NSA leader asks hackers to join him

But folks at a convention in Las Vegas vocally decline and suggest he 'read the Constitution' in response to the agency's Prism online spy program.

By Jason Notte Aug 2, 2013 7:44AM
The National Security Agency logo is shown on a computer screen at the NSA in Fort Meade, Maryland on January 25, 2006 (© Brooks Kraft/Corbis)Hey hackers, we're spying on you like crazy anyway, so why not join us?


That was basically National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander's pitch to hackers at the Black Hat USA cybersecurity convention in Las Vegas on Wednesday. As of Thursday, the NSA's homepage still wasn't tagged with satirical headlines or redirecting visitors to Dutch porn sites.


Alexander gave his comments just after defending his agency's Prism data-monitoring program, which was exposed two months ago by former government contractor Edward Snowden. With Snowden just accepting asylum in Russia, Alexander seemed keen on wooing any potential acolytes over to his side.


"The whole reason I came here was to ask you to help make it better," Alexander said during his keynote address at Black Hat USA. "If you disagree with what we're doing, you should help make it better."


Alexander went into detail on the Prism program, enumerated the 54 terrorist threats thwarted because of it and offered a look into the techniques the NSA uses to collect user data. It was both explanation and justification, and the crowd's reaction to it was mixed at best. CNNMoney documented one particularly touchy exchange.


At one point, after talking about thwarted terrorist attacks, Alexander said, "We stand for freedom," to which an audience member shouted, "bulls***."
"Read the constitution," a heckler called out.
"I have," Alexander replied quickly. "You should too." Alexander's response was met with applause.


Though some attendees gave Alexander credit for showing up, the hacker community at large isn't quite ready to make nice with the NSA. DefCon, a hacker conference that takes place immediately after Black Hat, uninvited the NSA this year. Government agencies often use such conferences as a recruiting opportunity, which DefCon's organizers were less thrilled about this year, given recent events.


"When it comes to sharing and socializing with feds, recent revelations have made many in the community uncomfortable about the relationship," DefCon and Black Hat founder Jeff Moss wrote. "Therefore, I think it would be best for everyone involved if the feds call a 'time-out' and not attend DefCon this year."


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