LAS VEGAS - National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander jousted with a few hecklers as he defended the US spy agency's surveillance programs at the Black Hat security conference on Wednesday, but largely kept the crowd of cyber-security experts and hackers on his side.
"Read the Constitution!" one heckler shouted at the 61-year-old four-star general as he responded to polite but tough questions selected in advance by conference organizers.
"I have. So should you," Alexander shot back, triggering sustained applause.
The four-star general, who wore uniform shirt sleeves, was the opening keynote speaker at the annual convention in Las Vegas, which drew about 7,000 cyber-security experts and hackers from the private and public sectors.
Alexander has been under fire from many civil liberties advocates and lawmakers since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents revealing previously secret telephone and internet surveillance programs run by the U.S. government.
Snowden, facing US criminal charges and holed up in Russia, disclosed details on how the NSA gathers and stores telephone calling records of virtually all Americans, and works closely with Google Inc, Microsoft Corp and other technology companies to obtain communications from users in other countries.