The National Security Agency’s top dog denied that the intelligence agency keeps massive dossiers on all U.S. citizens, a contention made recently by three former NSA hands. And, predictably, his denial sparked yet another round of charges in this ongoing controversy.
At the Defcon conference, when General Keith Alexander, director of the NSA, was asked if the agency really keeps tabs on all Americans, he said: “Absolutely no. And anybody who would tell you that we’re keeping files or dossiers on the American people knows that’s not true,” he said according to a report in Wired.
He reiterated that the NSA’s mandate is to look into foreign threats and that it is under Congressional oversight to make sure it does so — a fact that does not seem to reassure many people these days.
Alexander’s comments sparked a response from William Binney, the former NSA technical director who has charged that the government intelligence agency has drastically expanded the scope of information it collects and keeps on U.S. citizens — even those not suspected of criminal or terrorist activities.
Binney, speaking later at Defcon, called Alexander’s denial disingenuous and reasserted his claim that the NSA is gathering and storing people’s email, Twitter posts, Internet searches and cell phone conversations. According to a follow-up Wired report he said:
Unfortunately, once the software takes in data, it will build profiles on everyone in that data. You can simply call it up by the attributes of anyone you want and it’s in place for people to look at.
Binney and former NSA colleagues Thomas Drake and Kirk Wiebe allege that an undisclosed piece of the Obama Administration’s Big Data initiative is that it will collect the aforementioned data of virtually every citizen and run algorithms against those files to detect threats.
The three men are providing evidence for an Electronic Freedom Foundation lawsuit against the NSA.