The head of the National Security Agency Wednesday defended US surveillance programs as part of a “noble” mission to protect the nation and said reports on them were “sensationalized.”
“The future of this country depends on our ability to defend against cyber attacks and terrorist threats, and we need the tools to do it,” said General Keith Alexander, chief of the NSA. The agency heads the PRISM program and other vast data collection efforts revealed in recent months.
Alexander, speaking at the Billington Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, said there have been relatively few terror attacks on US soil since September 11, 2001 despite growing threats around the world.
“This is not by accident. It’s by a lot of hard work,” he told the forum. “Twenty-two cryptologists lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’re the heroes, not the (people behind) media leaks.”
Alexander appealed to the public to support the surveillance effort, which is coming under scrutiny in Congress, and argued that the facts about the programs have been distorted.
“It’s been sensationalized and inflamed in much of the reporting,” he said.
“What’s hyped up in a lot the reporting is that we are listening to your conversations, that we’re reading your emails. That’s not true… We understand our job is to defend this country. It’s a noble mission.”
Alexander repeated his assertion that more than 50 terrorist threats around the world have been foiled as a result of the intelligence gathered from the programs, which have been harshly criticized by US allies ranging from Germany to Brazil.
The thwarting of the attacks “would not have been possible without that capacity, and our allies have benefitted from that,” he said.
The NSA has been in the center of a firestorm since the leaks from former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden which revealed wide-ranging programs which scoop up data on telephone calls and Internet activity.
On Snowden, Alexander did not mention him by name, simply calling him “the leaker,” adding that “we trusted him and he betrayed our trust. That won’t happen again. That doesn’t make him a hero.”
President Barack Obama has called on US intelligence agencies to release more classified documents to shed light on the spying effort, which he has defended as a legitimate bid to prevent terror attacks.
Alexander said US technology firms have been unfairly maligned in the reports.
These companies “are providing what the courts are directing them to provide. Our industry folks are taking a beating on this and it is wrong.”
‘Here I am’: Trump highlights his lack of death to downplay the risks of coronavirus at MAGA rally
President Donald J. Trump rallied Monday in Martinsburg, Penn. without a mask and his supporters did the same. Trump's "speech" took shots at the pandemic that has so far killed over 226,000 Americans over the past eight months.
"COVID, COVID, COVID... That's all they talk about, the fake news, COVID COVID COVID," he said. Then he added that the reason America shows so many more cases than the rest of the world is "because we do more testing than anybody else."
"Trump's position is more or less that the coronavirus is a media hoax that normal people for the most part shouldn't care about because they'll be fine if they get it," tweeted Vox journalist Aaron Rupar.
In proactive move, Twitter aims to ‘pre-bunk’ election falsehoods
Twitter said Monday it would take the proactive step of alerting its users to potential misinformation in preparation for unverified claims about the November 3 US election.
The short messaging service said it would place notices at the top of user feeds warning that there may be delays in full election results and that people might see "misleading information" about voting by mail.
This "pre-bunking" is part of an effort to stay ahead of baseless claims about the election before they occur, according to Twitter's head of site integrity Yoel Roth.
"We're introducing 'pre-bunks' for some of the most common misleading claims about #Election2020," Roth tweeted.
Trump largely ignored coronavirus at packed campaign rallies in Pennsylvania — with no social distancing
President Donald Trump on Monday barnstormed Pennsylvania -- a swing state he almost certainly has to win to get reelected -- while his Democratic opponent Joe Biden once more kept a low profile.
With three back-to-back rallies, Trump showed how badly he wants to win the state in eight days, telling large, enthusiastic crowds of supporters to ignore polls showing him lagging there and across other battleground states.
"We get Pennsylvania, we win the whole thing," he said in Allentown, before flying to another rally in Lititz, with a final event set in Martinsburg in the evening.