Hayden: Reveal more details about thwarted terror plots

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Hayden’s comments came a day after NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander told lawmakers that the intelligence collection programs had prevented “dozens” of terror attacks. 

"I agree with Gen. Alexander: having made this part public is harmful, making more public is harmful. It will shave points off of our operational capabilities. But I also know, Mika, we operate in a democracy," Hayden said to MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski. "We don't get to do anything for a long period of time without broad political support and public acceptance. 

“In this case I actually think we're going to have to take a little bit of operational loss and make more public exactly what it is what we're doing and not doing and why it has been effective in protecting the United States,” he added. “So I think we'll see a few more examples out there of how this program has been successful."

The secret programs were disclosed last week after leaks a 29-year-old government contractor, Edward Snowden, leaked classified information to The Guardian newspaper detailing the NSA’s practices.

One program obtained phone call metadata from Verizon and another, PRISM, took data on foreign citizens Internet use.

Civil libertarians have criticized the programs, with many lawmakers demanding the legal justifications for the surveillance.

But President Obama and the leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence panels have defended the programs, saying they are critical to national security.

Hayden said the American public was less safe because of the leaks. 

"Of course we are," Hayden said. 

“These folks aren't stupid,” he said of terrorists. “When we bring their attention to these kinds of capabilities we alert them and they exhibit more care."