Hot off the heels of a reporting scandal that saw the vaunted news program ooh and ahh over Benghazi lies, “60 Minutes” has just aired a mind-blowingly charitable “report” on the NSA’s mass surveillance.
Rather than grill NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander about what may be the worst violations of the Constitution in America’s intelligence-gathering history, reporter John Miller, who discloses at the start that he is a former intelligence official, throws softballs that Alexander swings at with his well-practiced and beside-the-point answers.
“The fact is, we’re not collecting everybody’s email, we’re not collecting everybody’s phone things, we’re not listening to that,” Alexander said. But the focus on actively listening to phone calls is a red herring; the NSA has not been accused of doing that. The agency instead collects metadata from every phone call placed within the United States — something the government argues is harmless and exempt from constitutional protections. That argument is highly controversial with privacy advocates since the bulk collection of metadata can reveal much more about a person than even the contents of some communications.
Among his slippery answers, Alexander denied a damning Washington Post report from October which claimed the NSA was secretly tapping into the internal traffic of Google and Yahoo without permission in order to access data before it became encrypted. “We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform,” Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond told The Verge. Tonight, Alexander appears to have deflected those claims, telling CBS that “we’re not going into a facility or targeting Google as an entity or Yahoo as an entity.”
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Rather than address the many disturbing revelations that have come from the leaks of Edward Snowden—intercepting voice, data and video communications by tapping fiber optic lines, actively working to compromise the security protocols used by online bankers, spying on lovers and world leaders—this report fixates instead on how Snowden pulled off the caper. In fact, Miller frames Snowden’s principled whistle-blowing as, “the most damaging breach of secrets in U.S. history.” The word damaging assumes the United States has been put in danger by Snowden’s leaks, but we know that actually it’s the intelligence establishment, and more specifically the rogue operations at the NSA, that have been endangered by Snowden’s leaks—not American safety.