Michael Hayden Thinks Snowden Revelations, Rather Than NSA Actions, May Splinter The Internet

from the yeah,-perhaps-you-shouldn't-have-done-the-spying-in-the-first-place dept

Former NSA and CIA boss Michael Hayden seems to be doing what Michael Hayden does best: spewing ridiculous fear-mongering statements in support of the intelligence community that assumes that anyone hearing/reading the quotes has a brain the size of a newt and is unable to put two and two together. The latest comes from an an interview he did with Der Spiegel, which kicks off with a bang, in which he talks up how the internet is all about freedom and love and how Snowden may have destroyed all that:
SPIEGEL: General Hayden, let's speak about the future of the Internet. Are you concerned?

Hayden: I am very concerned. This may be the single greatest, most destructive effect from the last 10 months of what Mr. Snowden has revealed. The Internet was begun in the United States and it is based on American technology, but it's a global activity. We in the United States feel it reflects free people, free ideas and free trade. There are countries that do not want the Internet as we know it. Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia. The Snowden revelations will now allow them to argue that we Americans want to keep a single, unitary Internet, because it just helps us spy. My fear is that the disclosures may have set a motion in progress that ends up really threatening the Internet as we know it.
Of course, that is the purest form of "blaming the messenger" as you might find. The whole line about how the internet "reflects free people, free ideas and free trade" would be a lot stronger of a point if the NSA hadn't undermined basically all of that with its spying activity. The problem isn't that Snowden revealed all that. It's that the NSA was doing everything it was doing in the first place. If doing these things undermine the idea that the internet is about "free people, free ideas and free trade," perhaps it shouldn't have been doing them. To blame Snowden for that seems... ridiculous.
SPIEGEL: It is not only the Russians and Chinese who use this argument, but also Americans like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. He recently described the US government as a threat to the Internet.

Hayden: The more people like him say that, the more it indirectly strengthens these other arguments. The Russians and the Chinese aren't saying this to protect themselves against alleged American espionage. They are saying this because they don't like the Internet's freedom of speech. Their goal is to divide the Internet up into national domains and create barriers in cyberspace. That's the last thing Zuckerberg would want to have happen.
Hayden is pretending that it's the Russians and the Chinese who kicked this off and made such statements. It is not. It was American technologists and entrepreneurs who recognize that when the NSA undermines their own products and purposely weakens key encryption standards that, yes, the NSA itself is a threat. Sure, the Russians and the Chinese have their own motives for slamming the US, but that's just Hayden trying to misdirect attention. The idea that Americans shouldn't accurately state that the NSA is a threat to the internet is bullshit. For someone who -- just seconds earlier -- was talking about our "freedoms" to then try to stifle Americans speaking out against the NSA by arguing that to do so "helps the enemy" is a level of depressing irony that only someone as tone deaf as Hayden can pull off.
SPIEGEL: On the one hand, the United States promotes the Internet as a tool of freedom. On the other hand, it now appears to many people to be a tool of surveillance.

Hayden: I am quite willing to have a discussion about what my country has or has not done, but it has to be based on facts. Let me first point out that the NSA doesn't monitor what every American is doing on the Internet. The NSA doesn't check who goes to what websites. But you've got these beliefs out there now.
Ha! Right after telling Zuckerberg and other good Americans to shut the hell up or it's helping our the Chinese and the Russians, he now says that he's willing to have a discussion about what the US has done? Really? Then there's the nice strawman, in which he pretends that what people are upset about is spying on what websites Americans visit (ignoring that he's talking to a German publication). He conveniently says nothing about tracking what non-Americans visit, nor the fact that it's not the website tracking that has people concerned, but rather hacking into various websites, tracking all kinds of confidential information.
SPIEGEL: It has been almost a year since Snowden left Hawaii. What has he changed?

