Transcript: Rep. Mike Conaway’s Q&A with DNI James Clapper & NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander on surveillance programs – Oct. 29, 2013

Partial transcript of Rep. Mike Conaway’s (R-Texas) Q&A with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander on NSA’s surveillance programs before the House Intelligence Committee on Oct. 29, 2013:

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas):
…Gen. Alexander, in your opening remarks, you talked briefly about the oversight that does in fact go over all these programs. If you would walk us through the various layers of Inspector Generals, compliance officers, privacy and civil liberty officers – each of those steps that go through there to make sure that we get at that oversight processes.

And then Gen. Clapper, if you would give us some sort of a guess as to the total man hours and dollars that we would use in that oversight process based on your experience?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
…I’m going to start with the oversight that we have at NSA. We have an Inspector General and a General Counsel who have responsibilities for overseeing these programs.

Working with this committee and with the administration, we set up the Directorate of Compliance. This is another separate office that looks specifically at these programs and our other collections programs to ensure that we do this right. We have a few hundred people that actually audit and track what our folks do every step of the way. So within the NSA, we have an extremely healthy compliance and oversight. There’s some great comments by Brookings Institute and others saying this measure’s what you’d expect at any world-class organization.

The DNI has an Inspector General and a General Counsel that also oversees what we’re doing. The Department of Defense has a General Counsel and Inspector General that oversees what we’re doing. And the Department of Justice – their national security division oversees what we’re doing and works with us in the court and the White House. We also have this committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

And finally, for the programs that fall under FISA, we have the FISA court. And everything that we do in that respect goes up to the court, and I’ve had personally appeared in front of that court, sometimes to address mistakes that we’ve been – that we’ve made. And you know whenever you appear in front of a federal judge and you’ve done something wrong, this is not a happy time. I’ve found them to be completely professional. While they may not understand it, they have absolutely hammered us and tried to get us to get this right…

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas):
…Real quick. There was an editorial – it may have been today or yesterday – that referred to a vague description provided the FISA court of what’s going on. Would you ever use the word vague in relations to your FISA court experiences?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
No. Absolutely not. And I think at times they – you know, ironically – an adversarial relationship in discussing this. They will argue this out with us. They will tell us what’s wrong with this thing as we put in drafts. And the Justice Department actually does a great job with that.

I wanted to add – to end up with 2 others. The Civil Liberties and Privacy Officer at the DNI Alex Joel is superb…And as many of you know, we are hiring a new Civil Liberties and Privacy Officer for NSA to ensure that we do this right as well.

So that’s kind of the oversight and compliance.

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas):
Would there be any restrictions on that Civil Liberties and Privacy Officer as to what he or she could or could not look at within that role? Any restrictions?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
No restrictions as long as it complies with the law.

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas):
All right. And Gen. Clapper, an estimate on how many man hours and money…?

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:
I can’t off the top of my head but I will tell you it’s easily tens of thousands of man hours and millions and millions of dollars that we spend on oversight of this program.

If you just take the 300 compliance officers at NSA alone, let alone the rest of the apparatus at NSA that is devoted to oversight, my staff, DOD staff, Department of Justice, the FISA court, the Civil Liberties and Privacy officers, IGs and the amount of time they spend is a very costly program in terms of both manpower and dollars. I don’t have a figure for it…

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas):
…Is there anything that either one of you could think of that’s within your authority to do to address civil liberties and privacy issues that you’re not doing?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
From my perspective, no. One of the things – and I was just going to have Chris add one element if I could on here to your question.

NSA Deputy Director Chris Inglis:
We’ve actually just scribed a note to ourselves but at NSA, the annual dollar that we spend on this – $30 million – and we have 300 full-time equivalents. But what I scribed on the note was it’s everybody’s job. Everyone has a role to play in compliance. When we bring our employees in on their first day, whether they’re military or civilian, we give them all the oath of office. We tell them it’s to the Constitution; it’s to the whole of the Constitution. And that each and everyone of them has a responsibility no matter what they do to ensure what they do complies with the law. So it’s not just the outcomes; it’s the path to those outcomes that matters. So I would say the full-time equivalents that on most days is working on compliance is every one of us.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:
So to answer your question – what else can we do – I think we’re already embarked on this and this gets to what Congressman Ruppersberger was talking about which of course was more transparency. To the extent that we can make these elaborate processes more visible to the public, particularly to give them more confidence in what we’re doing, that would be something that we recognize we need to do and we’ll do more of it.

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
If I could, we also have courses that our folks have to go through. So if they’re handling any person, every person including myself has to go through how we handle U.S. person’s data. You have to take a course and pass a test. Everyone. And everyone has to take, who deals with the business records FISA, has to go through a series of courses. Everyone who deals with foreign intelligence data has to go through a series of courses to handle that data, and they have to pass a test. And most of those are almost everyone that we have as an annual certification process. And in this business record FISA, there are at least 6 courses in 702 that people have to go through. This is a significant training thing to ensure that we handle the data appropriately.

###

Learn More:

10 Comments on “Transcript: Rep. Mike Conaway’s Q&A with DNI James Clapper & NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander on surveillance programs – Oct. 29, 2013

  1. Pingback: Transcript: Hearing Q&A with Rep. Adam Schiff on possible reforms to the NSA surveillance programs - Oct. 29, 2013 | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: Transcript: Testimony of Professor Stephen Vladeck on possible reforms to the NSA surveillance programs – Oct. 29, 2013 | What The Folly?!

  3. Pingback: Spotlight: House Intel Committee hearing on FISA reform proposals - Oct. 29, 2013 | What The Folly?!

  4. Pingback: Transcript: Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s Q&A with DNI James Clapper & NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander on surveillance programs – Oct. 29, 2013 | What The Folly?!

  5. Pingback: Transcript: Rep. Joe Heck’s Q&A with DNI James Clapper & NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander on surveillance programs – Oct. 29, 2013 | What The Folly?!

  6. Pingback: Transcript: Rep. Mike Thompson’s Q&A with DNI James Clapper & NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander on surveillance programs – Oct. 29, 2013 | What The Folly?!

  7. Pingback: Transcript: Rep. Mike Pompeo’s Q&A with DNI James Clapper & NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander on surveillance programs – Oct. 29, 2013 | What The Folly?!

  8. Pingback: Transcript: Hearing Q&A with Rep. Jan Schakowsky on possible reforms to the NSA surveillance programs – Oct. 29, 2013 | What The Folly?!

  9. Pingback: Transcript: Hearing Q&A with Rep. Mike Conaway on possible reforms to the NSA surveillance programs – Oct. 29, 2013 | What The Folly?!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.