As We See It

A by-the-numbers glimpse into the national-security crapstorm

General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency (NSA), chief of the Central Security Service (CSS), and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, responds to questions after giving the opening keynote address at the Black Hat USA 2013 hacker convention at Caesars Palace Wednesday, July 31, 2013.
Photo: Steve Marcus

At last week’s Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, NSA chief Keith Alexander defended the agency’s information-harvesting practices (while enduring mild heckling). Meanwhile, on sidewalks in Henderson, neon chalk warnings insisted that the NSA is watching us. A sweep of related news provided some spicy number soup.

54: Terror plots Alexander claims have been foiled through government collection of phone and email data since 1993. (Source: AP)

13: Terror plots of those 54 that purportedly would have happened in the U.S. (Source: MIT Technology Review)

22: NSA officials with the power to approve phone numbers for querying in the database of U.S. call records. (Source:

35: NSA analysts authorized to run related queries. (Source:

300: Suspect phone numbers approved for NSA queries in 2012 (Source: The Washington Post)

0: Names, addresses and credit card numbers in the database, according to Alexander. (Source: AP)

18,000-19,000: Facebook accounts from which data was requested by local, state and federal government entities in the last six months of 2012, related to everything from NSA investigations of terrorist threats to “a local sheriff trying to find a missing child.” (Source:

30: Days metadata culled from Internet activities can be stored, as the NSA’s XKeyscore system “is continuously collecting so much Internet data that it can be stored only for short periods of time.” (Source: The Guardian)

5: Years the NSA can keep collected phone records. (Source: The Washington Post)

2.5 million: Americans whose records the NSA is allowed to access using “three-hop analysis” of the records of 40 individuals who’ve been in contact with one suspected terrorist. (Source: AP)

9: NSA Core Values—lawfulness, honesty, integrity, fairness, accountability, loyalty, collaboration, innovation and learning. (Source:

12: Votes that defeated a House bill to dismantle the NSA surveillance program, with 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats backing it and 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats against it. (Source: AP)

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