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  (Source: Fox News)
Cryptology expert who wants government "information dominance" is leading candidate for his replacement

After eight years manning the Bush and Obama administrations' massive campaign to spy on Americans' phone calls, internet chats, and relationships, all of which his agency had no legal authority to do, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) Director, General Keith Alexander has agreed to step down.

I. Criticism Mounts as NSA's Habitual Lawbreaking is Revealed

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines confirmed the news to Reuters, while insisting it was not due to the leaks.  She remarked:

This has nothing to do with media leaks, the decision for his retirement was made prior; an agreement was made with the (Secretary of Defense) and the Chairman for one more year - to March 2014.

Before the revelations of former NSA contractor and U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Edward Snowden, General Alexander was viewed in a rather positive light, as he attended hacker conferences and seemed to be a moderate voice.

General Keith Alexander
Gen. Keith Alexander is viewed by critics as a naive, power-hungry proponent of Orwellian spying.
[Image Source: DefenseTech]

That perception sharply changed when a wealth of information came to light revealing an agency that says one thing to the public, then spends taxpayer money to do something very dark and different.  Throughout the ordeal Gen. Alexander defended these efforts, while admitting that the NSA did "accidentally" break the law thousands of times a year by spying on Americans in knew were in the U.S. -- something that Congress had made illegal.

Revelations about Gen. Alexander's own behavior in the 90s also raised eyebrows, such as the report that he spent of taxpayer money to build a replica of the Starship Enterprise bridge for his military spy center in Virginia.  While not unusual for stock-traders and other monitoring agencies to adopt such a command and control configuration, Gen. Alexander reportedly went all out, hiring the actual prop designer who made the iconic science fiction bridge at splurged to make even the doors "swish" like his favorite sci-fi spaceship.

Edward Snowden
Gen. Alexander and President Obama might have gotten away for it, hadn't it been for those meddling kids that meddling technician, Edward Snowden. [Image Source: AP]

But it was it was the General's time after he left his "captain's chair" that continues to draw the most criticism.  Earlier this month it was revealed that the NSA was buidling a relationship database that showed who Americans and foreign citizens were dating and friends with.

Earlier this week, new data from Mr. Snowden revealed that the NSA was seizing text from Americans' email messages, as well as their email and instant messenger address books.  

These questionable efforts curiously ignored popular foreign email and chat services (who the NSA ostensibly might have jurisdiction to monitor) and instead focused on the services that were post popular in the U.S. like Yahoo! Inc.'s (YHOO) Mail.  Moreover, sources said that the agency simply "assumes" that Americans use these services are foreigners, so it can seize their data (it bases this assumption on the technicality that Yahoo, Google Inc. (GOOG) and others mirror user data in multiple locations overseas).

Further, the NSA reportedly spent $250M USD to weaken international encryption.  While this left Americans and foreigners alike more vulnerable to the cybercriminals -- who appear to employ many of the same tactics as the NSA in illegally obtaining Americans' data -- the NSA internally argued it was worth it so it can try to crack the encrypted data of Americans "foreigners" that it seizes.

II. Gen. Alexander -- the Perfect Fall Man?

In other words Gen. Alexander isn't exactly a popular figure among Americans.  He's been grilled by Congress (somewhat ironic as it was Congress who empowered the NSA by giving it massive discretionary budgets with little oversight).

Now he's reportedly committed to retiring "by March or April, while his civilian deputy, John "Chris" Inglis, is due to retire by year's end", according to Reuters.

Whether or not his departure was indeed according to a prior plan, it comes at a fortunate time for the Obama administration.  President Barack Hussein Obama has a knack for slipping out of criticism by finding a proper candidate to transfer the public's animosity onto.  

Obama administration
Obama blames Congress for the spy programs. [Image Modifications: Jason Mick/DailyTech]

In a recent speech he expressed a desire to revise Section 215 (50 USC § 1861) of the USA PATRIOT (Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism) Act, legal language which in essence grants the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) unchecked, unlimited powers of search and seizure.  But while the President has said one thing to the public, his administrations actions -- even some of which that were made public -- pretty much say the exact opposite.  

While Gen. Alexander may have been the muscle that ran the spying ring, it was the Obama administration which (like its predecessor) worked tirelessly to remove restrictions on warrantless searches and spying.

NSA Unchained
[Image Source: ACLU]

Secret criminal organizations have a tendency for throwing their own most ruthless former enforcers under the bus.  It's not just the movies -- it's proven true in real life.

As an organization that breaks the law thousands of times a year while taking billions from the tax-paying public, the NSA could be viewed as among the nations' most succesful criminal efforts, depending on your perspective.  And if that analogy holds true, Gen. Alexander's departure is unlikely to do much in the way of changing America's extraordinary efforts to spy on its citizens' daily lives.

