Last night on the premiere episode on John Oliver’s new program “Last Week Tonight”, the former correspondent for the Daily Show scored a ten minute interview with none other than the now-retired general and head of the NSA himself, John Alexander.
Now that Alexander is released from his official duty, he can break the NSA’s “no talking to journalists” policy, and doesn’t seem to look at a burgeoning comedy show as much of a threat as he might with entities like the Senate Intelligence Committee or the Supreme Court.
Despite the canned answers Alexander gave which had already played on a loop to hundreds of committees, sub-committees, judges, investigators, and journalists, the fact of the matter that as it stands today, the longstanding, always-stoic journalistic empire of 60 Minutes now has less professional integrity than a satiric news show on HBO. And although Oliver made sure to ask the hard questions mixed in with a few that would keep viewers chuckling steadily throughout, Alexander simply repeated statements which he had been sticking to since the Snowden scandal first started.
“Oliver: The target is not the American people, but it seems that too often you miss the target and hit the person next to them going ‘Whoa, him!’
Alexander: You see, we’re not just out there gathering information, listening to their phone calls, or collecting their emails. But, that’s the first thing that people jump to.
Oliver: But you are out there doing that. You’re just saying that you’re not then reading them. You are gathering that data.”
What’s particularly hard to watch here is you could play back this version of the general and another from eight months ago, and they’d both be regurgitating the same diatribe despite the dozens of documents which have been released since which prove him wrong. Programs like LOVEINT show that members of the NSA openly abused the power generously handed to them by the taxpayers, spying on loved ones and family members to see what they were up to in the off hours while their spouse was off to work.
This is just one example of many, so for Alexander to sit on TV and claim that the system was “never used to spy on Americans” is just an outright mistruth spouted by a man on his way out of the public eye. A sort of “that’s my story and I’m sticking to it” homage to all the moments when he could have been honest with us, and simply chose not to as he has already so many times before.
Throughout the second half of the interview, Oliver jokingly suggests the NSA try to rebrand itself, much like the CIA did after the bureaucratic bungle that was the Blackwater scandal. Passing on obvious throwaway options like “Mr. Tiggles” and the Washington Redskins, the general perked up when given the chance to spout his own idea for the cameras and all the country to see:
“NSA: The Only Agency in Government That Really Listens”
You can view the entirety of the extended interview here.