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Buffeted by New Disclosures, NSA Chief Defends Surveillance Programs at Black Hat
From: InfoSec News <alerts () infosecnews org>
Date: Thu, 1 Aug 2013 09:24:06 +0000 (UTC)


By Kim Zetter
Threat Level

LAS VEGAS -- Amid new revelations today about another expansive NSA surveillance program, agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander appeared before an audience of security professionals to defend his bulk collection of phone records and other data.

Although Alexander promised to "answer every question to the full extent possible" he took no open questions from the audience and only answered a few preselected questions that had been chosen from a survey sent to attendees of the Black Hat security conference.

Alexander was addressing surveillance programs recently disclosed by the Guardian from documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Hours before he took the podium, the newspaper published a top secret PowerPoint deck detailing the NSA’s XKeystore program, which maintains a rolling archive of internet traffic vacuumed from 150 points around the world. According to the slides, NSA analysts can query the system using a broad range of selectors, from specific information like a target’s email address, to category searches that might produce, for example, “all the Microsoft Excel spreadsheets containing MAC addresses coming out of Iraq.”

Facing occasional hecklers from the audience, Alexander asserted that the surveillance programs have been mischaracterized by the media and others and that as a result the reputation of NSA workers has been tarnished. Extensive oversight from Congress and the courts, as well as technical protections in place -- including internal auditing -- prevent NSA workers from abusing their surveillance capabilities.


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