The Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing about cybersecurity and workforce training this week during which Gen. Keith Alexander, chief of both the National Security Agency (NSA) and the U.S. Cyber Command, testified. Recent scrutiny on the NSA’s surveillance government programs – which has collected millions of telephone records and monitored Internet activity – were brought up during the hearing, slightly shifting the focus of the hearing from cybersecurity and workforce matters to privacy and surveillance concerns.
The Washington Post reported in their live updates Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski’s original goals for the hearing, which were to examine how to “protect the American people from cyber threats by working across government” and to “examine how agencies will use cyber security funding in the budget.” Though Mikulski did not address the National Security Agency’s recently criticized surveillance efforts, or what the Washington Post called “the elephant in the room,” these quickly surfaced as the hearing progressed.
According to CNN, senators from both parties questioned Gen. Alexander whom “provided a spirited defense for the programs he described as critical to counter-terrorism efforts. ‘I think what we’re doing to protect American citizens here is the right thing,” he said. ‘Our agency takes great pride in protecting this nation and our civil liberties and privacy, and doing it in partnership with this committee, with this Congress, and with the courts.’”
The hearing ended today with Mikulski saying “The hearing hasn’t been quite originally the way we thought, but it has been a good hearing.” The Washington Post in their live updates reported that “the original purpose of it was to discuss cybersecurity, but it was quickly dominated by the recent revelations about the NSA’s phone and Internet surveillance efforts. In closing, Mikulski said the debate about the balance between privacy and security is one well worth having.”
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