The NSA head General Keith Alexander faced a hostile crowd Wednesday while attempting to defend mass surveillance programs at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas.
Around 30 minutes into his speech, Alexander claimed that the NSA had “stopped thirteen terrorist related activities in the United States,” flashing up a slide that stated the NSA had prevented fifty-four worldwide terrorist events. “Our nation takes stopping terrorism as one of the most important things.” Alexander stated, prompting a man in the crowd to shout “Freedom!”
“Exactly,” Alexander replied. “We stand for freedom.”
Forbes reports that the security consultant, later identified as 30-year-old Jon McCoy, then fired back “Bullshit!” to smatterings of applause from some of the crowd.
“Not bad,” Alexander responded, adding “But I think what you’re saying is that in these cases, what’s the distinction, where’s the discussion and what tools do we have to stop this.”
“No, I’m saying I don’t trust you!” McCoy shouted back.
Another person in the crowd then joined in, stating “You lied to Congress. Why would people believe you’re not lying to us right now?”
Looking stern and visibly annoyed, Alexander responded “I haven’t lied to Congress.”
“I do think it’s important for us to have this discussion.” he added, “Because in my opinion, what you believe is what’s written in the press without looking at the facts. This is the greatest technical center of gravity in the world. I ask that you all look at those facts.”
Alexander continued the speech, stating “We get all these allegations of what [NSA staff] could be doing. But when people check what the NSA is doing, they’ve found zero times that’s happened,” he said referring to any illegal use of spying powers.
“And that’s no bullshit. Those are the facts.” Alexander stated, asking for the curse word to be stricken from the record.
“Read the Constitution” McCoy fired back in one last heckle.
“I have, so should you.” Alexander responded to loud applause from a crowd that was clearly siding with the NSA head.
According to Forbes reporter Andy Greenberg, McCoy told him afterwards that he felt Alexander’s speech was “pretty canned.” “It’s anything you can see on Fox News any day. We’re in danger, we have to get rid of your freedom to keep you safe.” the security consultant added.
“Everyone’s thinking this, but no one’s saying it public, so everyone thinks they’re alone,” he said. “Ninety-eight percent of society has issues with this…But no one speaks up.”
Throughout the speech Alexander repeatedly suggested that revealing further details of NSA’s operations would “jeopardize the future of our defense.”
The NSA head also claimed several times that the spy agency is not collecting information on everyone’s internet activities, despite a report Wednesday in the Guardian, via Ed Snowden’s leaks, revealing another previously unknown mass surveillance program.
Documents published by the newspaper detail the NSA program, known as XKeyScore, revealing it to be another tool that allows the broad search of millions of individuals’ emails and browsing history. An NSA slide from the documents, showing the logos of Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yahoo, suggests that the agency is “interested in HTTP… because nearly everything a typical user does on the internet uses HTTP.”
Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.