Washington: US National Security Agency director Gen Keith Alexander was reportedly heckled at a cyber-security conference attended by professional hackers in Las Vegas wherein he sought their support to let the government do its job.
"We stand for freedom, help us to defend the country and develop a better solution," General Alexander told a crowd of cyber security specialists, including some of the world`s best hackers.
"I promise you the truth -- what we know, what we`re doing, and what I cannot tell you because we don`t want to jeopardize our future defense," said Alexander.
However, many in the audience at the Black Hat conference, an annual meeting of hackers and cyber security professionals, were not willing to buy his argument, local media reports said.
After a handful of claps, he continued, "You lied to Congress, why should we believe you`re not lying to us?" Alexander calmly replied, "I did not lie to Congress".
According to CBS news, Alexander spent the majority of his speech explaining how the US government arrived at its current cyber security posture and where to go next.
He pointed at some of the major terrorist attacks in the last 20 years, like the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the USS Cole bombing in 2000, and the September 11th attacks as examples of why the intelligence community had to step up its data gathering.
"The intelligence community failed to connect the dots," he said.
According to CBS news, Alexander said there are only 22 people at the NSA who can approve the surveillance of a phone number, and 35 analysts who are authorized to review the queries.
Of 300 phone numbers that were approved for query, 12 were reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Indian American Anup Ghosh, founder of the Fairfax-based cyber security firm Invincea, told The Washington Post that Alexander and the NSA need hackers more now than ever.
But he said Snowden`s disclosures, and the gap between what the government had previously said about surveillance and the apparent reality, is "making distrust a bigger and bigger issue".
"It`s a challenging problem General Alexander has in convincing this community he`s on their side.
"He needs this community," Ghosh was quoted as saying.
In his remarks, Alexander said the assumption that people are out there just wheeling and dealing (users` information), and nothing could be further from the truth.
"We have tremendous oversight and compliance in these programs," he said.