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Outgoing NSA Director Keith Alexander Supports Law to Gag the Press

Alex Constantine - March 5, 2014

By Mike Masnick

Techdirt, March 5, 2014

Oh, Keith Alexander, how we're going to miss your insane claims once you retire in a few weeks -- though, I'm sure that as you drift off into "retirement" only to be hired by some government contractor or lobbying organization at an insultingly high salary, that like your buddy Michael Hayden, you'll still be good for regular bullshit quotes to news organization. Still, while on the job, Alexander seems to want to go out with a bang, talking about how the UK was correct to detain Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda under an anti-terrorism law even though no one thinks he's a terrorist. However, even more troubling, is that Alexander, who has argued that the US government needs to figure out a way to silence reporters re leaked documents, claims that there's an effort underway to create "media leaks legislation."

The general, who is due to retire in the next several weeks, said that the furore over Snowden’s surveillance revelations – which he referred to only as “media leaks” – was complicating his ability to get congressional support for a bill that would permit the NSA and the military Cyber Command he also helms to secretly communicate with private entities like banks about online data intrusions and attacks.

“We’ve got to handle media leaks first,” Alexander said.

“I think we are going to make headway over the next few weeks on media leaks. I am an optimist. I think if we make the right steps on the media leaks legislation, then cyber legislation will be a lot easier,” Alexander said.

In case you haven't been paying attention, Alexander has been pushing for years for laws likeCISPA, which would give the NSA much greater control over "cybersecurity" -- and specifically knock down barriers towards getting companies to share information with the NSA. Alexander and CISPA supporters have been spinning this entirely about "protecting" companies from online attackers, leaving out how it's really about giving the NSA more backdoors into private companies' networks.

But think about what Alexander is saying above. He's flat out admitting -- as many have noted -- that his pet cybersecurity bills are dead right now because of all of the Snowden leaks, showing just how abusive the NSA has been. And his answer to that is not to fix the NSA, but to pass bills to stifle the free press from reporting on NSA efforts, which he then thinks will allow the government to pass legislation like CISPA.

As the report in the Guardian notes, no one seems to have any idea what this "media leaks legislation" is going to entail, as nothing has yet been proposed, and there haven't even been any real rumors of anything until now. However, with James Clapper recently referring to reporters asaccomplices, and Rep. Mike Rogers making the out-of-left-field argument that reporters who are covering Snowden are thieves who traffic in stolen government property, you can connect a few dots and guess at what's coming down the pike.

Alexander's own comments seem to similarly suggest that reporters "have no standing" to report on these issues, because they're not insiders, using the Miranda detention as a launching pad:

“Recently, what came out with the justices in the United Kingdom … they looked at what happened on Miranda and other things, and they said it’s interesting: journalists have no standing when it comes to national security issues. They don’t know how to weigh the fact of what they’re giving out and saying, is it in the nation’s interest to divulge this,”

Still, a bill to stifle investigative reporting is going to face stiff opposition, and even bringing up such a concept suggests that Alexander still has no clue what current public perception is like concerning the NSA's surveillance activities. Just the fact that he's suggesting a bill to silence a free press, and he specifically admits he wants to do so in order to get his troubling surveillance bill approved, shows the depths of Alexander's thinking on these issues. A free press? Not important. More power for the NSA to spy on everyone? That's the priority.

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