Hayden: There are three or four effects. We do this, like other countries, for legitimate reasons, and it's harder to do this now with what has been made public, legitimate intelligence targets. It has become harder for American services to cooperate with friendly services with common goals. What foreign service would want to cooperate with us, given our absolute seeming inability to keep anything secret? And then it really harmed American industry, and that's why you have the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world and the Eric Schmidts of the world expressing great outrage. They aren't doing anything for the American government that other companies do not do for their host governments when they receive a lawful request, but they've been singled out, and they have been unfairly harmed by this. And finally, it has poisoned relationships between people who really are friends.
More bogus misdirection from Hayden. Schmidt and Zuckerberg are not upset about the situations in which they complied with lawful requests. They're upset about hacking into datacenters without permission. They're upset about doing "QUANTUM" inserts via bogus Facebook attacks. They're upset about weakening basic encryption. None of that has to do with lawful requests.

And, where they are upset about lawful requests, it's because of the NSA's bogus secrecy in which it refuses to let these tech companies show how many users are impacted. Once again, the problem there is the over-secrecy on the part of the NSA.

Finally, the idea that others are upset with the US because it "can't keep stuff secret" is equally bogus. No one has complained about that one bit. The Snowden leaks happened. No one seems to think that makes the next leak any more or less likely. Hayden is just, once again, trying to pin the blame of the NSA's own overreach back on Snowden.
SPIEGEL: The Germans are more sensitive when it comes to the issue of surveillance.

Hayden: I confess that we Americans underappreciated the impact of that not just on the chancellor but on the German population, and I mean this sincerely. Perhaps we underestimated the depth of feelings that the German people -- and again, not just the chancellor, but the German people, felt about this question of privacy, given their historical circumstances compared to our historical circumstances. At the Munich Security Conference it was clear to me that Germans regard privacy the way we Americans might regard freedom of speech or religion. Perhaps we did not appreciate that enough.
In which Hayden more or less admits that he thinks the First Amendment is important, but the Fourth? Not so much.
SPIEGEL: Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA is conducting similar operations against China. They monitor the head of state of China. They monitored a couple of universities. NSA is breaking into some Chinese companies. Isn't it hypocritical to complain and yet do similar things?

Hayden: It's only hypocritical if you had a peculiar and inaccurate way of looking at it at the beginning, and I have been quite public. I'd say, "Look, we spy. We're really good at it." There are two differences between us and the Chinese. We're actually more sophisticated, and we're self-limited. We don't do industrial espionage. I never claimed the moral high ground, you seem to be suggesting that we didn't spy. Let me play a joke on myself. I say, you know, if I had to talk to the Chinese about it, I'd go to Beijing, and I'd sit across the table, which I have done, and I would begin the conversation, "Look, you spy, we spy, but you steal the wrong stuff."
Note that he never explains why "industrial espionage" is so bad, while plain old espionage is fine. And, the evidence from the Huawei effort certainly suggested that the US was, in effect, doing industrial espionage anyway.
SPIEGEL: Give us a prediction about Snowden's future.

Hayden: I don't know. I think he asked for an extension of his visa. I think they will just kind of toss the ball up and keep juggling it for another year to see what happens.

SPIEGEL: Wouldn't it be better to bring him home...

Hayden: ... absolutely ...

SPIEGEL: ... and grant him clemency?

Hayden: No. God, no. No. No. This is the single greatest hemorrhaging of legitimate American secrets in the history of this country. It is incredibly damaging, and if we give him some sort of clemency or amnesty, all we're doing is teaching the next Edward Snowden that if you do this, make sure you steal a whole bunch of stuff.Edward Snowden has given this data to all these other folks. Glenn Greenwald has got it. Laura Poitras has got it. Bart Gellman has got it. DER SPIEGEL apparently has it. I mean, this stuff is coming out beyond the control of Edward Snowden.
Hayden still doesn't get it (or is purposely misleading). No one thinks Snowden should get clemency because he took "a whole bunch of stuff," but because he helped reveal a ton of very questionable activities by the US government, much of which may be unconstitutional and illegal. And that's the kind of thing that we should be encouraging, because as government employees, people take an oath to uphold the Constitution. That means when they see the government doing unconstitutional things, they should blow the whistle.

