tv Bloombergs Studio 1.0 Bloomberg August 28, 2016 1:30pm-2:01pm EDT
♪ emily: he has been dubbed both the "cowboy of the nsa" and "spy king." a retired four-star general who served multiple tours, including operation desert storm. in 2005, he was officially sworn in as the director of the national security agency under president george w. bush, a post he held for eight years, the longest of any agency chief during the agency's most challenging in history, the revelations involving edward snowden and the leak of corporate intelligence. these days, he tackles cybercrime as the founder and ceo of ironnet. joining me today on studio 1.0,
former nsa director general keith alexander. general, so great to have you on the show. general alexander: thanks, emily. great to be here. emily: thank you for joining us. we have to start with the standoff between apple and the fbi. google, facebook -- tech companies have sided with apple. this has reopened a divide between washington and silicon valley. how sustainable is it for tech companies to be at odds with their government? general alexander: well, i think everyone has a right to an opinion. i think what we have to do, though, is we have to learn how to get our country back together. and take the best of what we represent and put that on the table. and, you know, when i look at the great capabilities coming out of the tech community, it is phenomenal. tremendous opportunities.
you know, look at your kids. the opportunities you have in education, the opportunities we have for medicine, for communication. but there are tremendous vulnerabilities with it. and we are outpacing the ability for the policy community to keep up. i would not say slow down, but i would say because we have gone so far so fast, how do we help the policy community keep up? and this encryption issue is just such a problem. emily: if communications had been encrypted over the last decade, how would it be different? general alexander: there is a great case. if you encrypt communications and the government cannot read the content, when it is authorized by court order to do so, and if you recall, an al qaeda terrorist in pakistan was contacting someone in colorado. if that was encrypted, all we would know is that they talk to somebody in the united states, but that goes on so often.
the fbi would not have enough information to stop that. emily: so an attack on the new york city subway may have happened, as you say, if communications had been encrypted and you had not been able to intercept them. general alexander: that is correct. emily: how can the government and silicon valley work together for the better? general alexander: i would put together a group that addresses that encryption issue and comes up with a middle ground solution that the companies, the government, and the american people could live with. emily: twitter has been shutting down isis accounts. after many years. what are your thoughts on having teams of people from silicon valley and from the government working together in a more official way? general alexander: that is really important. what that represents on the twitter side is accounts that are opened up for isis for
recruiting and doing things like that. i think that is exactly right. ones that clearly are going after creating jihad. i think we have to come up with a solution for that. so i think what twitter is doing is exactly right. you would not put child pornography on there. you would not put, there are all sorts of things we would not allow on the network. so how do we address it with terrorism? emily: now, general, you may go down in history as the guy who was the head of the nsa during the revelations of edward snowden. how do you feel about that? general alexander: i think it gives snowden too much credit. what he divulged, one, was something that was approved by court order, approved by congress and the executive branch. and what the investigations found was that nsa was doing exactly what it was supposed to.
so he revealed a classified program meant to protectur country. nsa does not get to choose who classifies it. that is the executive branch. and that is a congressional and court decision. nsa's responsibility is to conduct that. and there is legal precedence for doing that. and it was the right thing, when you look at the number of terrorist attacks. so i think what he did was he thought he was better than all three. and the press treated him like that. they treated him as a hero. and here is a guy who will ultimately cause a lot of lives to be lost. that debate was going on in congress at the same time. do you make it public? that is a debate outside of nsa. emily: you think the paris attacks could have been stopped if edward snowden -- general alexander: we would have had more information. for sure. i think what terrorists are learning is how to bypass intelligence and law enforcement. we said the most likely place to be hit was paris. for all of these reasons.
and it was. and i think you are going to see increased attacks in europe and potentially the united states because of the leaks. the encryption will hurt it going forward. so i think one of the things we need to look at is what was he doing, why did he do it. and i think what the press has not dove into was if he revealed that one page, why did he take over one million documents? emily: so he had a lot more. general alexander: you know it publicly has been revealed he took more than one million documents. what about the other documents he took? emily: so who do you think is behind him? general alexander: well, clearly today, you have to look at russia and the influence by russia. because when you look at all the revelations, being a reporter, as good as you are, you would quickly come to the conclusi that all of the stuff reveed showed nsa spying on everybody
but one country -- russia. emily: you think the russian government is behind edward snowden? general alexander: i would not go that far. i think that today, clearly, he has to be doing something that would have russia keep him there. he would deny it, and russia would deny it, because it is in their interest to do so. emily: for millennials, snowden has become the voice of conscience. he is in exile. in russia. he still talks to audiences in the united states. he can come back and do speeches. are you outraged by this? general alexander: you see, here is the issue. the way it is reported -- this is where you and others can help. we sensationalized snowden, but we did not explain what the government was doing in the way that people could understand, so the perception was the government is listening to your phone calls and reading your e-mails, and we now know that is not true.
