Former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden says he’s afraid proposed reforms to the National Security Agency could draw the government back to a “pre-9/11 mindset.”
President Obama on Friday is expected to announce changes to the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program, including requiring that the NSA get a court authorization to look at metadata.
That does not sit well with Hayden, whose tenure at the NSA ran from 1999 to 2004 and is now a principal at The Chertoff Group, a security consulting firm.
“If you direct the agency that they’ve got to go to a judge to query the data that’s already there, and already lawfully collected, that really feels like Sept. 10 to me. That’s a pre-9/11 mindset. That would make me uncomfortable.”
Despite Obama’s announcements, Hayden thinks the divided Congress will be a major obstacle and would therefore not put some of these changes into motion.
“I think the substance of the speech is going to be holding his ground. I don’t know that American intelligence agencies are going to be doing a whole lot of things different in a week, a month, or a year, than they’re doing right now,” Hayden said.
Obama is also likely to support the creation of a public advocate on the FISA court. Hayden says that would be a “digestible” change as long as that person’s job is limited to intervening during macro-legal decisions.
Above all, Hayden says Obama’s job is to reassure Americans that the government’s surveillance activities are legal.
“His mission here is to make people more comfortable about what it is the intelligence agencies are doing,” he said. “I think we need a larger dose of transparency across the board.”