Tag Archive: Keith Alexander

Sep 26 2013

The First Thing We Do, Fire All the Liars

In Shakespeare’s “Henry VI,” the character Dick the Butcher, a follower of the rebel Jack Cade, uttered the words, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” If taken in the context of the play, the line, intended as a comedic aside, was actually a compliment to those lawyers who upheld the laws and protected society. Those words have taken on different meaning over the years and are now often used in reference to those lawyers who have twisted the laws to protect the corrupt and dishonest and, often as not, defend illegal wars and torture, as well as, circumvent the US Constitution. It has often been rephrased, as the title of this article, to fit a narrative, as in the case of “reforming” the NSA, “the first thing we do, is fire all the liars.

Leading First Amendment lawyer, James Goodale, is the former general council to the New York Times and was the driving force behind the NYT‘s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971. He was instrumental in the winning strategy that resulted in the 6 – 3 Supreme Court ruling that the US government could not stop the Times from publishing the documents. In his opinion piece at The Guardian on the proposed reforming of the NSA, Prof. Goodale noted that President Barack Obama’s first concern should be to fire all the liars, starting with the Director of National Intelligence, James R Clapper and  General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, among others who have both blatantly lied to Congress.

NSA lawyers lied to secret Fisa court Judges John D Bates and Reggie B Walton. In recently released opinions, Bates said he had been lied to on three separate occasions and Walton said he had been lied to several times also.

But Clapper and Alexander have not been held in contempt of Congress. Nor have the Justice Department attorneys, who lied to Judges Walton and Bates, been disciplined. Part of the answer as to why this is so came out last week.

The Justice Department told USA Today that it had no intention of investigating the attorneys who lied to those judges. In the ordinary course, the Justice Department’s office of professional responsibility investigates the behavior of lawyers who have been subject to accusations such as those made by Judges Bates and Walton.

(emphasis mine)

You read that correctly, the Obama DOJ has no intention of investigating the attorneys who lied to Judges Bates and Walton

The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility routinely probes judges’ allegations that the department’s lawyers may have violated ethics rules that prohibit attorneys from misleading courts. Still, OPR said in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by USA TODAY that it had no record of ever having investigated – or even being made aware of – the scathing and, at the time, classified, critiques from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court between 2009 and 2011.

Prof. Goodall also calls Pres. Obama’s statement in his August 9, 2013 address on the NSA that he would appoint experts to examine NSA practices, “reasonable” but points out that it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere:

Robert Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and an attendee, told the Guardian the he “did not hear much discussion” of changes to the bulk surveillance activities.

“My fear is it’s a simulacrum of meaningful reform,” said Sascha Meinrath, a vice president of the New America Foundation, an influential Washington think tank, and the director of the Open Technology Institute, who also attended. “Its function is to bleed off pressure, without getting to the meaningful reform.”

It’s pretty predictable that there will be no meaningful reform coming from a committee comprised of intelligence insiders, former White House officials and Obama advisers.

Michael Morell, a former deputy CIA director, is a member, as is Richard Clarke, a White House counter-terrorism aide to three presidents. Cass Sunstein, a former White House regulatory staffer who is married to the new US ambassador to the United Nations; Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor; and Peter Swire, a Georgia Tech professor and former aide to Obama and Bill Clinton, round out the panel.

Over at emptywheel, Marcy Wheeler pointed out a detail that Prof. Goodale missed:

In just its third open hearing this year, the Senate Intelligence Committee has arranged the following witnesses for tomorrow’s hearing on NSA’s spying.

   Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) today announced the committee will hold an open hearing to consider legislative changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to include the NSA call records program, on Thursday, September 26, at 2 p.m.

   WHAT:  Public hearing on FISA, NSA call records

   WHO:

   Panel I

       Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

       National Security AgencyDirector General Keith Alexander

       Deputy Attorney General James Cole

   Panel II

       Ben Wittes, Brookings Institution

       Tim Edgar, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University

So DiFi’s idea of an “open hearing” is to invite two established liars. And for her non-governmental witnesses, one keeps declaring Congress NAKED! in the face of evidence the government lies to them, and the other tells fanciful stories about how much data NSA shares.

It’s like DiFi goes out of her way to find liars and their apologists to testify publicly. [..]

It’s DiFi’s committee. And if she wants every single open hearing to serve as a platform for accomplished liars, I guess that’s her prerogative.

But observers should be clear that’s the purpose of the hearings.

As Prof Goodale concludes, the culture of lying to the public and courts by the US intelligence community is nothing new but it lies with President Obama to force the NSA to change. The best place for that change would be to fire the liars, Clapper and Alexander. So far, it appears the president is not much interested in that solution.

Jul 25 2013

The NSA – Hiding a Shadow Government Behind a Haystack, “To Keep Us Safe”

obama stasiThe enormous service that a certain whistleblower has provided to Americans and the world at large, is becoming clear even in the face of shrill cries of “traitor” and histrionic accusations of “aiding the enemy.”

