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Former CIA/NSA Head: NSA Is "Infinitely" Weaker As a Result of Snowden's Leaks 572

Posted by samzenpus
from the spying-used-to-be-easy dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Huffington Post reports, 'Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency, said Sunday that he used to describe leaker Edward Snowden as a "defector," ... "I think there's an English word that describes selling American secrets to another government, and I do think it's treason," Hayden said ... Some members of Congress have also ... accused him of an act of treason. Hayden said his view of Snowden has grown harsher in recent weeks after reports that Snowden is seeking asylum in Germany and Brazil in exchange for assisting their investigations into NSA programs. Hayden said the NSA is "infinitely" weaker as a result of Snowden's leaks. "This is the most serious hemorrhaging of American secrets in the history of American espionage," he said. "What Snowden is revealing ... is the plumbing," he added later. "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 disclosures."' — More in the Face the Nation video and transcript, including discussion of the recent legal decisions, and segments with whistleblower Thomas Drake, Snowden legal adviser Jesselyn Radack, and Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman who recently interviewed Snowden."
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Former CIA/NSA Head: NSA Is "Infinitely" Weaker As a Result of Snowden's Leaks

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  • by russotto (537200) on Monday December 30, 2013 @12:55PM (#45819225) Journal

    GOOD!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheCarp (96830)

      I was thinking the exact same thing; then I realized, its not true, they must have just spelled infinitesimally wrong.

      Were that they were infinitely weaker, that would be wonderful.

    • Good?

      Only for those of us who won't have to pay for it. You'd expect the overpaid sinecurists who lost all this data to be trying to minimise the consequences of their laxity but they're doing the opposite. To the point that it's now an 'infinite' amount of damage caused. One that will, by extension, require an infinite amount of money to fix.

      Unless the politicians see through this outrageous bit of self-interested lobbying, and there's no reason to suspect that they will, a whole lot of taxes will shortly

  • Boohoo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rubypossum (693765) on Monday December 30, 2013 @12:56PM (#45819227)
    We were caught abusing the rights of the American people and the people's of many other nations. Now that we've been caught people won't trust us anymore. Fell so sorry for us!
    • Re:Boohoo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by roman_mir (125474) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:08PM (#45819371) Homepage Journal

      I don't believe a word of the NSA traitors (that's what they are - traitors to the Constitution, thus traitors to the Republic).

      I think they are as strong as ever and their powers are growing, that's because while before Snowden they just pretended that they were an actual legal institution, now the courts will proclaim them to be legal! The system is corrupt completely and irreversibly, it will have to be replaced to be made workable again.

      The problem is not NSA, the problem is the government that no longer follows the rule of law (the Constitution, the process) the government doesn't have a process anymore, it's based on mobocracy keeping it in power, it's based on propaganda, it's based on cult of personalities, it's based on class warfare talk and thus propaganda and it's based on ability to extort money from the RULED. The problem is that the government is absolutely illegitimate, it is now a system or rulers, the mob and the rest of those who are ruled.

      Was it worth fighting against a Constitutional monarchy to end up with an authoritarian mobocracy/socialism/fascism/cronyism/Mafia?

    • I am reminded of

      "I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said "thank you", and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to!"

      and so on..
      i have a feeling that nothing really will change, they will just be more secretive until we

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ebno-10db (1459097)

        We were set on this suicidal road to insecurity by a bunch of known radicals and self-admitted traitors 237 years ago. Apparently some people think it's time to rectify that situation.

    • Re:Boohoo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:18PM (#45819491)

      We were caught abusing the rights of the American people and the people's of many other nations.

      Obama said recently in an interview that spying in the US was limited by laws in the US. They he added that for the rest of the world, the NSA is not limited by any laws. So I guess that means that the US doesn't care about breaking laws in other countries.

      That's a very sour thought, when you chew on the implications of that statement.

      • Re:Boohoo (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Nyder (754090) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:39PM (#45819753) Journal

        We were caught abusing the rights of the American people and the people's of many other nations.

        Obama said recently in an interview that spying in the US was limited by laws in the US. They he added that for the rest of the world, the NSA is not limited by any laws. So I guess that means that the US doesn't care about breaking laws in other countries.

