National Security Agency Director General Keith Alexander says that if he had 15 minutes alone with NSA leaker Edward Snowden, he'd make sure he knew how much damage Snowden has done to the United States and its allies.
"I'm not a violent person. I'm not going to try to beat him up or anything," Alexander said Tuesday on "Special Report"
on the Fox News Channel. "I am hugely disappointed that someone that signed a document that said I can be trusted with top-secret data couldn’t be," he told host Brett Baier.
Alexander said he would tell Snowden, who is living under temporary political asylum in Russia, that he has been a "huge disappointment," and might also tell him some of the classified problems he has caused so he knows "the significant damage to our nation and to our allies."
Snowden has made some "huge mistakes" that "will haunt him for the rest of his life," Alexander said.
Alexander, who leaves his post at the end of this week, said his agency knows what information Snowden was able to take via computer thumb drive. Some that he has not released would hurt military operations and could endanger lives, he said.
"That's what my greatest concern is."
Asked whether Snowden should be shown mercy, Alexander responded, "I'm for justice, the American way."
But Snowden, 30, was anything but remorseful Tuesday, calling President Barack Obama's plans to end the NSA's bulk collection of phone records a "turning point" in the fight over secret government snooping, The Hill reported
In a prepared statement handed out by the American Civil Liberties Union — which coordinates his legal aid, The Hill noted — the spy secrets leaker said the president's decision only proves the surveillance was ineffective.
“In the USA Freedom Act, Congress is considering historic albeit incomplete reforms,” Snowden said, referring to legislation from Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy and Wisconsin Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner.
“President Obama has now confirmed that these mass surveillance programs, kept secret from the public and defended out of reflex rather than reason, are in fact unnecessary and should be ended.
"This is a turning point, and it marks the beginning of a new effort to reclaim our rights from the NSA and restore the public's seat at the table of government,” Snowden said.
Alexander called the people who work for the NSA the "true heroes" as they work to stop terrorist attacks on the United States.
The changes in data collection announced Monday by Obama were the best the government could come up with that would protect the agency's current system while providing Americans with assurances that not all of their phone calls and emails are being monitored, he said.
The agency still needs to address its ability to get more information during crisis situations such as the Boston Marathon bombings, he said.
Meanwhile, Obama, at a nuclear security summit in The Hague on Tuesday, acknowledged that it would take time to win back the trust of European governments and people after revelations of extensive U.S. surveillance.
"I am confident that everybody in our intelligence agencies operates in the best of intentions and is not snooping into the privacy of ordinary Dutch, German, French, or American citizens," Obama said.
But he conceded that "because of these revelations, there is a process that is taking place where we have to win back the trust, not just of governments, but more importantly of ordinary citizens, and that is not going to happen overnight."
Obama said he was confident the change "allows us to do what is necessary in order to deal with the dangers of a terrorist attack, but does so in a way that addresses some of the concerns that people have raised."
"I am looking forward to working with Congress to make sure that we go ahead and pass the enabling legislation quickly so that we can get on with the business of effective law enforcement," the president said.
In his Fox News Channel interview, Alexander responded to criticism from former President Jimmy Carter and Sen. Rand Paul that the NSA is spying on everything Americans do, insisting that only numbers have ever been collected and secret FISA court warrants are required for anything more.
"I'd rather have this conversation today than to have been sitting here answering why we didn't stop a terrorist attack," he said, adding that if terrorists end up getting through, now that the NSA's data collection has been decreased, there will be a flurry of questions from Congress, the White House and the American people about why they weren't stopped.
"We don't want to fail," he said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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