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Greenwald reports: "Even his NSA peers see him as a 'cowboy' willing to play fast and loose with legal limits in order to construct a system of ubiquitous surveillance."

Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and head of the U.S. Cyber Command testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 12, 2013. (photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and head of the U.S. Cyber Command testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 12, 2013. (photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)


Inside the Mind of NSA Chief Gen. Keith Alexander

By Glenn Greenwald, Guardian UK

15 September 13

 

A lavish Star Trek room he had built as part of his 'Information Dominance Center' is endlessly revealing.

t has been previously reported that the mentality of NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander is captured by his motto "Collect it All". It's a get-everything approach he pioneered first when aimed at an enemy population in the middle of a war zone in Iraq, one he has now imported onto US soil, aimed at the domestic population and everyone else.

But a perhaps even more disturbing and revealing vignette into the spy chief's mind comes from a new Foreign Policy article describing what the journal calls his "all-out, barely-legal drive to build the ultimate spy machine". The article describes how even his NSA peers see him as a "cowboy" willing to play fast and loose with legal limits in order to construct a system of ubiquitous surveillance. But the personality driving all of this - not just Alexander's but much of Washington's - is perhaps best captured by this one passage, highlighted by PBS' News Hour in a post entitled: "NSA director modeled war room after Star Trek's Enterprise". The room was christened as part of the "Information Dominance Center":

"When he was running the Army's Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a 'whoosh' sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather 'captain's chair' in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen.

"'Everybody wanted to sit in the chair at least once to pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard,' says a retired officer in charge of VIP visits."

Numerous commentators remarked yesterday on the meaning of all that (note, too, how "Total Information Awareness" was a major scandal in the Bush years, but "Information Dominance Center" - along with things like "Boundless Informant" - are treated as benign or even noble programs in the age of Obama).

But now, on the website of DBI Architects, Inc. of Washington and Reston, Virginia, there are what purports to be photographs of the actual Star-Trek-like headquarters commissioned by Gen. Alexander that so impressed his Congressional overseers. It's a 10,740 square foot labyrinth in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The brochure touts how "the prominently positioned chair provides the commanding officer an uninterrupted field of vision to a 22'-0" wide projection screen":

The glossy display further describes how "this project involved the renovation of standard office space into a highly classified, ultramodern operations center." Its "primary function is to enable 24-hour worldwide visualization, planning, and execution of coordinated information operations for the US Army and other federal agencies." It gushes: "The futuristic, yet distinctly military, setting is further reinforced by the Commander's console, which gives the illusion that one has boarded a star ship":

Other photographs of Gen. Alexander's personal Star Trek Captain fantasy come-to-life (courtesy of public funds) are here. Any casual review of human history proves how deeply irrational it is to believe that powerful factions can be trusted to exercise vast surveillance power with little accountability or transparency. But the more they proudly flaunt their warped imperial hubris, the more irrational it becomes.

Related issues

(1) Harvard Law Professor Yochai Benkler has an excellent Op-Ed in the Guardian arguing that the NSA is so far out-of-control that radical measures, rather than incremental legislative reform, are necessary to rein it in.

(2) The Federation of American Scientists' Steven Aftergood, usually a reform-minded transparency advocate somewhat hostile to massive leaks, examines the serious reform which Snowden's disclosures are enabling, as reluctantly acknowledged even by the FISA court and James Clapper himself.

(3) British comedian Russell Brand attended an event sponsored by GQ and Hugo Boss and gave a speech, while accepting an award, which offended almost everyone in the room (that speech is here). He then wrote a genuinely brilliant (and quite hilarious) Op-Ed in the Guardian about the role elite institutions play in reinforcing their legitimacy and how they maintain control of public discourse. It is well worth taking the time to read it.


 

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+37 # John S. Browne 2013-09-15 19:03
Man, oh man, these sociopaths! And to think I'm a Treky, too; because, with company like Keith Alexander, it almost makes me wish that I wasn't one. Dear Lord God help us, when mass-murderous fruitloops like this extremely poor excuse for an "Amerikan" general gives something at least somewhat wonderful like Star Trek a bad name just by his falsely associating himself with it! What a fruitcake! Stop being a completely un-American and anti-American spy on innocent people, both in the U.S. and the world-over, who are supposed to be truly, fully and completely free, including free of surveillance and being presumed guilty of something, anything, and are supposed to have absolute privacy, you traitor! Have you ever heard of the U.S. Constitution; and how 'bout international law? No, you don't have any respect for True Liberty and Freedom, and for, as innocent people, being free of bombs, missiles, fighter jets, armed helicopters and drones, tanks, and armed soldiers, etc. But, for God's sake, mass-murderer, stop making war on your own innocent people as well, and helping turn our beloved country, the U.S., into an increasingly unrecognizable corporate-fasci st totalitarian militarized police state! For such isn't really for our "security" or "benefit"; but is for our demise, the demise of U.S. sovereignty, and the demise and enslavement of the entire world! Enough of all this madness! Enough of all the madness of mass-murderers such as yourself, control freak! Go away, neo-Nazi!
 