        That's a very sour thought, when you chew on the implications of that statement.

        What that means to me is that the President is saying that is okay for other countries to ignore USA laws. Like copyright and DMCA.

      • by superwiz (655733)

        So I guess that means that the US doesn't care about breaking laws in other countries.

        Why should it be? Every government is only responsible for enforcing laws of its own country. US is bound by treaties it signed, but internal laws of other countries? I should hope not. Why should we be bound by laws over which we have no control?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 30, 2013 @12:56PM (#45819231)

    ...and celebrate the long-term crippling of an evil agency.

    Let's also lament the fact that Snowden won't be able to return to the country he helped so much.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 30, 2013 @12:57PM (#45819237)

    Unfortunately so is most of the government and the courts.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 30, 2013 @12:58PM (#45819259)

    Treason is working against one's country. So the NSA has been the treasonous one.

  • So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 30, 2013 @12:58PM (#45819263)

    Still waiting for the first shred of proof that the NSA's dragnet methods do any good whatsoever. Until then: nothing of value was lost.

  • Treason huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 30, 2013 @12:58PM (#45819265)

    That's funny, I consider "treating every citizen of your country as an enemy and a criminal" as treason, Mr. Hayden.

    • Re:Treason huh? (Score:5, Informative)

      by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:10PM (#45819399)

      School kids in the US used to be taught that a precise definition of treason was one of most important things that was included in the, now deprecated, US Constitution. It defined treason as: "Allegiance to a foreign country". This was because the British rulers would slap a charge on just about anyone in the colonies they didn't like.

      Snowden has always claimed that he was not spying for Russia, nor Brazil, nor Germany, etc. He said he did it for the US.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 30, 2013 @12:58PM (#45819267)

    ... illegal and un-Constitutional activity and I do think it is "criminal" and "un-American" respectively.

  • my thoughts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ganjadude (952775) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:00PM (#45819287) Homepage
    My thoughts on this are simple. It is in us, the people who live in the USA's best interest that this leak happened. Plain and simple the NSA has been running wild with a total disregard to the constitution. I personally want to see the NSA disbanded as they will never be taken seriously again by america, and they will never be trusted again by the rest of the world.

    Now as for doing damage that is in regards to other countries, I think the way snowden went about things was actually the best way he could have given the circumstances. He did not just dump the files, unredacted for the entire world to see and learn from. The articles and information that up until this point been released have been screened pretty well to protect numerous secrets.

    From my point of view yes Id love to see all the data, unredacted but I underrstand that would have been a disaster for a number of reasons, one of those reasons being the concern of the people who are anti snowden, they are making the argument as if the entire treasure was dumped. but it wasnt so their argument doesnt hold water. The other reason, and the oneI am more concerned with is that if he dumped it all at once, it would be much easier for our no attention span having population to forget about it and move on to the new shiny of the day, and all of that information would be for nothing.
    • Re:my thoughts (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fermion (181285) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:23PM (#45819551) Homepage Journal
      Basically the problem the US has is that it is difficult to escalate this to beyond a civil matter. He was not in the military, he was not employed by the federal government, he was not a spy for a foreign power. He was a private citizen who decided to become a whistleblower. The US has rules protecting whistleblowers. For instance, if the IRS were doing some of this, and he reported it, most of the conservatives in congress would be buying him hookers and drug and throwing a parade, even if it did mean that the US governments ability to pay bills might be jeopardized.

      As far as treason is concerned, in the US that is a very narrow legal term defined by our constitution. That any high level government official would throw it around I think speaks to the lack of competency of that official. Treason is declaring war, giving aid and comfort or aligning with an enemy. Diplomatically, the US has few nation states that it claims as enemies. In fact we have a diplomatic term for them, 'rogue states', so we do not have to use the term enemy. In the current climate treason is a high bar, otherwise we would have some Generals who have been recently executed, for instance those that have somewhat decreased the ability of the navy in some parts of the world by selling secrets to foreign agents.

      In the US the governement should not function under an excess of secrecy. People like Snowden are part of that. If he is convicted of anything, the next person who wants to report an abuse of power, for instance the FEMA concentration camps being built to imprison dissidents against the coming UN World Governemnt, will be too afraid to come forward. This is clearly not in the peoples interest.

