Cybersecurity hinges on surveillance understanding, NSA director says

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“We’re not going to move much forward with all of that hanging out there,” he said. Alexander called for cybersecurity legislation that would allow the government and the private sector to share information about cyberthreats.

The conversation needs to shift from what the government could be doing with the data to what it is doing with the data, he said.

Alexander said he would rather defend the surveillance than have to explain why the intelligence community missed an attack like 9/11. 

“I’d much rather be defending what we’re doing rather than defending why we failed to act."

He also defended the surveillance community’s use of data and oversight. “Every time we make a mistake, we report it, we address it, we fix it,” he said. While “most of those mistakes are unintentional,” the agency takes “corrective action” to fix any intentional mistakes, he said.

No other country has “the oversight, the compliance and the regiment that we do,” Alexander said.

He said he wishes the intelligence community could be more transparent. “I would love to be transparent, if only the good guys would come into the room,” he said, but "we don't have a way of doing that."