By Julian Hattem - 06/12/14 10:13 AM EDT
Government leaker Edward Snowden’s name is never uttered at the National Security Agency, according to former Director Gen. Michael Hayden.
“We don’t say 'Snowden' at NSA,” Hayden said to laughs at a Thursday event at the American Enterprise Institute. “People use the phrase 'he who will not be named.' ”
Hayden and other defenders of U.S. government surveillance said the leaks have hurt American national security by giving away secrets to terrorists and foreign governments in China and Russia. Additionally, Snowden’s disclosures have hurt the United States's reputation abroad, critics say, even while critical governments in Germany, France and other countries run surveillance programs of their own.
At Thursday’s event, Hayden said that the leaks were the “greatest hemorrhaging of legitimate American secrets in the history of the republic. Period.”
Snowden has been living in Russia for the last year, where he is avoiding espionage charges in the U.S. He has described himself as a patriot, though critics have accused him of working with foreign spies or even being a Russian agent.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, claimed that he was “in the loving arms” of Moscow’s Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB.
“We know that for a fact,” he said. “That’s not even disputed.”
Snowden has repeatedly indicated he wishes to come back to the United States, but the Obama administration has ruled out granting him full amnesty. Still, supporters hope that a deal can be reached so that he does not remain a fugitive for the rest of his life.