Ex-CIA/NSA Boss Says Snowden Worse Than Every Spy From Benedict Arnold To The Rosenbergs

from the also,-glenn-greenwald-is-a-co-conspirator dept

Former CIA and NSA boss Michael Hayden has already been making the rounds saying stupid things about Ed Snowden and his leaks, but he took it to a new level late last week by comparing Ed Snowden to a variety of former Americans who gave secrets to foreign governments… and then declaring that Snowden is worse than all of them.

I know that we have had our share of spies.

Benedict Arnold was bent on betraying the garrison at West Point to the British during the Revolution. Klaus Fuchs and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg ferreted out nuclear secrets for the Russians. Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen identified American penetrations for ultimate execution by the Soviets.

We have also had our share of leakers.

Daniel Ellsberg copied thousands of pages of documents related to the Vietnam War. Bradley Manning is accused of indiscriminately scoured the Defense Department’s SIPRNET (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network) for all manner of military reports and diplomatic cables.

But Snowden is in a class by himself.

Did you catch that? He’s claiming that Snowden is worse than Benedict Arnold — who directly gave info to the British while we were at war with them. And Fuchs and the Rosenbergs, who provided nuclear secrets to the Russians at the dawn of the cold war. And he says that a guy who blew the whistle on our own government’s pervasive and questionable surveillance regime on its own citizens is somehow worse? Does he honestly think anyone can take him seriously after that?

The argument, basically, is that because it’s digital, Snowden has a lot more info. And, despite Snowden’s rather vocal assurances that he set things up so that the Russians and the Chinese could not get access to the data he had, Hayden is positive they already got it, noting he “would lose all respect for China’s Ministry of State Security and Russia’s FSB if they have not already fully harvested Snowden’s digital data trove.” Of course, this leaves out that part of Snowden’s expertise which was in setting up systems to keep such information from falling into foreign intelligence hands. In other words, if Snowden couldn’t protect such info, then it sure sounds like the overall NSA probably wouldn’t have been able to stop it either — meaning that it’s highly likely China and Russia already had this info. Besides, if anyone thinks that the Chinese and the Russians didn’t already know that the US was tapping into pretty much all internet communications then they’re pretty clueless.

Hayden is just spreading FUD to try to make a case against Snowden that just isn’t there.

Hayden goes on to blame Snowden for: “the undeniable economic punishment that will be inflicted on American businesses for simply complying with American law.” Got that? It’s Snowden’s fault that people will be less willing to do business with American companies because the NSA has been forcing them to hand over all sorts of data. I don’t know about you, but it sure seems like if you’re looking for someone to pin the blame on for that economic issue, it should start and end with the NSA itself for twisting the law and getting the companies to cough up such info.

As we’ve said before, if these programs really are so great and so important, then the intelligence community should have no problem with defending the basic programs in public. Tell us why they’re necessary and let the public debate it. Keeping them secret has no real benefits. Criminals know that law enforcement can tap phone lines. That’s been around for ages. We don’t expect law enforcement to keep those sorts of capabilities secret. The only reason to keep these programs totally secret is because folks like Hayden (who led the initial warrantless wiretapping efforts) know that they’re almost certainly breaking the law.

Going even further, Hayden stomps even further on our Constitution (the one he was supposed to protect) by shifting from the 4th Amendment that he’s already contributed to spitting on and turning to the 1st. Within the piece, he claims that reporter Glenn Greenwald, who helped to break Snowden’s story is also guilty of breaking the law:

The Guardian newspaper’s Glenn Greenwald, far more deserving of the Justice Department’s characterization of a co-conspirator than Fox’s James Rosen ever was….

Based on what? The answer is absolutely nothing. Hayden is childishly smearing Greenwald because he’s not happy about the leaks. Of course, Greenwald had the perfect comeback:

I’ve long thought Michael Hayden belongs in prison for implementing illegal warrantless eavesdropping at Americans

So I guess they’re even?

Though, honestly, Greenwald has a really good point here. Perhaps Hayden’s vitriolic lashing out at Snowden and Greenwald is a lot more about his realizing that among the documents that Snowden must have might include more than a few that implicate Hayden’s activities back when he was in charge of the warrantless wiretapping programs. Might as well get a few potshots in first before those come out, I guess?

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Comments on “Ex-CIA/NSA Boss Says Snowden Worse Than Every Spy From Benedict Arnold To The Rosenbergs”

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HJK says:

Missing the point....