emily: so what is the full story? general alexander: exactly what has occurred with the data program, the metadata program. in that program, all of the information goes into a vault, and the government is only authorized to look at it when it can prove it is related to al qaeda or a terrorist group. you don't see yours or mine unless you talk to a terrorist. emily: has that data actually stopped attacks? general alexander: it has. i am not just for trampling over anybody's communications and stuff. i am for a reasonable approach. it is interesting that -- jeff stone did not like this program either. i use that, because, remember, i would be on one side, and he would be on the other, theoretically. and what he came to was let's prove the data so it is at the service providers." and when the government goes to look at it, we can audit, as we did, every time the government looks at it. so those audits were available
for the courts, congress, and the administration to look at. which is what the review group looked at, and lo and behold, they found out that the only times that nsa looked at it was when it was associated with terrorists, period. and any mistakes nsa ever made were reported to the courts, congress, and the administration, just as we were responsible for doing. so my question is how did you get from a metadata program to we are listening to phone calls and reading e-mails? emily: how much did 9/11 surprise you? ♪
emily: born in syracuse, new york. the third of five children. you were a newspaper delivery boy. you ran track. what kind of kid where you? alexander: probably more on the trouble side. i did good academically, but i was always out testing the limits of authority. i had a great time in high school. and in college. emily: yet you ended up at west point. general alexander: i did not know anything about the military. my dad was in the marine corps at the end of world war ii. i got a full scholarship to syracuse and purdue. my mother encouraged me to apply to west point. i did and i got accepted. i was trying to find out, which one do you want to do, and i found that west point pays you. i thought that is a good deal.
i had no idea. how hard could that be? i was there three days, and i called my dad, and i said, these people are crazy, come and get me. but actually what i found is what a great set of americans they were. i had a good academic background in high school. but i learned the ethics at west point about duty, honor, country. and i think my classmates and all that, we joke about some of the things. but when you look at where those people have come from and what they have done for our nation, it is incredible. emily: in fact, there were three other future four-star generals in class with you -- david petraeus, martin dempsey, walter sharp. did you know they would be so powerful? are you friends? general alexander: i knew marty well. i knew skip. and they knew me.
if you had asked any of us -- i thought i was going to stay for five years. i think everybody thought dave would be. but for me, i am as surprised as they are. emily: and then you went on from west point to rise quickly through the ranks. general alexander: did not feel so quick at the time. emily: if you only intended to stay five years, what happened? general alexander: well, actually, as my five years were coming up -- i had a great mentor. at the time, he was a brigadier general, tom weinstein. a colonel and then a brigadier general, and that had been at west point that talked about how do we take the future of our army? if we do not keep good people in the army, how do we change our army from where it was in the mid-1970's to where we needed it to be for the first desert storm, and what he convinced me was these are good people. and you can go out and make
money, or you can help these guys. and so we talked about that with my wife and my family. and decided to stay. i got a job offer at 20 years. it was incredible. i would have made three times what i made in the military. i went home and i told my daughters and my wife, and my kids all said you need to stay in the army. they gave up, perhaps, better cars for themselves and all that, because they thought it was the right thing to do for the country. and i was really proud of that. because i thought it was the right thing. emily: in 2001, you were head of army intelligence and security command. then 9/11 happened. how much did 9/11 surprise you? general alexander: we were -- let me back up a little bit. going into 9/11, when i was at central command, i was there for the east africa embassy bombings. i had been there one week. so we knew terrorism was growing. i was there for the uss cole.
we were concerned about terrorists and raised that to a number of people. so we were concerned that our nation was at risk. when people came out of 9/11, the answer was there are these gaps. that is why these programs were developed, to address these gaps. how do you help the intelligence community get information to law enforcement to stop an attack? emily: it was in response to 9/11 you started monitoring phone calls? general alexander: no. it was an nsa program. emily: it was in response to 9/11 that the nsa -- general alexander: that's right. i was not in nsa. emily: you joined the nsa when these programs were already in place. general alexander: that is right. emily: did you have any second thoughts about them? general alexander: the one thing i thought as we were going through it is that they were under the fisa court. and i thought -- that is the
right thing, so we pushed hard to get that done. emily: you did not think this could trample on civil liberties at all? general alexander: you could see both sides of it. the issue is if i make a public we are doing a, we are concerned about another 9/11, we see all these actions going on. and the courts looked at this and said, "here's how you ensure both." so it is not only do you collect this information, but to ensure civil liberties and privacy under the fourth amendment, here is how you now access that data. here is how you record it. and here is how you will be overseen. and so there were tremendous measures put on nsa to ensure that. that part is not well articulated to the public. but if they saw that, they would say, wow, that is amazing. so you mean, to look at that data, you have to show the court what you are looking at, document each step, then have
courts, congress, and the administration look at it each time you did that -- yes. and so it was not just nsa going in there and running around. this was a very deliberate program for a specific need. emily: the prism program was also in place. right? this was a program to secretly collect information from u.s. technology companies. general alexander: under 702, under fisa. that is correct, so prism allowed us to see the new york city subway. that was the first part. emily: was it a backdoor? general alexander: no, it was a court order. so, is a wiretap a backdoor? the answer is no. prism was the modern-day wiretap. emily: you've maintained the tech companies did know about this, even though they claimed they did not. general alexander: they were served with court orders. right? that is what the verizon orders and all the others that are public now, show. they were, by law, required to do that.
