In a meeting with telecommunications representatives on Wednesday, NSA head Keith Alexander asked for some help defending the agency against several months of reports detailing the extent of the agency's data collection programs. Those reports, based on leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, have "impacted that foundation of trust that industry has with NSA, and that the NSA has with the American people," he said, adding that the leaks could hurt his initiative to start even more information sharing between private companies and U.S. intelligence.
Of course, there's a pretty big reason the Snowden leaks have "impacted that foundation of trust:" they revealed the extent of U.S. intelligence's access to daily communications. And while Alexander has often defended the programs against criticism by arguing that the agency is only interested in a much smaller amount of data than it's capable of collecting, the leaks have also revealed substantial oversight issues in ensuring that the agency does what it says it does. That's not to mention the so-called LOVENIT, otherwise known as the nickname for intentional instances of spies spying on their loved ones.
According to the Washington Post (a.k.a, along with the Guardian, one of the two outlets most thoroughly connected to the publication of stories on Snowden's leaks), Alexander made the following pitch to the telecommunications industry reps:
Alexander added that he has been particularly troubled by reporting that he said describes the extremes of what the government could do with data rather than focusing on how the government is using data. “We need to put the facts on the table, we need the American people to understand the facts, and it’s got to start with what we’re actually doing, not what we could be doing with the data,” he said.
In September, Alexander blamed the media again, this time arguing that the recent push in Congress for some sort of NSA reform was due to "sensationalized" reporting on the subject.
Alexander also agreed on Wednesday with recent comments made by Andrew Parker, Britain's spy chief, who said that intelligence leaks were "the gift [terrorists] need to evade us and strike at will." In the U.K. tabloids, Parker's speech led to some sensationalized front pages of its own: