Computer hackers are on the bleeding edge of the class war, and they're finally cutting deep enough that the leader of the National Security Agency (NSA) is making an active push for some major congressional action.

That's why NSA chief, Gen. Keith Alexander, told the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute on Monday that the costs associated with responding to computer hacking represents "the greatest transfer of wealth in history."

"Symantec placed the costs of [intellectual property] theft to United States companies at $250 billion a year, global cyber crime at $114 billion annually -- $388 billion when you factor in downtime -- and McAfee estimates that $1 trillion was spent globally on remediation," he said. "That's our future disappearing in front of us."

His talk was meant to support passage of a bill to firm up the nation's cyber defenses. And while he wasn't specifically supporting any piece of legislation, he seemed to indicate support for some of the more invasive measures within the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).

That bill, approved by the House but still pending in the Senate, would put the NSA in charge of cyber security for the whole nation, permitting companies like AT&T, Google and Comacst to share private user data with the agency under the auspice of protecting Americans from foreign threats.

Critics of the bill, like Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), have suggested that it will create a "cyber-industrial complex" that feeds on Americans' closely held details. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), normally ideologically opposed to anything Wyden would be interested in, agreed, saying that CISPA will let corporations "act as government spies."

"We don't do that," Alexander said, responding to agency whistleblowers and journalists who say the NSA is keeping a massive store of Americans' electronic communications. "We need the American people to know that is not true," he insisted.

Instead, Alexander explained that he prefers "the Huckleberry Finn approach: we want to get as many people as we can working together to solve this problem, and that's what it takes."

"I think we do a good job at protecting civil liberties," he said. "I think the information sharing is one that everyone agrees, we've got to get that set up."

This video was published by the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.


Photo: Flickr user neotint, creative commons licensed.