III. Gen. Alexander's Possible Replacement Advocates Gov't "Information Dominance", Specialized in Encryption

President Obama has reportedly looked to tap Vice Admiral Michael Rogers- the current commander of the US Navy's 10th Fleet and US Fleet Cyber Command -- as General Alexander's replacement.  

Tellingly, Vice Adm. Rogers formerly spoke of his desire to achieve "information dominance" -- the exact same term that Gen. Alexander used for his data center during his military days.

Admiral Rogers
Vice Admiral Michael Rogers [Image Source: US Navy]

He told the Navy's CHIPS magazine:

While cyberspace has been traditionally thought of as an enabler (supporting combat) in the traditional sea, air and land environs, today, it is a primary warfare domain of equal importance. Because the Navy’s combat power is drawn from a highly networked and electromagnetic spectrum dependent force, the Navy will need to lead, engage and win the fight across these critical enironments[SIC].

He has broad knowledge of making and breaking encryption, having served as a senior cryptologist for a Navy carrier attack group, according to his Navy biography.  Encryption has been a perpetual thorn in the NSA's side and monkey-wrench in the plans of Presidents Bush and Obama to spy on U.S. citizens.

Thus in many ways Vice Adm. Rogers could prove far more dangerous to Americans' privacy than Gen. Alexander did at his worse, as he has the high-level technical expertise to organize large scale efforts to crack all but the stronger forms of encryption that currently protect American's communications on chat and email services.

When asked for comment about Vice Adm. Rogers, fictional Admiral Ackbar said...

Adm. Rogers' appointment has not been officially announced, so it's still possible that someone else might be tapped.  But if there's one take away from the fact that he's the leading candidate, it's that the Obama administration will be seeking a like mind -- a military or intelligence veteran with an openness for seizing Americans' information.  

It will likely be looking for someone -- like Vice Adm. Rogers -- with the expertise to crack the technology protecting Americans' private data given a sufficiently large budget and someone who can do so more quietly than his or her controversial predecessor, so as not to incite a backlash from the otherwise unwitting/apathetic public.

Sources: Reuters, The Washington Post

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just a grunt
By cyberserf on 10/18/2013 2:02:37 AM , Rating: 5
He has no real power. he was put in there by those who put the NSA there in the first place.
they are just trying to divert attention to try to make descent go away.
When the government spies on us it is okay and kept secret but when some one hacks the government they are labeled as criminals.

RE: just a grunt
By coburn_c on 10/18/2013 3:56:40 AM , Rating: 2
dissent, the word is dissent

This media campaign that has kept the pressure on the NSA for months now is genius.

RE: just a grunt
By GulWestfale on 10/18/13, Rating: 0
RE: just a grunt
By Master Kenobi on 10/18/2013 9:30:08 PM , Rating: 2
That chair is over at Army INSCOM, you would have to ask whoever is running that right now.

RE: just a grunt
By inperfectdarkness on 10/18/2013 3:57:45 AM , Rating: 3
He's a fall guy. The days of men like J. Edgar are gone. The machine runs on perpetual momentum at this point. The sad thing is, the USA is the one that got caught--so everyone else cries foul. Truth is, probably every country in the world--democratic or otherwise--is doing the same types of stuff...and to the maximum extent that they are capable of (without getting caught).

So yeah, it burns the US on PR this time. So what? China's NSA equivalent is far worse--but you won't ever hear about it because China is such a closed country. That's transparency in government for you. Doesn't mean it's right, or that I approve of it. Just means that's the reality of life in the 21st century. Minimize your presence--it's the only recourse against it.

RE: just a grunt
By coburn_c on 10/18/2013 4:07:19 AM , Rating: 5
"the party doesn't serve the people, the party serves itself"...?

"If you want a vision of the future, ... imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever."

RE: just a grunt
By bitmover461 on 10/18/2013 9:47:50 AM , Rating: 2
So let me see if I have this straight (PC is so confusing). It's OK for the U.S. government to act unconstitutionally so long as they keep it on the QT? And the ever-popular "everyone else does it". Did I get that right?

RE: just a grunt
By Camikazi on 10/18/2013 1:14:38 PM , Rating: 2
No, I think he is saying that the US is front and center because they got caught. Also that every country does the same even though all are acting like they find it deplorable that the US would do such a thing. He has a point though, the US is not alone and are not the first to do this type of surveillance they are just the first to get caught.

RE: just a grunt
By marvdmartian on 10/21/2013 8:43:19 AM , Rating: 2
Yep, like the Mexican government, pitching a fit because they were spied on by the NSA. While there's no real excuse by saying, "So what? Everyone does it!", it's also pretty naive to act as though you didn't expect that to be the truth, and complain about it.

