National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander likened the NSA’s spying duties to taking a bath, holding a hornet’s nest and wearing a seatbelt in a video posted to YouTube Thursday by the Pentagon’s media arm.
“When you were younger, well this is for boys, you say I don’t want to take a bath, no I’ll take a bath, why would I want to take a bath… isn’t there a better way?” Alexander asked. “We don’t, so we have to take baths, right or showers, what about here, what’s the better way to stop terrorists?” Alexander was defending the NSA’s bulk collection of communications data under the Patriot Act.
The video, which looks a bit like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting tried to produce an episode of Wayne’s World inside a Pyongyang studio, features Alexander answering questions ostensibly posed by Jessica L. Tozer, a writer for the Pentagon’s Armed With Science blog. Tozer never speaks–instead, her questions are represented by title cards.
The video purports to be an attempt to “get the story straight” about the NSA’s surveillance programs and responsibilities as an agency, but largely reiterates Alexander’s prior defenses of the NSA through a barrage of weird metaphors.
Alexander argues that the NSA’s programs are effective at stopping terrorism and that ending them would put the country in danger. “These are the best, most noble people in the world, from my perspective,” Alexander says of NSA employees. “They do more to save our lives than anyone else that I know of.”
At one point, Alexander compares handling the NSA’s duties to holding a hornet’s nest. “Here we are, we’re holding this hornet’s nest, now I would like to give it to somebody else, and say you protect the nation with this data set. Everybody is looking around and saying, I don’t want to hold it,” Alexander says. “But somebody’s got to hold it. It’s for the good of the nation.”
Later, he states that ending the programs would be like not wearing a seatbelt. “It’s like saying well, we’re not sure seatbelts protect people anymore, no one has to wear seatbelts,” Alexander says.
Alexander’s harshest words in the video are reserved for journalists and leakers, whom he says will be responsible if there is another terrorist attack on American soil. “When people die, those that are responsible for leaking are the ones who should be held accountable,” Alexander says. He also accuses journalists of “selling” classified documents, presumably referring to those leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
“I think it’s wrong that newspaper reporters have all these documents, 50 thousand or whatever they have, and they are selling them and giving them out, as if, it just doesn’t make sense,” Alexander says. “We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don’t know how to do that. That’s more of the courts and the policymakers but, from my perspective, it’s wrong to allow this to go on.”
Here’s the full video: