Hayden: Obama's NSA Goal is to 'Keep Doing What He's Doing'

Image: Hayden: Obama's NSA Goal is to 'Keep Doing What He's Doing'

Sunday, 19 Jan 2014 10:15 AM

By Greg Richter

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President Barack Obama's Friday speech on intelligence gathering outlined additional burdens to be placed on spy agencies, but won't fundamentally change how things are done, says Gen. Michael Hayden.

"He's willing to shave points off of flexibility, add administrative burdens, add oversight, but the objective is to keep on doing what he's doing," Hayden, former head of the NSA and CIA said on "Fox News Sunday."

Hayden admitted the changes could be risky, but he said Obama appears willing to take that risk in order to "fundamentally preserve the programs."

Obama gave the speech after months of outcry from Republicans and Democrats alike on the gathering of metadata of phone calls and online communications of Americans as part of the effort to fight foreign terrorists. The issue came to light after former NSA contract employee Edward Snowden began leaking classified information on the programs.

Hayden called the first third of Obama's speech a robust defense of why and how the United States collects intelligence.

"If he had been giving that speech for the last six months I'm not so sure he would have had to have made the speech at the Department of Justice," he said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., appearing with Hayden, said that despite the speech, Congress still plans to pass legislation limiting the power of the National Security Agency. The USA Freedom Act calls for end to bulk collection of metadata, he told host Chris Wallace.

"Think back on the history of this country: J. Edgar Hoover's day and all," Leahy said. If he'd had the power when he was spying on protesters and those against the Vietnam War and Martin Luther King, if he'd had the power that's in here, think what might have happened."

Turning to the Iranian nuclear deal, Hayden said he believes in the executive branch having power in such instances. The United States and allies have a deal to lift sanctions for six months while Iran halts its enrichment of uranium that takes effect Monday.

Still, Hayden said, "I like the threat of additional sanctions hanging out there," because it gives the president more negotiating ability.

Some members of Congress have threatened to pass additional sanctions that would take effect if Iran reneges on its promise.

Leahy opposes that plan, saying it could cause U.S. allies to pull back and let America go it alone against Iran.

"If the negotiations fail, if Iran is seen cheating, we will impose more sanctions in a nanosecond," Leahy said.

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