But you’re ignoring the point that Snowden is now freely releasing classified information to foreign governments and causing incalculable harm to the security of the US. That got nothing whatsoever to do with the “whistle blower on US gov spying on citizens” stuff. Even if you approve of the former, you must deplore the latter.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Re: Re: Missing the point....

To quote Ambassador de Sadesky from Dr. Strangelove:

“Our source was the New York Times.”

Maybe Snowden is causing incalculable harm to the national security of the US in the long-term. Then again, maybe these releases won’t, and the only people who will be harmed are the NSA, who will have to actually change their surveillance strategies in order to keep doing their jobs [protecting us from Al-Qaida/other terrorist groups].

(Part of the problem is the alphabet-soup organizations hate sharing info with each other, but that’s for another rant)

As the Zen Master says, “We’ll see.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Missing the point....

How secret is “classified” and what is incalculable harm?

The harm he is doing is, is spread around primarily damaging US citizens image of the three letter salads.
There is some rhetorical theater with europe, which will die down and some secret deal will seal the issue in a couple of years.
There are small damages to the already shreaded image of USA in south america even though most of it came as a result of the US effort to intercept Snowden…

The economic harm to american companies are most of all potential at the moment, since there are no significant non-US-based competitors. The damage to US companies is created by NSA first, US law/FISC second and the US companies third in order of perception. It stands to reason that the leak is more of a turnoff of future entrepreneureal spirits in USA, but it is just another battle in the fights against innovation…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Missing the point....

“But you’re ignoring the point that Snowden is now freely releasing classified information to foreign governments and causing incalculable harm to the security of the US.”

Because your enemies couldn’t have guessed that you had extensive espionage programs on their own (Hello ECHELON!?).

No sir, they are so thick that they have to rely on rogue operatives to learn about this kind of stuff, even though they have similar espionage and surveillance programs of their own.

SolkeshNaranek says:

CIA/NSA Qualifications

I think this goes to show that you don’t need to be intelligent, capable of rational thought, or acquainted with U.S. history in any way to work for one of American’s premiere spy agencies.

The only real requirement is to be a liar, and you don’t really need to be a very good one.

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Re: CIA/NSA Qualifications

The only real requirement is to be a liar, and you don’t really need to be a very good one.

Confirmed. One of the NSA recruiters that was nailed to the wall by Univ. of Wisconsin students said: “I don?t believe the NSA is telling complete lies.”

At first I chalked this up to security agency obfuscation. Your comment makes me believe they just don’t have the skill to tell complete lies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Funny that Hayden blames Snowden. Personally, I “would lose all respect for China’s Ministry of State Security and Russia’s FSB” if they had not already purchased all of Snowden’s information from less scrupulous contractors than Snowden, before Snowden went on the run and started leaking information. To my knowledge, everything he’s released thus far has been pretty basic information. The sort of broad overview short on specifics that would be handed out at orientation of new employees, or used to brief new officials.

Sure he’s supposedly got some more serious stuff stashed away for his deadman’s switch, but that shouldn’t be that much more difficult to get than what he’s already released.

ReallyEvilCanine (profile) says:

"Does he honestly think anyone can take him seriously?"

> He’s claiming that Snowden is worse than Benedict Arnold — who directly gave info to the British while we were at war with them. And Fuchs and the Rosenbergs, who provided nuclear secrets to the Russians at the dawn of the cold war.

> And he says that a guy who blew the whistle on our own government’s pervasive and questionable surveillance regime on its own citizens is somehow worse?

It’s a valid position if the US government is at war with its citizenry, which it certainly appears to be. Secret courts, death lists, “Constitution-free zones”, gag orders…

out_of_the_blue says:

Inflation of damage means limited hangout.

Everything so far is consistent with that notion. Just briefly:
A) Snowden hasn’t revealed anything that anyone interested didn’t KNOW was going on.
B) The drama of limbo at the airport has been hyped.
C) The alleged “insurance” has absolutely no visible substance, sheer hype.
D) Snowden handed info over to major media who are gatekeeping and trickling it out, NOT really made public.
E) Most telling: the major media keep running this story! Anything truly important they minimize at best.

Anonymous Coward says:

Really? Snowden is worse than them all pout together? The only reason that Snowden was able to release those documents is because the government that is supposed to be protecting us has decided that we are all national security risks. I don’t see anywhere in the constitution where our founding fathers gave broad authority to our government to treat every American like a terrorist.

