Ex-NSA Director to Newsmax: 'Intel Guys' Must 'Man Up' to Obama

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Thursday, 19 Dec 2013 09:39 AM

By Todd Beamon

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Former NSA Director Michael Hayden told Newsmax on Wednesday that White House intelligence officials will have to "man up" and tell President Barack Obama which recommendations from a presidential advisory panel on the agency's surveillance activities could jeopardize national security.

"The intel guys are going to have to man up and say, 'I know that will make you feel good, Mr. President, to talk about transparency or oversight — but, Mr. President, that is going to hurt our effectiveness in a significant way,' " Hayden told Newsmax in an exclusive interview.

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"The intel guys just have to man up and make those points," the retired Air Force general reiterated. "Then, the president has to make the right decision."

Hayden, also a former CIA chief, directed the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005.

In a report spanning more than 300 pages, the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology recommended that the NSA be limited in how it seizes Americans' telephone and Internet records without court approval.

The five-member panel said that the agency should have access to some records but that it should not be able to store them and should get court approval to search individual data.

The 46 recommendations in the report are strictly advisory, and Obama does not have to accept them. Overall, very few of the NSA's surveillance programs would be ended.

The White House released the report a day after a federal judge ruled that the NSA's secret collection of telephone records was unconstitutional and violated privacy rights.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon made the decision in a lawsuit brought against the government by Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch.

Klayman on Tuesday, on "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV, called the ruling a "smart decision" that bolstered the Fourth Amendment.

Obama ordered the advisory group to submit recommendations after widespread attacks on the NSA and the administration after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked information about the agency’s broad Internet and telephone surveillance programs earlier this year.

Snowden is now living under temporary political asylum in Russia.

In its report, the task force said it sought to balance the nation's security with the public's privacy rights, and insisted the United States would not be put at risk if more oversight were put in place.

"We're not saying the struggle against terrorism is over or that we can dismantle the mechanisms that we have put in place to safeguard the country," said Richard Clarke, a task force member and former government counterterrorism official. "What we are saying is those mechanisms can be more transparent."

Regarding the NSA's metadata program, the daily collection of information on trillions of Americans' phone and Internet communications, the panel recommended that the information be held by telephone providers or other third parties.

The NSA then would gain access to the data only through an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Obama is not going to accept that recommendation, Hayden predicted.

"I am not at all convinced that, when this is all done, the government isn't still going to be keeping all those phone records," he said. "I do not think this automatically means that the government's going to give up control of those records. I can see that one being rejected by the president."

The recommendations on both the metadata program and the FISA court would add more layers to both agencies, the retired general added.

"If we are more transparent, it will certainly shave points off operational effectiveness," Hayden said. "That's why intelligence agencies are secretive in the first place."

He said likewise regarding the recommendation that the surveillance of foreign officials should be personally approved by Obama. The disclosure of such activities has brought strong attacks on the administration by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other world leaders.

"I suspect that we will be intercepting the communications of fewer foreign leaders," Hayden told Newsmax. "The best the president can do is simply to tell foreign leaders, 'The United States isn't going to do any of that unless I personally approve it.' And, frankly, at that point, he's done.

"There's nothing more that he can promise foreign leaders other than he will personally look into the matter," he said. "If what we're promising the rest of the world [is] that the president will authorize some of these hypersensitive activities, that's fine — which is quite different from promising that we won't do it."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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