Did the Edward Snowden leaks help the U.S. by exposing massive privacy violations? Or did the former National Security Agency contractor hurt the country by spilling vital secrets? Either way, Americans should be able to agree on one thing: that General Keith Alexander, the head of the NSA, has been an awful steward. Depending on your perspective, he has presided over unprecedented civil-liberties abuses or else a historic failure to secure legitimate secrets.
Why does he still have a job?
Privacy advocates have long wanted to see his ouster. After all, this is a guy whose approach to information-gathering is so zealous that it worried General Michael Hayden, who ran the NSA in the years immediately after the 9/11 attacks.
War on Terror hawks have been more reticent in calling for his head. As we saw during the Iraq War, this is a group that tends to refrain from criticizing ideological allies even if they're presiding over a series of catastrophic policy failures. An exception to that rule is Senator John McCain, who began to identify failures in Iraq War policy long before many of his fellow conservative hawks did. So I wasn't shocked to see him call for Alexander's resignation in Spiegel Online:
McCain: Why did Edward Snowden have that information? And what are we doing as far as screening people who have access to this information? It's outrageous, and someone ought to be held accountable.
SPIEGEL: Who must be held accountable?
McCain: The head of the NSA, the president of the United States, the Congressional Intelligence Committees, all of these contractors we pay that were responsible for performing the background checks. There should be a wholesale housecleaning.
SPIEGEL: Should Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, resign?
McCain: Of course, they should resign or be fired. We no longer hold anybody accountable in Washington.
Note that the newspaper "submitted its interview with Senator John McCain to his office on Friday morning to clarify the Senator's position. It was approved by McCain's staff in the exact version that was published, word for word." Kudos, Senator McCain.