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Elizabeth Goitein, Co-director, Liberty and National Security Program, Brennan Center for Justice, NYU

This week at the annual Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, National Security Agency director General Keith Alexander addressed a room full of hackers on the recent NSA data mining scandal. During the speech, Gen. Alexander tried to appease some of the outcry over the NSA's data collection program that outraged citizens across the country, saying the NSA has a great deal of oversight of the program.

“Congress did a review of this over a four-year period ... and over that four-year period they found no willful or knowledgeable violations of the law or intent of the law,” said Alexander at the conference.

Elizabeth Goitein, Co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU doesn’t find that reassuring.  

“Let’s say that’s true, and that there have never been any willful violations until now,” says Goitein. “That’s not tremendously comforting to me because the power that the government has been granted on these programs the potential for abuse is so great.”

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Meanwhile, the man who started it all, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, was granted temporary asylum in Russia after spending weeks in a Moscow airport.  The NSA uses the annual Black Hat and Defcon conferences in Las Vegas as a recruiting ground for cyber security experts.

Goitein says that’s likely the reason that Alexander was speaking at the Black Hat conference.

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