emily: so when tim cook or mark zuckerberg or larry page says we had no idea this was happening, we are outraged -- general alexander: i think the issue is not that. i think the issue is a little bit more nuanced. the issue is what does nsa collect to conduct this foreign intelligence mission and the perception is nsa is into their servers and stuff. remember there was -- that is not true. emily: what is true? general alexander: nsa is not in any of the servers, to my knowledge. apple was not under my watch. apple, google, any of those. nsa is authorized to collect communications with those companies under the fisa amendment act. and what it has to do is serve a court order to do that. and only in certain conditions can it do it. emily: what keeps you up at night? what worries you most? ♪
emily: your first day in the private sector, what was that like? general alexander: my first day. it was april fools'. 1 april. knowing me and some of my friends -- my guess what my friends are like, i was betting somebody would call me and say, your retirement has been pushed back. my first day, i got on a plane to go to a conference in las vegas. i was not sure what i would do. i had several job offers. i did not know if i wanted to work for somebody. i was not looking forward to working with somebody. and i talked to some financial institutions at other companies. they said with what you know about cyber security, why not start a cyber security company? to solve some of these problems, and the more we got onto it, i talked to some of the guys, and i said, hey, would you be interested in doing this, and in six weeks, we said, we can start a company. emily: you have a cyber security firm, and you are going through. ironnet. you said you are developing
breakthrough technology. what is that? general alexander: breakthrough. [laughter] emily: what can you tell us about the technology? general alexander: like donald trump -- breakthrough. it is something, you will love it. emily: winning? general alexander: winning. actually, when you look at cyber security for a company, a bank, an energy company, a health-care company, what are the problems you see and how do we address those? what we are trying to address head-on the problems that could not stop the sony or other attacks. we trying to address that, and that is through behavioral analysis, the ability to see the entire network flows, flows at network speed, and be able to respond and give people much faster capabilities in terms of doing analysis to find the fault and fix that. emily: what do you think of the clinton server issues, given
your experience with cyber security and servers? general alexander: at the end of the day, what the courts and the fbi need to look at is did she do anything wrong, was it her fault, or did somebody else do it? and i think this is where comey is really good. i think comey will call it straight, apolitical. and that is what our nation needs. people who can do that. and i think what he finds he will put on the table. emily: in may 2014, you told the "new yorker," "i am really concerned something bad is going to happen." that "people need to know we are at greater risk and more is coming our way." do you still believe this? general alexander: in cyber and in terrorism. i believe it in both. emily: what is coming? general alexander: in cyber, when you look at what has happened from 2007 to 2014 and then now, you see an increased set of exploits and attacks against countries. you see it going from financial institutions now to energy
institutions, and in the asian countries, you are seeing something called "duststorm." in europe and the u.s., you see "havocs." you saw the ukrainian power grid taken down in december and january. those kinds of things are, i think, an indication of things to come. and so it really makes it important that we upun our cyber security capability. emily: what worries you most? general alexander: i think i am worried about our nation, cyber security, and terrorism. we have lost a lot of capability there. and i do not think, as good as we were in the decade following 9/11, i do not think this next decade we will be anywhere close. emily: really? general alexander: because we have lost that much capability. emily: could 9/11 happen again? general alexander: i think we will see significant terrorist attacks. if i were to predict, it is more
likely in europe than the u.s., because it is easier for terrorists to get there. i think the travel programs have helped a great deal. i do not think that is sufficient. i think we're going to see a lot of jihadists and lone wolf-type things, and i think that will bring us back to the discussion on civil liberties and privacy and security. so why do i say stop that? right now, we have the opportunity to do this in a nonemotional manner. we should take that opportunity and solve these problems to the best of our ability. it will not be perfect. but get reasonable people to the table. and i would say for the google, apple, facebook, and the government -- show them what is going on. and then say how do we do this? and i think you can do both, and i think our country and government should help those come up with an international solution that does not disadvantage our industry.
emily: you have four kids, 16 grandkids. general alexander: i do. emily: what do you want your legacy to be? general alexander: i want to make sure -- take warren buffett's discussion. isn't this a great place. this is great advice. we want them to have a great life. we want them to be secure. be able to leverage all of this technology. to solve things like cancer. and to have a full and happy life. i think that means involving what we are seeing and all of these other discussions. and where i would solicit the support of you and other media outlets is help tell the whole story. help us tell the whole story. there are some things you cannot tell. but there is a lot more out there that inot in talked -- being talked about that gives the rest of the story. so what should we do? so i think we should have these debates. but i think they have to put all of the information on the table. and it starts with that whole