Perhaps if our government hadn’t been spying on Americans within our own country then Snowden would never have released those documents in the first place. This is because our government has become too secret and has decided that phone calls we place to our moms, to our dads, are now considered to be national security.

Trevor (profile) says:


The easiest way to make sure you don’t give up information is to NOT HAVE INFORMATION TO GIVE UP. Sure, he had “4 laptops” with him, but he was gone for weeks before the leaks were made public. If he were smart (he is) he would keep the information somewhere separate, and simply keep some type of access to it; not carry it all around with him at all times.

I doubt he gave anything to China or Russia, because he most likely doesn’t have anything on him to give…

FM Hilton (profile) says:

Harm done

I’d rather balance what Snowden’s done against all that the NSA with all their illegal seizure of metadata any day.

Oh, and throw in the FISC, the secret laws you don’t know about that you’re probably breaking, and then you have people like Haydon claiming they were just following orders.

You know, John LeCarre wrote a book once called “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”, where the mole uncovered in the spying agency “The Circus” was named Haydon.

He was the head of that fictional agency, as well. Passing for a hero, he sold it out to the Russians, in the book.

Traitors come in all disguises.

Anonymous Coward says:

So, the NSA collected shedloads of private data completely unnecessarily and for no useful or legitimate purpose but god help everyone if the Russians or the Chinese got their hands on all that private data… they might not use it correctly.

If those countries went trawling through the massive data harvest they might uncover terrorist operations and …?

aldestrawk says:

Hard to take Hayden seriously

Apart from the fallacy of his arguments, Hayden shows himself to be ignorant concerning, at least, one of the examples he gives. Ethel Rosenberg was mentioned in the Venona decrypts but those did not implicate her as being involved in passing secrets to the USSR whereas Julius Rosenberg was implicated. Her execution was a travesty of justice. The Venona decrypts have been declassified since 1995, yet Hayden still uses Ethel Rosenberg as an example of a spy.
Hayden did not mention Bill Weisband as an example of a spy. This is the man who worked for the Signals Intelligence Service (SIS, the precursor to the NSA), was also an NKVD agent, and told the Soviets about the Venona project. That information led the Soviets to change their encryption methods which meant basically not re-using one time pads, a classic cryptology mistake. Bill Weisband was never prosecuted for espionage Weisband escaped prosecution for espionage “as authorities feared that a trial would divulge yet more information to Soviet intelligence on U.S. intelligence “sources and methods”.” (Wikipedia ref.)

It is not surprising that the NSA, given the moniker “No Such Agency”, is obsessed with secrecy. Hayden thinks Snowden is the worst because he is the only on Hayden’s list that released information specific to the NSA. Snowden’s worst crime was betraying their culture of secrecy. Despite everything that Snowden has said about why he has leaked information and what he has but doesn’t plan to leak, their secrecy culture and bureaucratic procedures forces them to assume that all the information he took is available to every foreign government and terrorist group. Living that culture of secrecy has warped Hayden’s sense of reality so I am not surprised by his statements at all.

Anon says:

What More?

The continuing relentless and incredibly vicious pursuit of Snowden makes me believe what some commented about the case a while ago – Are they annoyed at what he has revealed, or terrified of what more he could reveal?

I can’t believe they diverted the Bolivian president’s plane; but it does not surprise me the Europeans cooperated. All those “friends” – NATO, Australia, Japan – they share everything. If MI6 or the NSA are forbidden to look at their citizen’s activities, they get a friendly power to do it for them and trade data.

The story with Ethel according to a commentator of the time, was that she was a bargain chip – tell us all you know, Mr. Rosenberg, or your wife is implicated and executed too. After all, she was involved enough to get a conviction. Julius Rosenberg was willing to let his wife die rather than give in. The executed her. Saya something about both sides.

I’m not sure why anyone would consider Snowden’s revelations (so far) monumental. It just confirms what everyone who did not vote for Bush has believed for years – the NSA is recording everyone and everything, and laws be damned. As for “aiding the enemy”, Snowden or Manning – hey, any terrorist or foreign power that did not know or suspect that their internet was being recorded was probably caught or droned years ago. We knew (thanks to previous leaks and lawsuits) that the NSA had black boxes in all the major telcos years ago. Congress even passed laws absolving the telcos of blame.

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