NSA Chief Says Data Collection Targeted, Obeys Constitutional Limits
A program used to investigate 54 cases related to terrorism follows strict rules, the head of the National Security Agency tells Black Hat attendees.LAS VEGAS—The National Security Agency's controversial data-collection programs have aided the investigation of 54 "terrorism-related activities" in the past six years, while following strict rules and being subject to intense scrutiny by all three branches of government, the head of the U.S. spy agency told attendees in a keynote kicking off the first day of the Black Hat security conference here on July 31. Standing in front of a packed ballroom, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) and director of the National Security Agency, spoke for nearly an hour on the two programs that the NSA uses to gather information on possible terrorists. The two initiatives, authorized under sections 215 and 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), bring together data on calls and communications between U.S. residents and allows the agency to wiretap communications between non-U.S. citizens, respectively. The agency's efforts are limited, with only 22 people allowed to query the database of metadata and detailed auditing of any request or access to the database, Alexander said. "It is focused," he said. "If you think about net flow and the amount of information generated, you could not afford nor want to collect everything. It makes analysis harder."
"Anyone here that has been up against a federal judge knows that they don't take any…I'm trying to think of a word here—even from a four-star general," he said.In the past six years, the NSA has helped investigations into 54 terrorist-related activities across the world, including 13 in the United States and 25 in Europe. Alexander was not given a free pass at Black Hat. A handful of hecklers accused him of lying to Congress and questioned whether the NSA was working within the U.S. constitution. Prior to Alexander taking the stage, a dozen eggs were confiscated from a member of the audience as well.