As if 60 Minutes‘s credibility hadn’t already diminished over the last few weeks, here’s another gem: a report on how the NSA has been misunderstood and is really a good guy. Oh, and Snowden is Satan.
The segment was presented by John Miller, who is rumored to be up for a “top counterterrorism or intelligence role” in the NYPD. Miller opened with:
Full disclosure: I once worked in the office of the director of National Intelligence, where I saw firsthand how secretly the NSA operates.
No big deal, right?
I’m sure you can see where this is going.
The NSA is “defending our civil liberties and privacy,” according to NSA director Keith Alexander. Upon hearing this, Miller just nods. If you’re looking for a real journalist who challenges the NSA or asks hard questions, you won’t find it here.
Instead, he lets Alexander tell us, once again, how the NSA only collects our phone metadata, and how that doesn’t reveal all that much anyway. Except it does—but Miller doesn’t ask about that. Nor does he ask about the email metadata the NSA used to collect.
Miller does ask if Alexander ever considered resigning, given that a “20-something-year-old high school dropout contractor managed to walk out with in essence the crown jewels” on his watch. Alexander says he did, but was told that he shouldn’t have to, since he didn’t do anything wrong and it could have happened to anyone.
Calling Edward Snowden a “20-something-year-old high school dropout” is about as flattering as the segment gets.
We soon find out that Snowden cheated on a test to get his job as an NSA contractor and when he was working from home, he would put a hood over the computer and his head so his girlfriend couldn’t see what he was doing.
“That’s pretty strange!” Miller says.
Indeed, it’s quite strange that someone working with top secret information that the NSA just got done telling Miller could have serious ramifications if it fell into the wrong hands would try to prevent others from seeing it.
After that, we’re told how the NSA has saved us from a potentially “catastrophic” cyber-attack that may or may not have originated in China and may or may not have actually happened. You’ll just have to take their word for it. Miller does.
In regards to the whole spying on other world leaders thing, Alexander says that the NSA only does what other agencies tell it to and that the NSA will stop spying on Angela Merkel when she stops spying on us. Of course, he doesn’t know if she is spying on us—just that her country has the intelligence capability to do so. And if you have the ability to do something why wouldn’t you go ahead and do it?
Finally, when asked whether the NSA “tunnels” into Google or Yahoo’s networks to collect information (a practice those companies are now asking be reformed), Alexander provided a nice non-answer:
We do target terrorist communications. And terrorists use communications from Google, from Yahoo, and from other service providers. So our objective is to collect those communications no matter where they are.
But we’re not going into a facility or targeting Google as an entity or Yahoo has an entity. But we will collect those communications of terrorists that flow on that network.
As the behind-the-scenes report tells us, Alexander came to 60 Minutes and asked them to do the segment. Yes, CBS is the NSA’s PR agency.
Miller and his crew were supervised at all times by a team of “minders”—as were their interview subjects. When one analyst says something an off-camera minder thinks might be classified, Miller quickly changes the subject. Alexander asks for “time outs” before he answers certain questions.
Miller says he asked “tough questions” and “the hardest questions we could ask.” Maybe he did, but we can’t see them.