National Security Agency head Keith Alexander called Senator Rand Paul’s fight against warrantless government surveillance “disheartening,” adding that “if you talk to other members of Congress, they’ll tell you we’re doing the right thing.”
General Alexander spoke to Fox News’ Bret Baier Tuesday in a wide-ranging interview about his agency’s much-criticized domestic spying program, which collects telephone call data on every single American. The general denied accusations by many — including at least one former president — that the NSA is listening to almost everything.
“Former President Jimmy Carter says he writes letters instead of emails because he’s worried you’re reading his emails,” Baier said.
“Well we’re not,” Alexander responded. “So he can now go back to writing emails. The reality is we don’t do that. And if we did, it would be illegal and we would be found — I think, held accountable and responsible.”
The general also defended Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s lie before Congress last spring on the mass surveillance of Americans. “I think he made a mistake, and he has admitted that,” he said. “Here is a guy, Director Clapper, who worked 50 years for the good of his country. He makes one mistake and we crucify him.”
Alexander also expressed disappointment over the political opposition to his agency’s program, which he believes is beyond reproach. “So when you hear Senator Rand Paul say what he says, what do you think?”
“It is . . . disheartening,” the general responded, referencing the Kentucky Republican’s frequent assertions that the NSA’s behavior is unconstitutional. “Knowing what we do — if you talk to other members of Congress they will tell you that we’re doing the right thing here. From my perspective, we aren’t doing anything illegal. And if we do, we’ll be the first to catch it and we’ll report it.”
“He ought to come up here and meet the people,” he continued. “Some of them are from his state. And I’ll tell you that these are the people, the noble people. I’d rather have this conversation today than to have been sitting here answering why we didn’t stop a terrorist attack.”
The most recent reports still indicate that the NSA’s telephone metadata collection has done nothing to prevent terrorism.
Alexander also called for “Justice, the American way” for NSA leaker Edward Snowden, claiming that “this will haunt him for the rest of his life.”
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