strategy in Iraq
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 15, 2013 11:39 AM CDT
NSA chief Gen. Keith B. Alexander testifies on Capitol Hill.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(Newser) – Those looking to track the origins of the NSA's sweeping surveillance programs would do well to check out a 2005 program in Iraq called the Real Time Regional Gateway. As the Washington Post explains, it was put into place by NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander to collect data on every Iraqi text, phone call, and email it could access in a bid to curb roadside attacks on US troops. "Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, his approach was, 'Let’s collect the whole haystack,'" says one former intel official. "Collect it all, tag it, store it. ... And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it." Sound familiar?

The larger story profiles Alexander and depicts him as a brilliant (he has three master's, in electronic warfare, physics, and national security strategy) and aggressive advocate of using every technological and cyber-tool available to ward off US enemies. It includes quotes from his supporters who say it's for the greater good—for example, attacks on US troops did decline in Iraq after the RTRG program began—and from critics who say he's trampling on privacy. It also ends with a telling anecdote about his mindset: A few years ago, he met with bigwigs in the financial industry to warn them of cyber-attacks from abroad. His solution? Give the NSA full access to their sites to better protect them. As the Post tells it: "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." They politely declined. Click for the full story.

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Showing 3 of 17 comments
Honestinwilkesbarre
Jul 17, 2013 8:36 AM CDT
The biggest enemy any American who wishes to remain free is those who claim to be looking out for them. If you here any of these terms used, "For your own good.", "For your protection." or "National Security", RUN (don't walk) far, FAR from those using them.
LoginsSuck
Jul 15, 2013 1:19 PM CDT
Well let's just stop requiring warrants to be specific about what the police/government are searching for. Just let them put on the warrant "looking for evidence of bad" and then they can just search anyone they want anytime, anywhere and find all the bad guys. Why bother making them investigate, have probable cause and state what evidence they think you might be hiding. Let them have free reign over everyone's lives. After all if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about right?
Observer
Jul 15, 2013 12:59 PM CDT
This guy is no patriot. He is a dangerous threat to American Freedom with no regard for rule of law. I am sure he put the tools in place to intercept all the financial giants' voice, email and data as well. The NSA respects no moral or ethical bounds. They are much worse than the Gestapo. They monitor the entire world. It is sick and an enemy of the people. Who is watching the watchers? Pull the plugs on these secret police animals.