By Bill Hoffmann
Michael Hayden, former director of both the CIA and the NSA, says that in no way can Edward Snowden be considered a whistleblower on the National Security Agency’s surveillance policies.
“I really do think he had evil intent. This is not an innocent who went to work under one set of expectations and then was just shocked and appalled by what he found at work and was driven to some sort of action,” Hayden, a retired four-star general, told “The Steve Malzberg Show.”
“This is somebody who sought the job he had in order to scrape information off of NSA’s systems. I’m fond of saying he was a hunter, not a gatherer. He went there with a plan and malice aforethought.”
Snowden has been baring classified information about the NSA’s spying programs since he fled the United States for Hong Kong and then Russia, where he has been given asylum.
“When you look at the totality of Snowden’s actions, certainly one hypothesis that jumps out at you, that seems to explain his ability to do all these things, is that he had help, and had help from somebody who was very competent in these matters,” Hayden said.
Hayden said he thinks President Barack Obama wants to keep the NSA’s spying programs going, despite saying last week that new restrictions were necessary to protect privacy.
“In his heart, I’m now convinced that he wants to keep it, and he’s willing to give up a few things from operational capacity, perhaps, at the margins, a little more oversight, a slower approach to it so that he’s got more checks and balances,” Hayden said.
“But, fundamentally, he wants to keep it. And that might be the cause of some of the confusion that folks who listened to the speech had.”
In a 45-minute speech at the Justice Department, Obama unveiled new guidelines and reforms for the NSA.
He placed restrictions on the agency’s access to domestic phone records, but noted that the collection of personal data from billions of people around the world, Americans and foreigners, will continue.
“We cannot prevent terrorist attacks or cyberthreats without some capability to penetrate digital communications, whether it’s to unravel a terrorist plot, to intercept malware that targets a stock exchange, to make sure air traffic control systems are not compromised or to ensure that hackers do not empty your bank accounts,” the president said.
“We are expected to protect the American people. That requires us to have capabilities in this field.”