 
+2 # Doubter 2013-09-16 17:30
I never saw a General I couldn't hate!
 
 
+3 # John S. Browne 2013-09-16 21:17
I wish "Q" would make all of them disappear forever.
 
 
0 # John S. Browne 2013-09-21 03:32
...Unless there's a Major General "Smedley Butler" of today out there, of course!
 
 
+2 # Jim Rocket 2013-09-15 20:51
We must not allow a "bridge of the Enterprise" gap!
 
 
+11 # Jim Rocket 2013-09-15 20:54
The more I think about it the bridge of a Romulan or Cardassian ship would be more appropriate for this guy.
 
 
+26 # tigerlille 2013-09-16 00:05
I would love to see Gen. Alexander testifying before Congress, attempting to justify God knows how much money spent to bring his adolescent fantasy to life. The Star Trek stage set is very cool...and I would love to see it removed to a children's museum, where real children can play in it. Grotesquely inappropriate setting for the NSA.
 
 
+13 # phrixus 2013-09-16 08:00
I think we ARE seeing real children playing in it. And this guy is a 4 star general? It boggles the mind.
 
 
+4 # zornorff 2013-09-16 16:05
Punto! On target. What a dangerous schmuck this guy is.I can just see our elected heroes gushing over this waste of tax money.
 
 
+2 # Walter J Smith 2013-09-18 05:49
Remember, your Congress person and mine are all swooning over an ocean of such crap all over the NSA, the Pentagon, the CIA, the FBI, the DCI, Homeland Security- you name it.

The President is also. And all the members of the SCOTUS.

Why should we believe any of our bureaucracies is any more capable of govering the world's most perverted characters than is the Justice Department?

Congress reveals its inherent ineptitude every time it passes any bill allocating funds to any of those bureaucracies.

And then the bureaucrats, like Alexander, momentarily place them into the thrones of they conspicuous consumption palaces, and the swooning never ends.

Our whole governing elite is drunk on its own self-importance , and the perverts know exactly how to cultivate that self-importance into another perversion, so all the perverts get to impose their perversions wherever they choose.
 
 
+8 # barbaratodish 2013-09-16 00:39
Yeah, and they probably have UNDOCUMENTED aliens CLEANING the place! lmao!
 
 
0 # barbaratodish 2013-09-16 01:05
Information Dominance Center:Reminds me of the EGO (S?PITS called COCKPITS! WOMEN OF THE WORLD: let's lead men AWAY from ego and control (INFORMATION DOMINANCE CENTER! HA!) into LIMITLESS LOVE AND LAUGHTER! The Chinese have a saying: "Women hold up half the sky!" Maybe it would be more correct to say: Women hold up 100% of the sky, so the men (the little boys and little dicks that they ALL are) can as if "play" with their dominance (ego)informatio n-to-weapons("t oys"of destruction)! WOMEN OF THE WORLD UNITE TO PROVIDE ALTERNATIVES TO THESE COCKPIT LIKE "TOYS"! Let's all of us women go on a "LYSISTRATA" type strike, and show men that there CAN be limitless love, laughter.
 
 
+18 # RMDC 2013-09-16 03:03
Lots of times when a scandal breaks out, the head of the agency is fired or steps down to "spend more time with family." Why did this not happen at the NSA. When the phony story about the IRS singling out tax exempt applications from tea party groups, Obama cleaned house in 48 hours. Why not clean house at the NSA? Fire all the top administrators and begin criminal investigations.

Obviously Obama wants the NSA to continue just as it is going.
 
 
+8 # tigerlille 2013-09-16 06:44
You got it
 
 
+10 # Kathymoi 2013-09-16 06:19
Russell Brand's article is right on. Loved reading it. And it's got some good advice in it: don't listen to the media. This is important advice (not including reader supported news in "the media"). He points out the cozy familial loyalty between media, corporation and politician, and reminds us that we can not trust any of them. He notices the presence of politicians at corporate-spons ored events, and brings our attention to the significance of that relationship. I couldn't help but notice it at the academy awards for 2012. The wife of the president of the United States spoke at the Academy Awards. Come on. If this doesn't show us the strength and significance of the connection between Hollywood and politicians, what will? And the movies that got nominated, publicized by the Academy--notice the political themes, Abraham Lincoln, Margaret Thatcher, and so on. Or, they romanticize and glorify the life of the rich (Gatsby). The movies, the politicians and the plutocracy all enjoying themselves together at the Academy Awards.
 
 
+11 # phrixus 2013-09-16 06:27
"...warped imperial hubris..."

That pretty much says it all.
 
 
+9 # jwb110 2013-09-16 07:36
He's the new J. Edgar Hoover! Yikes!
 
 
+15 # mdhome 2013-09-16 08:26
Why does the government allow the head of NSA to fulfill his childish dreams at the taxpayers expense? This is the sort of thing that causes the government to be so damn expensive. So childish, so foolish, so expensive, so unnecessary.
 
 
+4 # intheEPZ 2013-09-18 01:31
Beam me up, Scotty, there's no intelligent life down here.
 

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