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NSA chief defends agency against domestic spying charges

- The Washington Times - Monday, July 9, 2012

The head of the National Security Agency on Monday denied reports that NSA's new data center in Utah would collect and store data about Americans, including their e-mails and web-browsing habits.

The $2 billion data center in Bluffdale, Utah, will house massive supercomputers capable of storing and analyzing vast quantities of data when it comes online next year, but U.S. Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander reiterated NSA's insistence it does not unlawfully conduct surveillance of Americans.

"We don't store data on U.S. citizens," Gen. Alexander told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute. "That's baloney. ... That's ludicrous."

However, "I'm not going to come out and say what we are doing" at NSA, he added. "That would be ludicrous, too."

Gen. Alexander, who also heads U.S. Cyber Command, said Congress' failure to pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation is exposing the country to cyberattacks by hackers and making it vulnerable to cyberwar from nation-states.

On the need to pass a comprehensive cybersecurity bill, he trod carefully, seemingly anxious to avoid offending any of the lawmakers involved in the imbroglio about the legislation, which has lingered through five years and two administrations.

"This time of year is politically very difficult to move things forward legislatively," the general said, referring to the upcoming election and the partisan stalemate it has helped induce in Congress.

Nonetheless, passing a cybersecurity bill, currently stalled in the Senate, "is absolutely important," he added.

"It's important that we as a nation look at this and say, what do we need ... to protect this country from a cyberattack."

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