  • by Connie_Lingus (317691) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:00PM (#45819289) Homepage

    i mean really...what else is this guy gonna say?

  • Chain of Command (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ClaraBow (212734) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:02PM (#45819313)
    If Snowden would have voiced his concerns to his immediate supervisors, he would have been silenced immediately.
  • Cry wolf... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:04PM (#45819325)

    "This is the most serious haemorrhaging of American secrets in the history of American espionage," he said. "What Snowden is revealing ... is the plumbing,"

    Worse than when Soviet intelligence penetrated the Manhattan project at every level that mattered thus enabling Stalin to take a multi year shortcut to building his own bomb? I mean let's not over dramatise this, the ability to steal airplane sales from Airbus and hand them to Boeing, to steal IP from foreign companies and donate them to US competitors, blackmail foreign politicians, etc..., may be important but an A-bomb can vaporise a city along with millions of it's inhabitants.

  • Methods, not intel (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mveloso (325617) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:06PM (#45819357)

    Luckily for the NSA, the guardian hasn't said anything about specific operations or people involved. The releases have been about methods and reach, which aren't the same. The only surprises there are that the NSA was more active than most people thought.

    There's nothing in there that's mind-glowingly unbelievable, like the NSA hooked up some kind of transmitter to an eyeball and has been using that realtime video feed to monitor meetings.

    Of course, there are a few more million documents, but I'm sure the really juicy ones are being withheld.

  • NSA abusing power (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JeffOwl (2858633) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:07PM (#45819369)
    If they had not been abusing their power to conduct illegal surveillance then Snowden may not have resorted to this. Perhaps then their techniques would have remained secret and been available for legitimate purposes. Perhaps they should be looking in the mirror when placing the blame.
  • by Entropius (188861) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:09PM (#45819377)

    "It will take years, if not decades, for us to return to the position that we had prior to his disclosures."

    Yes, and the hope is that the US will have a very public conversation about whether that position is something we want to allow you to return to in the meantime.

    • when was the last time we had a 'public conversation' about public policy in the US? was there EVER a time? I honestly ask.

      we don't rule by democracy. its plutocracy and other 'cracies' but it most definitely is NOT the will of any large bunch of people.

      it would be great if we could have this 'national conversations' about things that pop up from time to time. we have the mans for communications at the largest scale. we can take instant votes and poll for a national pulse on any issue we want.

      we don't

  • by cjonslashdot (904508) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:11PM (#45819407)

    "I think there's an English word that describes selling American secrets to another government, and I do think it's treason," Hayden said.

    Well, not if the revelations are about illegal - and especially unconstitutional - behavior.

    • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:36PM (#45819717)

      "I think there's an English word that describes selling American secrets to another government, and I do think it's treason," Hayden said.

      Well, not if the revelations are about illegal - and especially unconstitutional - behavior.

      Citation required on the aspect of treason which requires it to be legal and constitutional.

      Article 3 of the US Constitution defines treason as: "levying War against [the United States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort."

      I would say leaking how the US gov't is spying or collecting information does give aid and comfort to our enemies.

      • by DRMShill (1157993) on Monday December 30, 2013 @02:37PM (#45820339)

        So the American public are the enemy of the state now?

      • You are right, it does. But one could also say that merely voicing one's opinion against a war "gives comfort to our enemies". Thus, the issue is not "black and white" and there must be a matter of degree as well as consideration of concomitant circumstances.

        In my opinion, it all comes down to the level of risk: If we were in an actual war, with a true existential threat and bombs falling on our cities every day, that would be one thing, and it would be acceptable for the government to use any tool at its d

  • by Kimomaru (2579489) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:11PM (#45819411)
    When did Snowden sell secrets? I thought he released them to the public, I never read anywhere that he SOLD them.
  • What we don't see (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gregor-e (136142) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:12PM (#45819423) Homepage
    What we don't see in the Snowden revelations is any scrap of value derived from the NSA's blatant power-grab. As I understand it, the essence of NSA's defense is "but...TERRORISTS!", yet they have failed to produce any results that come even close to justifying their extraordinary usurpation of power. Even if the NSA could demonstrate real value in the data they've stolen, they would still have to justify their process for taking it from us. Last I knew, the constitution does not state "the ends justify the means".
  • by scsirob (246572) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:13PM (#45819435)

    I do not know what is more disturbing. The facts revealed by Snowden, or the statement by Hayden that the goal is "to return to the position that we had prior to his disclosures".

