Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency, said on Sunday that he doesn’t expect significant operational changes at the NSA despite an uproar over its massive surveillance programs.
“To me, the most telling thing he said was perhaps something he didn’t quite say. He didn’t suggest he was going to operationally change this program,” Hayden said.
“There’s no suggestion that what he was doing or what President Bush was doing before him with regard to these programs was anything other than lawful, effective and appropriate.”
“He also suggested that the oversight regime for this was already quite good,” Hayden added.
Hayden said the president’s effort to make Americans more comfortable with what the NSA is doing will be hard.
“Frankly … some steps to make Americans more comfortable will make Americans less safe,” he said.
Hayden also said the president was “quite artful” in discussing the addition of a privacy advocate to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court.
“There are two kinds of decisions that the court makes. One is getting a warrant on an individual person. The other, these broad questions of lawfulness about broad programs. I think the president was talking about that.“
“It may be useful for transparency … It may be useful for confidence. But let me tell you, looking through your windscreen when you lay this on it just looks like more thorough oversight. When you’re looking through your rearview mirror after the next successful attack, this runs the danger of looking like bureaucratic layering.”
Hayden said there are some “real downsides” to the actions of Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked details of the surveillance programs.
“Clearly, the debate was coming. He accelerated it. He didn’t inform it. He made it more emotional,” Hayden said.
“We used to have a word for somebody who stole our secrets, who got the job to steal our secrets and then he moved with those secrets to a foreign country and made those secrets public,” Hayden said. “It wasn’t whistleblower. It was defector. And I actually think that’s a good word for him.“