One of the more jaw-dropping moments to emerge out of 60 Minutes' profile piece on the National Security Agency yesterday was when NSA Director Keith Alexander had to ask permission from his superiors on whether or not he could answer a question.
The report, headed up by John Miller, himself a former FBI and National Intelligence official, was basically a soapbox for the NSA to downplay its malfeasance in light of the Edward Snowden revelations."Did the NSA actually find a foreign power that had identified this capability and discussed using it offensively," Miller asks Alexander at the 2:45 mark in the clip above.Alexander is about to speak but then turns his head towards what Miller describes as a "crowd of people in the dark," and states, "I need time out on that."According to Miller, Alexander then asked this group of people, "Can I answer that?"
Bear in mind that Alexander is the highest ranking individual in the National Security Agency and moreover a four-star general. Alexander is also Chief of the Central Security Service CHCSS and Commander of U.S. Cyber Command USCYBERCOM.
If Alexander is supposedly the top guy at the NSA, why does he need to ask shadowy advisors lurking in the background if he can even address a question?And who exactly are this group of shadowy people who have the power to give orders to the Director of the NSA and why don't we know their names? Miller and his team said that a group of 20 "minders" would follow the reporters everywhere they went and carefully monitor each individual interview they conducted with NSA employees.One interview clip features a woman in the background who states, "please stopâÃ¶.back off" as another NSA worker begins to answer a question. …
See video from 60 Minutes interview at the NSA facility.
I find the fact that he is consulting with a team reassuring rather than alarming. With the fate of the nation in the balance, I’d want an entire team of the brightest most informed people carefully monitoring what any one individual can say in light of all the different programs they have. Any one of those 20 people (assuming they aren’t aliens…) would also be a high value target for a kidnapping or foreign influence so they should remain hidden. Nevertheless, there is no need to watch everything every American does constantly as we believe they are now doing.