  • by gerardrj (207690) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:14PM (#45819453) Journal

    "Infinitely weaker' would mean powerless.
    IF the NSA were powerless then it should be dissolved. Since No-one in the NSA is saying THAT should happen, they must think they still have a lot of power.
    I don't doubt the NSA's spying effectiveness has been diminished, but I think the implication they are impotent is a lie.

  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:18PM (#45819493)

    Sounds to me like Hayden's just afraid that he'd be subject to arrest and prosecution if he visits wherever Snowden lands. If he'd only done nothing wrong, he'd have had nothing to hide, and nothing to fear punishment for if caught. Perhaps he shoulda thought of that sooner. Sure, someone else would have done the job if he'd quit instead of following orders, but at least he'd be guiltless (or less guilty). There's a certain irony that Hayden could be a criminal in a land where Snowden could be free -- although I doubt either one will happen.

  • by swm (171547) * <swmcd@world.std.com> on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:20PM (#45819509) Homepage

    At this point, I think we'd be better off if the NSA's efficacy were reduced to zero (infinitely weaker: 1/x -> 0). Then we could rebuild it from the ground up with proper political, legal, and operational controls.

    In fact, I suspect that the NSA retains most--if not all--of its operational capabilities.

    The NSA doesn't face any significant legal restrictions. The law allows them to do most of what they want, and they just do the rest anyway, secure in the knowledge that the courts won't(?) can't(?) shut them down.

    The NSA does have a political problem right now. It's not much of a political problem: most of the political establishment wants them to keep doing what they are doing. They wouldn't have any political problem at all if their P.R. weren't so inept. Hayden yammering about "defectors" and "treason" and "infinite weakness" is just more P.R.

  • Ben said it best... (Score:4, Informative)

    by thestudio_bob (894258) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:21PM (#45819537)

    Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

    – Benjamin Franklin, 1759

  • by stoicio (710327) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:23PM (#45819553) Journal

    " It will take years, if not decades, for us to return to the position that we had prior to his disclosures."

    First, if someone (NSA) breaks the laws of the country and gets caught, wouldn't the expectation be that they stop doing that?
    This statement indicates that the NSA doesn't get it. The expectation is that they will continue with the surveillance
    state as planned.

    Second to that, no one from the government has actually taken this statement to task. This indicates
    that it will be business as usual for the NSA and CIA no matter what the laws of the land are.

    Finally, the lack of actual caring from all quarters about this would indicate that all the elected representatives
    in government are on board, no matter what their bobbing heads say on T.V. . Apparently the law doesn't apply to employees
    of the state since no one fom the NSA has been arrested or fired.

  • by Subm (79417) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:27PM (#45819609)

    > "he used to describe leaker Edward Snowden as a "defector""

    He is a defector. Away from the rogue near-nation of the NSA and toward the United States' Constitution.

  • by fredrated (639554) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:33PM (#45819677) Journal

    The sooner he is swinging from the end of a rope until he is 'dead dead dead' the better off America and the rest of the world will be. Just don't hold your breath.

  • by davidwr (791652) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:43PM (#45819805) Homepage Journal

    Snowden is a hero for revealing secrets that need revealing. He is a villain for revealing more than necessary. He is brave for essentially throwing his life away. He is a coward for not being willing to accept all of the legal consequences for his actions.*

    With a treasure trove of tell-alls as big as Snowden's allegedly is, I doubt he's had the time to sort out the things our government is doing that are generally likely to be considered by Americans and American allies as immoral or against our own Constitution from those that aren't.

    There is no doubt that American owes Snowden a debt of gratitude for shining light on activities which are likely to have at least 4 of 9 Supreme Court justices ruling them unconstitutional, should a relevant case ever reach their docket, as well as many other activities which, while clearly constitutional, are generally regarded as things a civilized government simply should not do, at least not outside of times of war, invasion, or rebellion.