RE: just a grunt
By Jeffk464 on 10/18/2013 4:23:36 PM , Rating: 3
@nperfectdarkness - China is not the shining example of personal freedom, human rights, etc.

RE: just a grunt
By inperfectdarkness on 10/21/2013 7:43:41 AM , Rating: 1
Not in the slightest. Doesn't keep them from chiding us about living unethically and being a poor example of a world leader. Irony, thou art a heartless bitch.

The powerful versus the weak
By roykahn on 10/18/2013 5:54:45 AM , Rating: 2
This planned resignation changes little to the overall scheme of things. If laws aren't drastically changed, government spending moved away from military and intelligence agencies, and civilian rights are increased and upheld, then the powerful will continue to abuse their power usually at the expense of the weak.

This is just another sage in the never-ending battle between the powerful and the weak. Government agencies like the NSA have sought increased budgets and powers for the last couple of decades and the 9/11 attacks were the catalyst that allowed their desires to be met. These powers basically serve the world's elite and increase inequality on a national and international level. This goes hand-in-hand with the war on whistle-blowers so that the elite maintain immunity from scrutiny, accountability, and justice.

RE: The powerful versus the weak
By AntiM on 10/18/2013 11:22:18 AM , Rating: 2
You're right about all that. The US Government is nothing but a self-serving criminal enterprise whose main purpose is to turn the sweat of your labor into financial gain for a few ruling elite. I don't see that it serves any other purpose.

By superstition on 10/18/2013 3:35:46 PM , Rating: 2
It keeps the Chinese and Russians from coming over here and doing the same thing.

We'd have to learn a new language. We couldn't even convert to the Metric system properly.

RE: The powerful versus the weak
By sorry dog on 10/18/2013 5:34:04 PM , Rating: 2
It still provides the most basic functions of government which is national defense and rule of law to prevent breakdowns in social order. Seeing as the majority don't fear an outside invasion in the near future (at least the military type), and there isn't wide spread anarchy in the streets, the basic functions are still being performed.

However, the case could be made they are doing too good of a job in the national defense functions considering the subject of this article.

By Totally on 10/17/2013 11:27:44 PM , Rating: 4
can't he be both? Simply a henchman taking one for the team.

RE: Why...
By JasonMick on 10/18/2013 8:25:53 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe that was the point? ;) The two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive...

Most mob fall guys aren't exactly angels either....

Why no prosecution for perjury?
By brucek2 on 10/18/2013 3:32:05 PM , Rating: 3
He lied, in very important and material ways, in sworn testimony to Congress. Why is he not being prosecuted?

Quote taken from Wikipedia:

Representative Johnson: "The author of the Wired magazine article, his name is James Bashford, [sic] he writes that NSA has software that “searches U.S. sources for target addresses, locations, countries and phone numbers as well as watchlisted names, keywords, and phrases in email. Any communication that arouses suspicion, especially those to or from the million or so people on the agency watchlists are automatically copied or recorded and then transmitted to the NSA.” Is this true?"
General Alexander: "No, it's not. And that's from James Bashford? [sic]"
Rep. Johnson: "Yes. Does the NSA routinely intercept American citizens’ emails?"
Gen. Alexander: "No."
Rep. Johnson: "Does the NSA intercept Americans’ cell phone conversations?"
Gen. Alexander: "No."
Rep. Johnson: "Google searches?"
Gen. Alexander: "No."
Rep. Johnson: "Text messages?"
Gen. Alexander: "No."
Rep. Johnson: " orders?"
Gen. Alexander: "No."
Rep. Johnson: "Bank records?"
Gen. Alexander: "No."[64]

By superstition on 10/18/2013 3:37:28 PM , Rating: 3
James Clapper lied to Congress, too. It's a felony, but the law is not designed to keep the elite in check. It's designed to keep the little people in their place.

Clapper still has his job.

What Do
By Reclaimer77 on 10/17/2013 10:56:44 PM , Rating: 1
General Petraeus and this guy have in common?

RE: What Do
By winterwatchers on 10/17/2013 11:25:22 PM , Rating: 2
So I guess General Keith decided to spend more time with his family and less time with yours.

RE: What Do
By Samus on 10/18/2013 1:16:14 AM , Rating: 1
Wait, isn't this the guy who had a hollywood-accurate set of the starship Enterprise control deck built as an office environment? With tax dollars?


He Swore and Oath...
By mmatis on 10/19/2013 8:25:28 AM , Rating: 2
to the Constitution before he started that job. He has spit on that oath every day since then. The sooner he is swinging by his neck from a lamp post for his treason, the sooner justice will be done. "Mussolini dance" time is coming soon.

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