Dinner with Alexander the Great

Dinner with Alexander the Great

by digby

Here's a fascinating piece from a noted civil liberties lawyer Jennifer Granick who had dinner with General Keith Alexander. They broke bread and chatted and handled each other's cell phones:

I have no doubt that Gen. Alexander loves this country as much as I do, or that his primary motivation is to protect our nation from terrorist attacks. “Never again,” he said over dinner. But it may be that our deep differences stem from a fundamental disagreement about human nature. I think Gen. Alexander believes that history is made by great individuals standing against evil. I believe that brave people can make a difference, but that larger inexorable forces are often more important: history, economics, political and social systems, the environment. So I believe that power corrupts and that good people will do bad things when a system is poorly designed, no matter how well-intentioned they may be. More than once, my dinner companions felt the need to reassure the DIRNSA that none of us thought he was a bad man, but that we thought the surveillance policies and practices were bad, and that eventually, inevitably, those policies and practices would lead to abuse.

Nothing Gen. Alexander said at dinner differed from what I’d heard him say publicly before. He was a bit exasperated with me for disagreeing with him about the FISA Amendments Act’s impact on Americans, which was unexpected. He repeated that old saw about the NSA does not “target” Americans, and when I explained I knew about the contorted definition the NSA gives to that word, all he responded was “That’s wrong.”

The author is very polite in her descriptions of Alexander. And I can understand that. he did agree to meet and have dinner with a bunch of civil liberties lawyers.

But he's an asshole:

The General seemed convinced that if only I knew what he knew, I would agree with him. He urged me to visit Pakistan, so that I would better understand the dangers America faces. I responded that one of my longest-standing friends has relatives there and visits regularly, maybe she would take me. I did not miss his point, and he did not miss mine. At one point he incredulously identified me as being “to the left of Senator Wyden”.

That is the kind of characterization you hear from people who watch Fox News. Normal people don't think Senator Wyden is a raging far left loon. He's not. He's a civil libertarian, which isn't really a matter of left and right. That Alexander thinks it is says it all about where he's really coming from. Those are the words of a very political person.

Everything I read about this guy makes me think he's a megalomaniac and dramatically unsuited to the role he's in. He's in love with his technology and himself. And there is no limit to the amount of power he thinks he needs to "do his job" --- which in his mind, is to save the world. That's not good.