Michael Hayden may not like that -- especially as some of the revelations appear to implicate him and the decisions he made personally. But his answers here are flat out ridiculous, and they don't make Hayden look good. They make him look petty and vindictive, attacking a whistleblower who has exposed a bunch of things that Hayden helped set in motion. There's a lot more in the interview (including a lot of talk about spying on Germans), but these snippets here give you a sense of how Hayden approached this particular interview.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    silverscarcat (profile), Mar 25th, 2014 @ 7:06am

    Of course Snowden's leaks will splinter the internet!

    Why, if they hadn't come out, everyone who thought that the NSA was spying on you would have been a "tin foil hat" conspiracy theorist that no one would believe.

    Now that they've come out, those same people who said "tin foil hat" are saying "we all knew it, what's the big deal?"

    But, back to the original point, if Snowden hadn't come out with this, the NSA would have probably had full control of the internet within the next few years and no one would know.

    Now they can't do it and they're throwing a tantrum.

    As TFS put it...

    "I want it! IwannaIwannaIwanna!"

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2014 @ 8:38am

    >They are saying this because they don't like the Internet's freedom of speech.

    Neither do the UK (government)

     

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      Christopher (profile), Mar 25th, 2014 @ 1:45pm

      Re:

      Hit the nail on the head there. The U.K. and the United States are trying to put jail time on expressing a differing viewpoint from the government on some subjects.

      That is totally wrong, the right to free speech should be sacrosanct as should the right to say things that people do not like hearing.

       

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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 25th, 2014 @ 8:48am

    Michael Hayden

    Michael Hayden is the enemy of freedom, liberty, and much of what the US says it stands for.

     

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    KevinEHayden (profile), Mar 25th, 2014 @ 8:55am

    Embarassing!

    I wish this asshole would either shut up or change his surname. While I'm not related to him as far as I know, it's embarrasing to have any kind of link, however obscure, to whatever garbage he's spewing at any particular time. If he was my relative, I would have dis-owned him a long time ago.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2014 @ 11:41am

      Re: Embarassing!

      You do not measure a person by their relatives, but by their actions and friends. The truth is you cannot choose your relatives, but you do choose your friends.

       

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    DannyB (profile), Mar 25th, 2014 @ 9:21am

    So what he is really saying is . . .

    What he is really saying is that it would better to take the actions that actually splinter the internet and attempt to keep it secret for as long as possible (which is not forever). Then one day (now in the past) when the secret is exposed that the NSA has splintered the internet, blame the messenger and say that the messenger has splintered the internet.

     

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    DannyB (profile), Mar 25th, 2014 @ 9:27am

    Seeming inability to keep a secret

    Hayden:
    What foreign service would want to cooperate with us, given our absolute seeming inability to keep anything secret?

    It's not a seeming inability to keep anything secret, it is an actual inability.

    NSA did not care that Snowden could access virtually anything.

    NSA did not care that probably many others could as well.

    NSA did not care that Snowden and others who could access this treasure trove of secrets were civilian contractors.

    NSA did not care that the other contractor who vetted the contractors, itself was doing a lousy job.

    NSA did not care to listen to Snowden's legitimate concerns.

    NSA did now know (maybe still does not know) exactly what Snowden took.

    NSA did not care that it had such an astonishing lack of actual controls.


    Seeming inability to keep a secret?

    This is like a bumbling clown circus.

     

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    Trails (profile), Mar 25th, 2014 @ 9:30am

    Hayden's right...

    The more people know the truth, the worse it looks for the US's "brand".

    That is internally consistent in the same, bizarre, doublethink way "Your privacy isn't violated unless you know about it."

    The perception is the reality with these guys, rather than, ya know, the reality being the reality. People who change the perception with things like facts are guilty, rather than people who violate the constitution.

    Jesus christ, 1984 was meant to be a warning, not a playbook.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2014 @ 9:30am

    "Perhaps we underestimated the depth of feelings that the German people -- and again, not just the chancellor, but the German people, felt about this question of privacy, given their historical circumstances compared to our historical circumstances. At the Munich Security Conference it was clear to me that Germans regard privacy the way we Americans might regard freedom of speech or religion."

    Rephrase:

    It's understandable that Germans feel strongly about privacy but those with other historical background (he seems to mean Americans) well they don't care nearly so much.

    Nasty.

