After managing to speak with my contacts at security expo Black Hat 2013 I can confirm that the NSA director, General Keith Alexander, did go ahead and deliver his presentation at the event – just hours after details of the spy organisation’s XKeyscore were leaked to the press.
In fact, he took a right verbal pasting, by all accounts. About half an hour into his speech, members of the audience began to get a little boisterous.
John McCoy, a security consultant and perhaps a big William Wallace fan, screeched: "Freedom!"
To be fair, Alexander didn’t do a runner or ignore the interjection. He kept his cool, replying: "Exactly. We stand for freedom."
"Bulls***!" McCoy retorted, to applause. Again, Alexander remained calm, responding: "I think what you’re saying is that in these cases, what’s the distinction, where’s the discussion and what tools do we have to stop this."
"No, I’m saying I don’t trust you!" McCoy yelled before another member of the audience piped up: "You lied to Congress. Why would people believe you’re not lying to us right now?"
Alexander denied lying to Congress, adding: "The whole reason I came here was to ask you to help us make it better. And if you disagree with what we’re doing, you should help us twice as much."
So should we feel a bit sorry for him? Or did he have it coming?
In any case, the heckles were to be expected. The Xkeyscore – which covers browsing history, emails, social media activity and is accessible to NSA analysts with little or no prior authorisation – was just the latest unsavoury revelation that the NSA has been called out on.
I think I might have joined in with the heckling as well!