Leaks of classified National Security Agency information to the media has shaved "points off our operational capacities," former NSA Chief Gen. Michael Hayden said, but it also means it may be time to show examples of how the program is successful.
"We don't get to do anything for a long period of time without broad political support and public acceptance," Hayden told MSNBC host MIka Brzezinski on Thursday's "Morning Joe" show. "In this case I actually think that 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."
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Hayden said he agrees with NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander's statement to lawmakers
Wednesday that the NSA's secret surveillance programs have prevented "dozens of attacks," and he supports efforts to reassure the public that the programs were necessary and effective.
Further, he said, the surveillance programs are not invasive to Americans' privacy, but concentrate more on foreigners.
"Let me give you an example," he said. "A terrorist in Pakistan communicating with a terrorist in Yemen, via a chat room, the only thing American about that communication is the fact it's going through a server in Redmond, Wash. This is not about going after Americans' information. It's about going after information that is resident, that is located in the United States."
He denied the program sweeps up information on Americans and uses it later.
"These providers, Microsoft and Google and so on, get a very targeted request from the NSA, which has foreign intelligence value," he said. He pointed out that foreigners are not protected by the Fourth Amendment.
The secret programs, disclosed last week by 29-year-old government contractor Edward Snowden, involved phone call data from Verizon users. The PRISM program, he said, took data on overseas' Internet users who communicate online through American companies.
Meanwhile, Hayden said the American public is less safe because of the leaks.
"These folks aren't stupid," he said. "When we bring their attention to these kinds of capabilities we alert them and they exhibit more care"
Hayden also called on the press to take more care when reporting information from leaked sources, like Snowden, who he is "very surprised someone like him, very low-ranking, is able to get access to very sensitive documents."
He noted that he has had "a lot of dialogue with with the press, and the press does sit on some stories, and they may suppress facts if you convince them it's a matter of national security."
But in the case of an expose of the magnitude of the NSA revelations, "if you're going to have an expose, get it right," said Hayden. He said the "garbled" articles in The Guardian and The Washington Post "make it seem far more invasive than it really is. Make sure you're dealing with truth."
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