At the Black Hat cyber security conference Wednesday NSA director General Keith Alexander gave a presentation supporting his agency’s spy programs. He was met with heckling and jeers, as some in the audience disagreed with Alexander’s points.
General Alexander was asked to attend the conference in Las Vegas before scandal hit the National Security Agency in June. He still planned to attend and in his speech addressed concerns about the spy programs. He did not, however, talk about the program XKeyscore which was uncovered in new leaks Wednesday.
CBS News reports that while the presentation was met with polite reservation at first, half way through attendees began to heckle the NSA director.
“Bulls***,” called out one person and several claps followed. “You lied to Congress. Why should we believe you’re not lying to us?” Alexander denied this claim and continued his speech.
According to CNN, the NSA director defended the controversial programs while showing PowerPoint slides explaining how they work. Alexander told attendees that the agency collects metadata on telephone calls in the US. He was quick to point out that this only involves certain data, like who is talking, when, and for how long. The NSA does not listen to phone conversations or read text messages, Alexander added.
During his Black Hat presentation, General Keith Alexander said that the NSA “can’t afford to” and doesn’t want to collect everything on US citizens. He said worries about abuse of power were unfounded. Only 22 officials can approve a request for telephone data. That data can only be viewed by 35 analysts, he added.
The majority of the NSA director’s presentation explained how the NSA had failed in 2001. Because they had not “connected the dots,” the NSA was not able to prevent the September 11 attacks. This, Alexander argued, is why the secret data mining programs were important. 54 attacks, 13 in the United States, had been prevented because of them he said.
General Alexander finished his presentation when another heckler cried out for the director to “read the Constitution!”
“I have. You should too,” the NSA director replied as he left. The exchange was met with applause from attendees.
Watch some moments of the NSA director’s speech delivered at the Black Hat cyber security conference in Las Vegas below: