It's "normal behavior" for countries to spy on each other, Ret. Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, said Wednesday.
"This is normal behavior between nation-states. This is an R-rated movie. This is how adult nations treat one another. And, it's fully accepted," Hayden told MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
The spying is not the problem, Hayden indicated; the publication of it in the media is the issue.
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"It's not 'fact of' that's the problem. It's 'fact of being in the papers' that's a problem," he said.
The NSA came under fire last week amid revelations the United States spied on the cellphones of German Chancellor Andrea Merkel and leaders of numerous other countries, some of them U.S. allies.
Although President Barack Obama said he was unaware of the activities, Hayden said he thinks the president would have known about the monitoring program.
"You would have thought he would have known. But, on the other hand, I can imagine circumstances where he might not have known this specific, or that specific," Hayden said. The sensitive issues of government spying programs should be transparent, but can pose problems when such activities become public, he said..
"I'm fully in favor of more disclosure and more transparency," he said. "Now, it's quite another thing how much you want to make public to the American public. And, the really interesting question here is now the demand that European publics want to be told how we spy."
If the intelligence community is told to hold back from listening to "good people," Hayden warned, it would hinder U.S. spying efforts and could put the country in danger.
"If we tell our citizen intelligence collectors that under no circumstances will they ever be allowed to listen to good people, we're going find ourselves less knowledgeable and, therefore, more in danger, if that's how we come out of this," he said.
Modern technologies allow for greater information, but also require enhanced protection, Hayden said, and used the example of Obama's BlackBerry cellphone that had to be protected when he came into office.
"The most powerful man on earth, the most powerful man in the most powerful nation on earth, was just told that his communications were susceptible to intercept by dozens of foreign embassies inside his own national capital," Hayden said. "We didn't protest. We just realized, that's the way things are."
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