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General Alexander heckled during Black Hat keynote address

Steve Ragan | Aug. 2, 2013
General Keith Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency, kept a cool head as he was heckled by attendees during his keynote address at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday

The three documents outline some of the basics of the intercept programs, and once again stress that only basic information is collected, and that most of the data "is never viewed." One of the ODNI's documents says that only those with proper training and authorization are allowed to access the collected data.

Yet, in what looks to be a contradiction (including going against what the General mentioned during his keynote), a footnote in the 215 order says that the FISA court understands that "technical personnel responsible for the NSA's underlying corporate infrastructure and the transmission of the [collected data] from the specified persons to [the] NSA will not receive special training regarding the authority granted herein."

According to General Alexander, only 22 people have access to the collected data in order to authorize a trace on a given piece of collected data, and only 35 people are allowed to query the database that houses all the collected data. So the footnote in the document released by the ODNI begs the question of who else in that infrastructure chain has access to the collected data (directly or otherwise) and where did Edward Snowden fit in?

CSO was unable to find anyone to address this apparent discrepancy on the record, and the topic of Eric Snowden was off limits with those attending Black Hat who represented a contractor or three-letter agency.

Also on Wednesday, adding another layer to the ODNI questions, a report from The Guardian, exposes the existence of XKeyscore, the "widest reaching" system the NSA has for developing intelligence from the Internet.

According to the report, this program "allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden."

General Alexander knew he was walking into a hot room, but he did it anyway. The problem most had with his address is that the questions asked of him focused on businesses, and not the customers they represent. While it was an embarrassing moment for the conference, the heckler's comments aptly summed up the mood of those sitting near CSO during the keynote:

"What I'm saying is that we don't trust you. How do we know you're not lying to us right now?"

 

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