Army Gen. Keith Alexander, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington in 2010. He told a Senate panel today there is no sacrifice between liberty and security.
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the secret National
Security Agency, defended his agency and surveillance programs, saying
they helped protect Americans.
"I think what we're doing to
protect American citizens here is the right thing," Alexander told
members of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "We aren't trying to
Alexander said he favors providing more transparency so the public can learn more about the programs.
"This is not us doing something under the covers," Alexander said.
said he was pushing for declassifying as much as possible about the
programs to improve transparency. But he said those disclosures had to
be weighed against potential damage to national security.
"We want to tell you what we are doing," Alexander said.
response to questions from Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Alexander also
said he has "great concerns" over how a 29-year-old high school dropout
hired as a government contractor was able to gain access to sensitive
Alexander said the processes that led to the hiring of Edward Snowden need to be reviewed.
his prepared remarks, Alexander, who is also head of the military's
Cyber Command, said that securing cyber space can be done without
violating individual's privacy rights.
"Everything depends on trust," Alexander's remarks said. "We do not see a tradeoff between security and liberty."
was Alexander's first public appearance since Snowden leaked details of
a secret government program to collect phone and Internet data
the prepared statement Alexander did not mention the leak, which has
touched off a nationwide debate over privacy and national security.
he addressed broadly the issue of balancing privacy and national
security. "We operate in a way that ensures we keep the trust of the
American people because that trust is a sacred requirement," he said.
NSA program to collect phone and Internet data has come under close
scrutiny after Snowden leaked information about the program to The Guardian and The Washington Post.
STORY: NSA chief is key administration voice on cyber issues
NSA is responsible for electronic intelligence gathering and the
mission of the Pentagon's Cyber Command is to help protect the nation's
infrastructure from cyber attack and develop capabilities to strike
In testimony Alexander highlighted the vulnerabilities of the nation's infrastructure to cyber attacks.
issue was highlighted in a recent meeting between President Obama
recently met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss the issue.
China has been linked to frequent cyber attacks on U.S. companies.
a scale of one to 10, with 10 being strongly defended, our critical
infrastructure's preparedness to withstand a destructive cyber attack is
about a three based on my experience," Alexander's statement said.
Alexander said the United States was both a target of cyber attacks and a victim of collateral damage.
and websites owned by Americans and located here have endured
intentional, state sponsored attacks, and some have incurred degradation
and disruption because they happened to be along the route to another
state's overseas targets," he said.
Spending on cyber operations
is one of the few areas in the Pentagon that will increase in coming
years. The Pentagon has requested $4.6 billion for cyber security
expenses next year, up from $3.9 billion this fiscal year. The Pentagon
expects to spend $23 billion on cyber in the next five years.