NSA Response to Snowden Scandal Does Little to Ease Public Concern

For the NSA, Edward Snowden seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. He is a gift of “retirement” for NSA’s Director, General Keith Alexander, and Deputy Director Chris Inglis. He is also a gift to taxpayers of “tens of millions of dollars in damage; the cost of replacing computers, keyboards and even cables to which Snowden had access,” according to Rick Ledgett, the man who has been tasked with overseeing the “Snowden Task Force.”

In an interview with 60 Minutes, Alexander insisted that while he offered his resignation over the Edward Snowden affair, it was refused and was sought neither by the secretary of defense nor the national intelligence director.

Yet, in a striking coincidence, both the director and deputy director of the NSA are retiring before mid-2014.

Since Snowden’s revelations in June 2013, he has been hailed as a hero by some and branded as a traitor by government officials, members of the public, and media outlets — leaving the world to debate and wonder exactly what to think of him. Is he a heroic whistle-blower or a treacherous, self-serving, fame-seeker looking to make a name for himself in history?

In an extraordinarily odd exchange between 60 Minutes’ John Miller and Rick Ledgett, Ledgett was asked, “Did you sit in his chair?” He melodramatically responded in an obviously made-for-TV moment.

“I did not. I couldn’t bring myself to do that….. I would ask; how is he enjoying the Moscow winter?”

Regardless of what one thinks of Edward Snowden, there’s no denying the fact that the present administration has been extraordinarily tough on whistle-blowers in defiance of the Whistle-blower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). It is a defiance that is beginning to seep into the once traditional sacred grounds of reporter/source confidentiality.

Uncharacteristic of the hard-hitting tradition for which 60 Minutes is known, the segment regarding Edward Snowden left much to be questioned, presenting an almost staged, even vaudeville atmosphere in which an NSA analyst presented computer screens containing images of how their system “chains together” in completely anonymous fashion. It showed calls revealing only the telephone numbers of the call’s originator and the call’s recipient.

According to the analyst, he has access only to the information he is cleared for, a statement apparently intended to make the viewers comfortable with the metadata being mined and used by the agency.

“Names are not revealed by the connecting telephone numbers,” according to Alexander, rather they identify only telephone numbers linked to known terrorists. One can only wonder what value such a system and intense efforts have to an intelligence agency with the power of the NSA?

Even Alexander claims leaving us to assume the NSA’s payments to U.S. corporations such as Verizon, AT&T, Apple, Facebook, and Google to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars for access to their data is nothing more than a covert agency’s efforts to overtly provide charitable contributions to American companies.

Granted, few government agencies possess the skill required to create a fictional work of Hollywood caliber, but for an agency whose sole purpose is to create deception, while looking like bureaucratic buffoons, this effort at damage control takes that missing skill to a whole new low.

Is the NSA's response truth or damage control?