The former head of the National Security Agency called on U.S. President Barack Obama to discard many recommendations made by a review panel concerning domestic and foreign surveillance programs.
Retired general Michael Hayden said that while surveillance methods like the telephone bulk collection program may not be popular with Americans today, public perception would shift if there was another terrorist attack.
“They may not poll well right now,” Hayden told USA Today. “They’ll poll damn well after the next attack, alright?”
Hayden is not the first government official to use terrorism as a crutch in defense of spy programs. Last week, a federal judge invoked the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in his opinion on a lawsuit brought by the ACLU over the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone records (the lawsuit was tossed out).
NSA Director Keith Alexander has used the same argument for defending the programs. At a congressional hearing in December, Alexander argued that the programs were necessary to help “connect the dots for foreign terror plots against our homeland,” arguing that such counterintelligence would “prevent the recurrence of another 9/11.”
But a review panel assembled by President Obama found that the bulk collection program was “not essential to preventing attacks,” saying the records could be gathered on an individual basis as needed for the same purpose. For that reason, the panel argued that the bulk collection program should be terminated.
Hayden wants Obama to ignore that recommendation.
“Since there have been no abuses and almost all the court decisions on this program have held that it’s constitutional, I really don’t know what problem we’re trying to solve by changing how we do this,” Hayden said.
Last week, a judge with the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court reauthorized the bulk collection program for 90 days.