While speaking at an annual conference of hacker and cybersecurity experts on Wednesday morning, National Security Agency head Gen. Keith Alexander was heckled by members of the audience for his agency’s surveillance operations and for his controversial testimony before Congress.
About two-thirds of the way through his keynote address at this year’s Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, Nev., Alexander told the crowd that “Our nation takes stopping terrorism as one of the most important things.”
In response to that line, a 30-year-old security consultant named Jon McCoy shouted “Freedom!”
“Exactly,” replied Gen. Alexander. “We stand for freedom.”
“Bullshit!” McCoy fired back, eliciting applause from the audience.
“Not that,” Alexander said with a chuckle. “But I think what you’re saying is that, in these cases, what’s the decision, where’s the discussion and what tools should we have to stop those?”
“No, I’m saying I don’t trust you!” shouted McCoy in return.
“You lied to Congress. Why would we believe you’re not lying to us right now?” another attendee said, prompting another voice to demand that everyone “wait for the question session.”
Alexander denied that he ever lied to Congress, despite critics pointing to the March 2012 hearing in which the NSA chief said 14 times that the agency does not collect the sorts of data alleged in a Wired article on surveillance operations.