He’s the boss of global surveillance, the most powerful and probably best-hated cybersoldier on earth. The agency he directs, the strategy he represents draw dismay, scorn and criticism from everywhere. He is in favour of collecting every single bit of information, of leaving you with privacy zero. He was banned from a hacker conference a few days ago, and this past weekend people took the streets in Germany in protest.
So you wonder how someone like General Keith Alexander, boss of the NSA, would be received by a hall full of knowledgeable and freedom-loving geeks? Much better than you’d expect. Yes, there were some dissenting voices when General Keith Alexander took the stage Wednesday at Black Hat USA in Las Vegas. But only some. Our reporter Marcel was there:
“He got an applause when he asked his critics to read the US Constitution. It’s a clear indicator that most of the audience is from the intelligence community and private security firms. Subversive hackers are the exception. The spirit of this event has changed.”
So instead of shouting him down, the audience listened, for most of his speech, justifying the massive surveillance programmes of the NSA by handing out some vague and hard-to-evaluate stats about all the good things this snooping does to us (click image below to see the numbers. They are not huge.)
Also, the audience heard his cry for help:
“The whole reason I came here was to ask you to help us make it better. And if you disagree with what we’re doing, you should help us twice as much.”
Well, this sounds really reassuring. I’m sure everybody agrees we need the bright and the independent-minded, the wizards and the gifted to help the NSA gather even more information about the rest of us. The best people should go to wage cyberwar. We expect nothing less from Iran, China and other potential opponents. But please keep some smart people around to find ways to make everybody safer.
You can watch the whole video of Gen. Alexander below.