Shane Harris of Foreign Policy has published an extensive profile on NSA Chief Keith Alexander that is bound to turn some heads.
Harris reports that Gen. Michael Hayden, the only person to serve as both NSA chief (1999-2005) and CIA chief (2006-’09), thought that the four star general may have been too much of a “cowboy” to serves as NSA chief while navigating U.S. laws.
Nevertheless, Alexander’s political savvy propelled him to the top of the world’s most powerful intelligence agency as well as his role as the first commander of U.S. cyber command.
One example of his charm involved an intelligence center in Fort Belvoir, Virginia that was designed based on the command center of the ‘Starship Enterprise’ spacecraft from Star Trek.
As commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command
from 2001 to 2003, Alexander used the Trekkie setup to woo policymakers.
… 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.
Harris draw on numerous interviews to portray Alexander as a a technically and politically deft operator who wanted to leverage all of America’s spying ability without worrying about the laws potentially being broken.
In terms of warrantless spying, one former administration official told FP that “Alexander has ignored that Fourth Amendment concern.”
Constitutional concerns have come to the forefront in light of leaks by Edward Snowden that detail the NSA’s systematic collection of all U.S. phone records as well its ability to access most smartphone data.
The FP report serves as a complement to James Bamford’s excellent profile of Alexander, in which he describes how the NSA chief now “has his own secret military, presiding over the Navy’s 10th Fleet, the 24th Air Force, and the Second Army.”
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