Tags: hayden | us | spying

Former CIA Dir. Hayden: World Outrage Over US Snooping 'Political Theater'

Friday, 25 Oct 2013 05:32 PM

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Former CIA Director Michael Hayden tells Newsmax a report that the National Security Agency spied on world leaders is "terribly damaging" — but he believes the outrage expressed by those leaders is to some extent "political theater."

The retired 4-star Air Force General also says the anti-terrorism efforts begun by President George W. Bush and continued by the Obama administration are "lawful, effective, and appropriate."

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Hayden served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from May 2006 until February 2009, shortly after Obama’s inauguration. He also served as Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) from 1999 to 2005, and is now on the Advisory Board of LIGNET.com, a Washington, D.C.-based intelligence analysis and forecasting service affiliated with Newsmax.

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV on Friday, Hayden was asked if NSA leaker Edward Snowden's claim that every call and every Internet transaction in the United States goes through the NSA is accurate.

"No, period," he declares. "It's not accurate."

Hayden also discusses the new report in The Guardian asserting that the NSA monitored the phone calls of 35 world leaders — after President Obama this week called German Chancellor Angela Merkel to insist the U.S. wasn't monitoring her calls.

"First of all I reviewed the report," he says. "It doesn't have to be true, but I viewed the report as being terribly damaging and I wonder why anyone would make that kind of information public.

"This was obviously traced back to Mr. Snowden, who began his current campaign on some grounds of protecting American privacy and now he's got all these allegations out there of what the United States through the National Security Agency is or is not doing against foreign intelligence targets. I don't think he's on any kind of moral high ground by making these kinds of accusations."

It has been reported in the past that many friendly nations spy on each other. Asked if the United States has to spy because others are spying on us, Hayden says: "I would respond to that by simply saying that espionage is an accepted international practice, that all states that I know of conduct espionage, and they try to gain information that will make their policy makers more aware of the situation around them."

As for Hayden's assessment of President Obama's anti-terror efforts, Hayden states: "I have actually been heartened. I've been the occasional critic here and there of some of the decisions that President Obama and his administration have made. But fundamentally I am very heartened by the continuity between what President Bush was doing in his second term and what President Obama has decided to continue in both his first and second terms, whether it's targeted killing of enemy combatants or programs like PRISM begun under President Bush.

"President-elect Obama was briefed on those programs and [heard] that these things are lawful, effective and appropriate. This new president, who spent a fair amount of his campaign criticizing his predecessor for his counter-terrorism policies, accepted these counter-terrorism policies. That underscores how correct and effective these efforts are."

As for the outrage of Germany, France, and other allies who believe the United States spied on them, Hayden offers this view: "Some of what we're seeing here is political fear. When a national leader is forced to confront allegations in their national press of massive American espionage and that national leader has to be outraged, all right, so there's some political theater here and perhaps that will fade.

"But I've got to admit, beyond the theater, there are some real issues here too. These people are good friends and we do not want to put these leaders who are friends of the United States in domestic political situations where they would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to cooperate with us.

"And so the president's right. He had a press opportunity in Sweden before he went to the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg a month or so ago and he said we need to review these things. Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should be doing something. So the president is trying to balance our nation's legitimate needs and requirements for good intelligence along with the political sensitivities of people who are by and large our friends."

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Hayden believes congressional intelligence committees should not invite Edward Snowden to testify via Skype.

"The Congressional Oversight Committee's going to start asking tough questions of people who are now in positions of responsibility and who actually know a lot more about this than Edward Snowden does," he adds.

The Washington Post reported that U.S. officials are telling some foreign intelligence agencies that Snowden has documents detailing their cooperation with the United States.
Hayden comments: "When a nation enters into an agreement to cooperate with us, they do it with a certain presumption of discretion on our part, that this will be kept secret, will be revealed only to the appropriate authorities within each government, and if partners believe we can't honor those commitments, then why would any partner in the future team up with us? If we can't protect them through our discretion, why would they join with us in these kinds of activities?

"So we're talking about something here that would be incredibly destructive of the security not just of the United States, but of a whole bunch of other countries around the world."

The former Washington director of the liberal group Moveon.org tweeted what he claimed were excerpts of phone conversations Hayden had on an Amtrak train on Thursday, claiming Hayden made "disparaging" comments about the Obama administration.

"My reaction is I wonder why it's getting all of that press reaction," Hayden tells Newsmax. "I was on the train. I was called by a couple of journalists who weren't asking me for anything sensitive and certainly not anything political. They were asking the kind of questions you're asking me here today.

"I have some experience and frankly I welcome the debate that all of this is going to engender, but it should be an informed debate.

"And so I answered the questions and he said I was bashing the Obama administration. I have no idea what he means by that. There were just factual responses to a factual question."

Related story:

Hayden: What's the Fuss About Twitter Story?

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