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Former NSA director speaks out on spying, Stuxnet, defense

Despite claims to the contrary, General Keith Alexander argues that the NSA is actually doing its part to protect US citizens.


It didn't take long for Gen. Keith Alexander, the recently retired director of the National Security Agency, to speak out about the government intelligence agency.

The four-star general, who retired last month, touched on a wide range of subjects in an interview published Thursday by the Australian Financial Review, including the NSA's role in protecting US citizens as well as the impact Huawei could have on the US if its equipment is allowed into the country.

Alexander came under fire during his time as head of the agency after whistle-blower Edward Snowden leaked secret documents in June 2013 that revealed the NSA was exploiting mobile and Web technologies to collect data on US citizens, world leaders, and just about everyone. Although Alexaner did not go so far as to acknowledge Snowden's claims in his interview with the Australian Financial Review, he did say that he believes the government agency is working in the best interest of the US citizen

"I fundamentally believe that what the nation has asked the NSA to do -- to defend our country, our allies, and our forces abroad while also protecting our civil liberties and privacy under the most comprehensive intelligence oversight regime in the world -- is something that, contrary to much reporting, the NSA and all our people have faithfully executed," Alexander told the publication.

Alexander argued that the government agency is "fulfilling its responsibilities to the nation" and railed against those who have used it as a punching bag. He also responded to criticism that the NSA takes advantage of flaws in software and Web technologies for its own gain instead of informing the public and potentially safeguarding citizens from hackers who could also exploit those flaws.

"To ask NSA not to look for weaknesses in the technology that we use, and to not seek to break the codes our adversaries employ to encrypt their messages is, I think, misguided," he said. "I would love to have all the terrorists just use that one little sandbox over there so that we could focus on them. But they don't."

During the interview, Alexander also briefly touched on Stuxnet and Chinese telecom equipment firm Huawei. He tipped his hat to Australia for banning Huawei's equipment within its borders, saying that giving access to wireless networks to a China-based firm "does not make sense." As for Stuxnet, a destructive computer worm believed to be unleashed by US and Israel to target Iran's nuclear facilities, Alexander said he couldn't "talk about that much," but acknowledged that a "new age emerging" in the realm of "offensive cyber innovations."

Vice Admiral Michael S. Rogers took over as director of the National Security Agency in April and has the difficult task of carrying out President Obama's pledge to reform the intelligence agency.

(Via WSJ)