The director of the National Security Agency has tried to dampen the current outcry over US government surveillance programmes by insisting such programmes respect Americans’ privacy. He also said that he is unable to intercept his own daughters’ emails.
General Keith Alexander told a conference of hackers on Wednesday that extensive surveillance had disrupted dozens of terrorist attacks but that technical and policy restrictions protected the privacy of ordinary Americans.
“The assumption is our people are just out there wheeling and dealing. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have tremendous oversight over these programmes. We can audit the actions of our people 100%, and we do that,” he said.
Addressing the Black Hat convention in Las Vegas, an annual gathering for the information security industry, he gave a personal example: “I have four daughters. Can I go and intercept their emails? No. The technical limitations are in there.” Should anyone in the NSA try to circumvent that, in defiance of policy, they would be held accountable, he said: “There is 100% audibility.” Only 35 NSA analysts had the authority to query a database of US phone records, he said.