Glenn Greenwald Debates Keith Alexander
Interesting debate, surprisingly civil.
Alexander seemed to have been okay with Snowden revealing surveillance based on Section 215:
“If he had taken the one court document and said, ‘This is what I’m going to do’… I think this would be a whole different discussion,” Alexander said. “I do think he had the opportunity [to be] what many could consider an American hero.”
And he also spoke in favor of allowing adversarial proceedings in the FISA Court.
On the other hand, I am getting tired of this back-door/front-door nonsense. Alexander said that he’s not in favor of back doors in security systems, but wants some kind of “front door.” FBI Director Comey plays this wordgame too:
There is a misconception that building a lawful intercept solution into a system requires a so-called “back door,” one that foreign adversaries and hackers may try to exploit.
But that isn’t true. We aren’t seeking a back-door approach. We want to use the front door, with clarity and transparency, and with clear guidance provided by law. We are completely comfortable with court orders and legal process—front doors that provide the evidence and information we need to investigate crime and prevent terrorist attacks.
They both see a difference here. A back door is a secret method of access, one that anyone can discover and use. A front door is a public method of access, one that—somehow—no one else can discover and use. But in reality, there’s no difference. Technologically, they’re the same: a method of third-party data access that works despite the intentions of the data owner.
In the beginning of the debate, I got the feeling that Alexander is trying to subtly shill his company. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that—I sometimes do the same thing. But realizing it helped me understand some of Alexander’s comments better.) Later, the discussion turned into a recycling of common talking points from both sides.