We may never know why the former head of America’s most reviled spy agency decided to do an interview with a comedian, but it is an unquestioned win for democracy and afternoon procrastinators everywhere.
Former Daily Show guest host John Oliver debuted his new weekly HBO show, Last Week Tonight, with a breakout interview with retired four-star Gen. Keith Alexander (below).
Probably the best insight into the National Security Agency’s mindset is when Alexander flat-out denies that anyone in his agency has ever done anything illegal … except for the people who admitted it (like those spying on ex-lovers)
Alexander: In my time, no. Not that I know of. You know, one of the most impressive things that I’ve seen in my career was people who made a mistake, that could be a huge mistake, stepping up to say, “I made a mistake.” And in every case, to my knowledge, everyone but 12 individuals stepped forward at the time they made those mistakes.
Oliver: Right, but you can’t say “everyone… except for 12.” That’s like saying, “I’ve never killed anyone … apart from those three people I have buried under my patio at home.”
I wish that I could say the continued public embarrassment will lead to meaningful surveillance reform in the near future, but that’s unlikely.
Congress is charged with deciding the fate of the NSA’s bulk collection of phone and Internet data, but one graph below shows why that probably won’t happen any time soon.
So, we might not expect much to come from the national outrage of mass spying, but at the very least we can watch the first full episode of Oliver’s new show. And that’s pretty great — it’s not bacon jam great, but it’s better than nothing.