Ex-NSA head suggests US also hacks political parties

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Former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden on Tuesday implied that the United States, too, has hacked foreign political parties. 

The difference between the U.S.’s actions and Russia in the 2016 presidential election, Hayden said, was that “once they got that information, they weaponized it.” 

{mosads}But up until they weaponized information, Hayden said their actions were par for the course. 

“I have to admit my definition of what the Russians did [in hacking the Democratic National Committee] is, unfortunately, honorable state espionage,” Hayden said during an on-stage interview at the Heritage Foundation. 

“A foreign intelligence service getting the internal emails of a major political party in a major foreign adversary? Game on. That’s what we do. By the way, I would not want to be in an American court of law and be forced to deny that I never did anything like that as director of the NSA,” he said. 

Hayden served as the director of the NSA between 1999 and 2005, under the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies. He served as director of the CIA between 2006 and early 2009, under Bush and Obama. Hayden worked for less than a month under Obama.

At the Heritage stop, Hayden went on to speculate that Vladimir Putin was emboldened to attack “because he is convinced we do this to him all the time. We don’t.”

Hayden suggested that Democrats’ view of the hacking – that Putin was trying to benefit one candidate and harm another – might be overly simplistic. Both parties have scored political points with the hacks; Republicans through the information being leaked and Democrats through suggesting that Putin was backing Donald Trump. 

Instead, Hayden said he believed what many experts believe: Putin is trying to bring chaos into the election process. 

Hayden recommended responding to the hacks in the broader context of Russian action, not as a problem caused and only solvable within the cyber domain. 

“Do not drop this in the cyber problem box. Drop this in the Russia problem box. Do not treat this by its means, treat it by its actor,” he said. 

“By the way, that Russia problem box – we’re going to need a bigger box.”

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