The NSA’s PR counter-attack continued Sunday with Congressman Mike Rogers’ appearance on This Week where he made some patently ridiculous claims about Edward Snowden selling intelligence. This follows a highly controversial piece by 60 minutes last week which has been ripped left and right as compromised and misleading.
But where was “60 Minutes” on the N.S.A. story? The Sunday before the damning study, the program produced a segment that scanned as a friendly infomercial for the agency. Reported by John Miller, a CBS News reporter, the piece included extensive interviews with Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the N.S.A.
In a scene that served as something of a metaphor for the whole segment, the producers negotiated access to the Black Chamber, a supersecret area where the nation’s top code breakers work. The door is briefly opened, we see a deserted office hall that looks like any other and then the door is closed. We get a look in, but we learn nothing.
But the PR offensive hasn’t been entirely disciplined. One NSA official told Daniel Drezner of Foreign Policy what he really thought of the whole exercise of having to tell Congress and the public anything about NSA.
The reporter seemed unclear if the official was joking or serious but the sentiment rings rather true. The NSA has been amazingly cynical with its public relations strategy.
The NSA’s attitude toward the press is, well, disturbing. There were repeated complaints about the ways in which recent reportage of the NSA was warped or lacking context. To be fair, this kind of griping is a staple of officials across the entire federal government. Some of the NSA folks went further, however. One official accused some media outlets of “intentionally misleading the American people,” which is a pretty serious accusation. This official also hoped that the Obama administration would crack down on these reporters, saying, “I have some reforms for the First Amendment.” I honestly do not know whether that last statement was a joke or not. Either way, it’s not funny.
The NSA has been in no way humbled by the Snowden Affair, they may have become even more arrogant.