    However, the odds are high that not all of the secrets he leaked are those kinds of secrets.

    To the extent that Snowden is leaking secrets of things that Americans would NOT generally consider immoral or unconstitutional AND, (for things that affect other countries or their citizens) things which those other countries not only find immoral but which they themselves do not do, Snowden should've kept his mouth shut.

    Perhaps the United States Government should take a page from the Doctor Who television episode "Tooth and Claw" [wikia.com]** and give Snowden a medal for releasing the secrets that show American was acting immorally and/or unconstitutionally, then charge him with treason for releasing secrets whose release expose anything that needed the disinfecting light of sunshine cast upon it. Maybe they will let him wear his medal and write his (classified, until Washington says otherwise) memoirs while he serves his time in Club Fed???

    *The hallmark of an honorable person engaged in civil disobedience (or insurrection, treason, etc.) is their willingness to accept the full legal consequences to themselves for any actions they take on behalf of "the people."

    **In the episode, Queen Victoria knights The Doctor and his companion then banishes them both. This episode is also part of the back-story for the spin-off series Torchwood.

  • by jbolden (176878) on Monday December 30, 2013 @01:58PM (#45819967) Homepage

    When Snowden first started leaking he was, as is usually for the Obama administration, grossly overcharged. Instead of considering him a whistle blower or hitting him with minor charges regarding classified information the administration went for espionage. Espionage is a capital crime. They also threatened people to get him back.It is the USA that moved a whistle blower to a traitor.

    If these secrets are really that damaging than Snowden should be given full immunity for past acts and the right to testify to congress behind closed doors. Otherwise all this "traitor" stuff is just more of trying to discredit him and distract from the conversation, the same as when they were mocking his girlfriend in the beginning.

    I'm sorry but President Obama campaigned on shutting down the domestic telephone surveillance program under Bush. Instead he expanded it. He argued there was congressional oversight even while congress couldn't get documents and thus couldn't exercise oversight. I like Obama, I voted for him, I'd vote for him again. But he's just dead wrong on his war on leakers. We live in a democracy and we should not be engaging in intelligence activities not specifically authorized by Congress. It is simply too dangerous to the democracy to have a quasi military branch of government accountable only to the President.

  • by trydk (930014) on Monday December 30, 2013 @02:14PM (#45820127)
    I find many of these threads fascinating as a non-USA citizen and think the government of the USA with their information gathering agencies should consider the impact their activities have on the rest of the world — after all, the United States of America represent less than 4% of the world's population ... but hey! who cares about a measly 96+% of the people of the world?

    It seems to me that USA has a holier-than-thou attitude where anything in USA's interest is allowed and anything against USA's interests is illegal. If Snowden (USA) shares intelligence information with The Guardian (UK), it is illegal; if NSA (USA) shares intelligence information with GCHQ (UK) it is perfectly legal ... er, what?!?

    Lastly, more as an example of the attitude of the USA government than because it has anything directly to do with Snowden et al: If somebody creates a website that is perfectly legal in their home country (like creating a gambling site) but illegal in USA, that person cannot enter USA or any of its territories without the risk of arrest, whereas if somebody from USA creates a website that is perfectly legal in their home country (like a website advertising prescription drugs) but illegal in many other countries, that would not normally have any impact on their travel in those countries.
  • by melchoir55 (218842) on Monday December 30, 2013 @03:10PM (#45820737)

    No one on earth trusts a word you say. Every single person remotely connected to human civilization has heard about what you've done. You have violated your own country's highest laws, violated the laws of countries around the world, and have spent enough money doing so that the USA could have supplied free healthcare to a sizable portion of its population.

    Why would you ever speak to the media under circumstances like this? You know no one is going to take you seriously. You know no one is going to believe anything you say, no matter what you say. You cannot even really supply evidence at this point because you have violated trust at so deep a level, and gone to such extremes to do it, that no one will believe the evidence is real. All you accomplish by speaking is to further antognoize and enflame nearly the entire population of your country (and the world?). Is there anyone with half a brain working at this organization to do PR strategy?

    The only reason I am not leaving the country in terror over the NSA is that they appear staggeringly incompetent at everything they do. Perhaps this is their strategy...?

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