Required to Lie

While I was doing the research for ALGORITHM, I found that the InfoSec community knew the government was collecting data on just about everyone, everywhere. The biggest story took place at AT&T’s SF headquarters, 611 Folsom Street. That revelation happened in 2006.

Six years later, in 2013, Keith Alexander, the then chief of the NSA, went before congress and said the NSA was not gathering data. Instant and automatic distrust of the U.S. government is a normal response to this.

But wait. The plot thickens.

If Alexander had told the truth, he would have been violating his oath, that forces him to deny the existence of such spying programs, since those programs were classified Top Secret. He would have lost his job. He could have been court-martialed. He could have been thrown in the same dark hole now occupied by Bradley Manning.

On the morning of March 11, 2014, ABC News reported that a Senate Intelligence Panel caught the CIA spying on them. Leave behind the fact that the CIA got caught by something as innocuous as a Senate investigation. 

According to Reuters, John Brennan, director of the CIA immediately responded with, “Nothing could be further from the truth.” It’s Brennan’s job to keep secrets. If he releases secrets, he’s guilty of treason, which is an offense punishable by death.

These sets of events bring up a couple very important questions: 

1) Of what value is the testimony of anyone who comes before congress when the issue revolves around classified documents or programs, since those who know are required by law to lie?

2) Is the only useful information going to come from people who are willing to die to bring the truth to light, i.e. leakers/whistleblowers? And if so, should the U.S. be making the anti-whistleblowing laws it’s currently enacting?