That certain whistleblower (who will not be named, in hopes of avoiding comments about personalities rather than revelations) has shone a light on a shadow government, a set of parallel institutions that operate without democratic controls.  It is a government-corporate warren of institutions that uses secrecy and the application of large amounts of cash to avoid democratic control by the people and has allied with corporate chieftains and hijacked large corporations, defying the “discipline of the market” and the democratic controls of shareholders and chartering states.

Some portion of these institutions have been described before; Dana Priest and William Arkin did ground-breaking work scouring the public record and describing the size and shape of the leviathan entity:

These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

The investigation’s other findings include:

* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.

* Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.

* Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year – a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.

James Bamford did remarkable work describing the capabilities of some of these institutions and previous whistleblowers like William Binney and Thomas Drake have described what some of these institutions do.  Binney and Drake, however, did not have documentary proof, the gold standard of credibility, which changes discussions marred with accusations of “conspiracy theories” to discussions about conspiracy reality:  

One of the arguments about [redacted] that I’ve occasionally gotten caught up in is: What difference has he made? Has he really told us very much we didn’t know before?

In a broad sense, you can argue that he hasn’t. We knew (or certainly suspected) that NSA was collecting enormous streams of telephone metadata. We knew they were issuing subpoenas for data from companies like Google and Microsoft. We knew that Section 702 warrants were very broad. We knew that domestic data sometimes got inadvertently collected. We knew that massive amounts of foreign phone and email traffic were monitored.

As it happens, we’ve learned more than just this from the documents on [redacted’s] four laptops. Still, even if you accept this argument in general terms-and I’ve made it myself-[redacted] still matters. It’s one thing to know about this stuff in broad strokes. It’s quite another to have specific, documented details. That’s what [redacted] has given us, and it makes a big difference in public debate. …

This is how change happens. The public gets hit over the head with something, lawmakers are forced to take notice, and maybe, just maybe, Congress holds oversight hearings and decides to change the law. There’s no guarantee that will happen this time, but it might. And regardless of how “new” [redacted’s] revelations have been, we have him to thank for this.

A certain whistleblower has documentation.  That documentation has already outed high government officials as (unindicted) perjurers and liars and impugned the veracity of information presented to the public on the NSA website and caused the NSA to hastily remove the misleading documents.

These high government officials have made a mockery of the President’s asssertion that his administration is being transparent and that we should have a national debate about these matters.  One cannot seriously debate an issue when one side controls access to the facts and is economical with the truth, while at the same time introducing blatant falsehoods into the discussion.  If the administration wanted to have a debate, and its behaviors indicate otherwise, it must stop acting in bad faith toward the American people.

Jun 20 2013

The Most Powerful Man You Never Heard Of

Meet the most powerful man you’ve never heard of until recently, Gen. Keith B. Alexander,  Director of the National Security Agency (DIRNSA)and Chief of the Central Security Service (CHCSS) since August 1, 2005 and Commander of the United States Cyber Command since  May 21, 2010. He is a four star general in the United States Army and, according to Wikipedia, plans to retire in 2014, which may not be soon enough for some. Did I mention that he is also a proven liar? So, when he says, as he did, without any evidence, before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, that 50 terrorist attack were thwarted by the contested programs of the NSA take it with a large grain of salt.

Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC’s “All In,” looks at Gen. Alexander’s tenure over the NSA with James Bamford and explains why he may be the most powerful man in Washington that you have yet to hear of.

Transcript can be read here

“We jokingly referred to him as Emperor Alexander, because whatever Keith wants, Keith gets.”

The Secret War

by James Bradford, Wired

Infiltration, sabotage, mayhem, for years, four star general Keith Alexander has been building a secret army capable of launching devastating cyberattacks. Now it;s rady to unleash hell.

Inside Fort Meade, Maryland, a top-secret city bustles. Tens of thousands of people move through more than 50 buildings-the city has its own post office, fire department, and police force. But as if designed by Kafka, it sits among a forest of trees, surrounded by electrified fences and heavily armed guards, protected by antitank barriers, monitored by sensitive motion detectors, and watched by rotating cameras. To block any telltale electromagnetic signals from escaping, the inner walls of the buildings are wrapped in protective copper shielding and the one-way windows are embedded with a fine copper mesh.

This is the undisputed domain of General Keith Alexander, a man few even in Washington would likely recognize. Never before has anyone in America’s intelligence sphere come close to his degree of power, the number of people under his command, the expanse of his rule, the length of his reign, or the depth of his secrecy. A four-star Army general, his authority extends across three domains: He is director of the world’s largest intelligence service, the National Security Agency; chief of the Central Security Service; and commander of the US Cyber Command. As such, he has his own secret military, presiding over the Navy’s 10th Fleet, the 24th Air Force, and the Second Army.