Last week I published NSA Director Speaks in Defense of Government Spying. It was just a short blog followed by the full text of an article and NSA Director General Alexander’s full audio speech. Needless to say, there’s been a lot of further commentary.
Alternative media has been busy refuting General Alexander’s claims. At times, they seem to push a little too hard to make their point, but make it they do. ZDNet is not an alternative news site. It’s largely a tech site, but since surveillance is an important topic to all of us, they did report on the Black Hat 2013 conference. In NSA Director accused of lying to Congress at Black Hat USA 2013 keynote, writer Violet Blue made some noteworthy observations.
The best way to determine if someone may be lying is if they have been caught lying before. As it so happens, General Alexander did lie the previous year when he made the keynote presentation at DEF CON, the event that follows hot in Black Hat’s heels. Here’s what Violet Blue wrote:
At last year’s DEF CON keynote – the hacker conference following Black Hat every year – Director Alexander had denied NSA surveillance and spying to the audience when directly asked.
Alexander responded saying that this was “absolute nonsense.” He continued, saying that managing hundreds of millions of individual citizen files would be impossible for the department to do.
Well, thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden, we now know that it is not impossible. That’s why the U.S. government is so pissed off at Snowden: he exposed their lies, just as Bradley Manning did.
Every journalist and every media outlet is opinionated and if you learn how to read between the lines of what you read, hear or watch, you can often learn far more than what is being presented to you. Some common tricks of the media trade include:
- Cherry picking facts to bolster your argument.
- Appealing to emotions when facts are lacking.
- Big media frequently diverts attention from big issues with captivating stories that are more trivial in nature.
- Defamation of character.
There are others, but of all of them, outright lying is the most insidious. You would think journalists would have a legal obligation to report the truth, but as Project Censored reported in The Media Can Legally Lie, there is no such legal obligation:
In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.
The issue in that case was bovine growth hormone (BGH), one of Monsanto’s wonderful range of products. In that case, husband and wife team Jane Akre and Steve Wilson uncovered proof that there were health hazards associated with BGH. The TV station that commissioned the documentary series told them to revise it and include “statements from Monsanto representatives that the reporters knew were false.” They refused and subsequently sued FOX’s affiliate in Tampa. They proved their case and Akre was awarded a $425,000 settlement, but an appeals court overturned the decision. Read the full article to find out what happened next.
Now, to answer the question: Was NSA Director lying at Black Hat 2013? Well, according to a Guardian story, XKeyscore: NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’, he probably was or was at best presenting only facts that supported his argument.
Or was Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who has made life so difficult for the NSA and U.S. government so difficult, lying? Here’s what the article had to say:
US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden’s assertion: “He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”
But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.
Lying is not a modern phenomenon, nor is it limited to the Powers That Be in the United States. There’s nothing you or I can do to stop it, but I would like to suggest that before you believe anything, question everything. In a world of lies and distorted opinions, it’s one of our most precious individual freedoms.