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Ex-NSA Director Stands By Trump, Confirms Agency’s Tie to Ransomware Attack

Keith Alexander had kind words for the President despite recent intelligence scandal.

Technology By

Retired Gen. Keith Alexander, the former director of the NSA, is standing by the President amid allegations that Trump shared classified intelligence with Russian officials.

“It’s our country. He’s our President,” Alexander said.

At TechCrunch Disrupt Tuesday, Alexander echoed comments he made after meeting the President in February, describing how Trump changed “what you see publicly to a person who acted like a senior CEO” once the press left the room.

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“I think he has the opportunity to be a great president,” Alexander said.

But, the former director wasn’t only singing the President’s praises. “I’m not going to defend the tweets,” Alexander said.

The ex-NSA leader also confirmed the agency was responsible creating for the virus used by hackers in the widespread ransomware attack that infected over 200,000 computers last week and warned of others like it.

When asked about the recent ransomware attack, Alexander didn’t shy away from discussing the agency’s role in creating the WannaCry computer virus leaked by a group called the Shadow Brokers. “NSA didn’t use WannaCry, criminally, and some guy stole it,” the former director said matter of factly.

Given the rash of NSA leaks, Alexander said more cyber attacks like WannaCry would happen and called for greater collaboration between the public and private sector to prevent them. But, he stopped short of recommending the NSA hand over all vulnerabilities, or exploits, it finds to tech companies. “We should assume noble intent,” he said.

Critics claim intelligence agencies like the NSA and CIA withhold too many exploits, putting the public at risk to cyberattacks like Wanna Cry.

However, the former director, like many intelligence officials, believes exploits are invaluable in protecting against terrorist and cyber attacks. “[The NSA] releases 90 percent of the exploits they find, but to go out and catch a terrorist, you need an exploit,” Alexander said.

The former director, who led the NSA at the time of the Snowden leaks in 2013, expressed his dismay at the negative media coverage of his former employer and the intelligence community. “They carried everything that was bad about the NSA,” he shared. “Government agencies doing good doesn’t sell—and that’s not right.”

In particular, he defended the controversial surveillance programs that Snowden disclosed to the public with the caveat that if the were misused it was a mistake, but that didn’t happen under his command.

Alexander believes more citizens should serve in the military and intelligence agencies to gain a better or appreciation of what they do. “I wish the American people could understand how much the NSA does to protect this country,” he admitted.