Decades to Come

The appearance of former NSA and CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden on the CBS show Face the Nation on 29 December 2013 has triggered quite a lot of criticism as regards Hayden’s frank lies about whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s two alleged open letters to the Brazilian and German governments in which he had promised to help them in their efforts to investigate illegal NSA spying efforts. Hayden claims, in the interview with Major Garrett,

“[…] In the past two weeks, in open letters to the German and the Brazilian government, he [Snowden] has offered to reveal more American secrets to those governments in return for something — and in return was for asylum. I think there’s an English word that describes selling American secrets to another government, and I do think it’s treason.”

If Snowden had mentioned asylum in the letter to the Brazilian people then probably in order to recall that he had sought asylum in several countries including Brazil in summer last year. He has not sent another letter to the German government but had recently an email exchange with German magazine Der Stern. BuzzFeed knows that, according to his lawyer, Snowden would not trade information for asylum.

What Hayden seems not to understand (and Garrett does not question) is that NSA activities in foreign countries, strong allies in both cases, are illegal and have met with considerable uneasiness. And that Snowden has been asked in particular by German lawmakers, not to reveal more NSA secrets, but to testify in a possible parliamentary court of inquiry.

Hayden did make other weird statements in the interview in Face the Nation. When asked about the damage done by Snowden’s leaks, he claims,

“This is the most serious hemorrhaging of American secrets in the history of American espionage. Look, we’ve had other spies. We can talk about Hanssen and Aldrich Ames [former CIA and FBI agents who spied for the Soviet Union and Russia]. But their damage, as bad as it was, was fairly limited, and even though in both of those cases, human beings actually lost their lives. But they were specific sources, all right? Now, there’s a reason we call these leaks, all right? And if you extend the metaphor, Hanssen and Ames — you could argue whether that was a cup of water that was leaked or a bucket of water that was leaked. What Snowden is revealing […] is the plumbing. He’s revealing how we acquire this information. It will take years, if not decades, for us to return to the position that we had prior to his disclosure.” (Emphasis added.)

Well, that seems to be good news. During the upcoming years, may be decades, public awareness (due to Edward Snowden’s leaks, and the diligent work of Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, and still upright journalists at the Guardian and the Washington Post) may prohibit a return to the NSA’s position at all.

Scaremongering Hayden made a quick turn to al Qaeda.

“[T]he 215 program, the metadata program, the one we’re talking about — that is actually more ideally suited against that granular, one-off, individualized, self-radicalized attack. It’s probably a little less useful to the traditional Al Qaida attack, which is that slow-moving, ponderous plot with multiple threads designed for mass casualties against an iconic target. I’m not saying 215 isn’t valuable there. But I’m saying there are enough other threads we could pool and perhaps learn about those traditional plots. Now we get plots like a drive-by shooting in Little Rock. We get plots like what happened in Boston at the Marathon. We — we get plots like the Army major shooting up fellow soldiers in Texas.”

Rather than questioning the latter which, as far as we know, is an unsubstantiated claim made by the intelligence community over and over again, CBS’s host Major Garrett responded : “General Hayden, it’s good to have you with us. Thank you very much. Happy new year to you.”

A last word on Hayden’s view about al Qaeda. In his introductory remarks (on new revelations about the Benghazi attack on the U.S. consulate in 2012 and a prompt by Garrett about “Central Command Al Qaida”) he explains the organizational structure.

“When the attack happened […], a few days afterwards, I was asked who did it. And I said, ‘Well, you know, the Al Qaida movement’s divided into three layers, Al Qaida prime, formerly affiliated, and like-minded[‘]. And at the time, I said this was probably high-end like-minded or low-end affiliated.  And I think the Time story [probably that by David D. Kirkpatrick], kind of, bears that out.”

Under that definition, most people in the Middle East are easily becoming suspects these days.

3 January 2014 @ 11:03 am.

Last modified January 3, 2014.

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