     

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      nasch (profile), Mar 26th, 2014 @ 9:16pm

      Re:

      Not to mention the ridiculous implication that if he had only known that Germans care so much about privacy, he wouldn't have spied on them. As if anyone is going to believe that crap.

       

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    DannyB (profile), Mar 25th, 2014 @ 9:32am

    Comparing Privacy and Freedom of Speech

    Hayden:
    At the Munich Security Conference it was clear to me that Germans regard privacy the way we Americans might regard freedom of speech or religion. Perhaps we did not appreciate that enough.
    Um, maybe Americans also regard Privacy about the same way Germans do, and about the same way Americans also regard Freedom of Speech. Maybe? Ya think?

     

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      Niall (profile), Mar 26th, 2014 @ 6:17am

      Re: Comparing Privacy and Freedom of Speech

      Nah, more Americans care about their right to penis substitutes and the ease of killing the unarmed. ;)

       

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    DannyB (profile), Mar 25th, 2014 @ 9:36am

    Biggest lean of secrets?

    Hayden:
    No. God, no. No. No. This is the single greatest hemorrhaging of legitimate American secrets in the history of this country.
    Wow. This is not even an act of actual spying. This is just exposing massive wrongdoing that could not be addressed through proper channels. I guess Hayden would have the not be any legitimate means to address concerns about such massive inappropriate action on the part of the government.

    So this is a bigger act of spying than, say, stealing secrets about the atomic bomb? Just to reveal government wrongdoing? Wow.

     

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      Joe, Mar 31st, 2014 @ 8:28am

      Re: Biggest lean of secrets?

      Yeah, was gonna say. Rosenbergs' trial or the Great Seal Bug ('Thing') had to be it. Or more recently, rocket technology.

       

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    Chris Brand, Mar 25th, 2014 @ 9:40am

    Failure to keep secrets

    "Finally, the idea that others are upset with the US because it "can't keep stuff secret" is equally bogus. No one has complained about that one bit." - not in public, maybe, but given that the quote was "What foreign service would want to cooperate with us...", I bet there have indeed been plenty of complaints.

     

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    Crusty the Ex-Clown, Mar 25th, 2014 @ 10:16am

    Not surprising.

    No single raindrop is willing to accept its responsibility for the ensuing flood. Government bureaucracies are adept at diluting responsibility as well. The really dark, hidden ones generally evade all repercussions and the invigorating introspection which could reform and strengthen then. It's their loss, but it's also our loss.

    More daylight, please.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2014 @ 10:30am

    Love this article. Now that's how the 4th estate is suppose to work. The more these agencies, the less credible the criminals running the agencies become.

    Remember, if Clapper and Alexander are guilty of violating the 4th amendment rights of 100's of millions of Americans, so is General Hayden. He was running the NSA before Alexander.

    General Benedict Arnold attempted to sell West Point to the British, and he is considered a traitor

    General Hayden, General Alexander, Lt General James Clapper violated the constitutional rights of 100's of millions Americans by colluding with foreign government. They colluded with foreign governments for the sole purpose of committing a criminal act under US law. An act they were too cowardice to commit themselves. Like a person who hires a hitman, because they are too chicken shit to actually pull the trigger themselves.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Mar 25th, 2014 @ 10:41am

    We think all those fences are harmful for the chickens. They should be free to roam in the wild so we can eat them. - The Foxes

    From the predator's perspective anything that prevents them from reaching their prey will be a problem.

     

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    David, Mar 25th, 2014 @ 12:17pm

    Finally!

    The U.S.A. won the race to space by employing German rocket engineer Wernher von Braun.

    But they sentenced all the main Nazi politicians to death. So it took them quite longer, but they now have officials like Michael Hayden, and this is an all-American achievement that they don't need to attribute other countries for.

    It has been a long time since Franklin answered a bystander "A republic, madam, if you can keep it." And it has taken a long time to wrest it from the American people, but the U.S. government has by and by laid that constitution to rest, and now nobody really thinks of it as something to take seriously.

     

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    SKP, Mar 25th, 2014 @ 2:08pm

    Business-as-Usual

    If Snowden had released a Mass of Leached Documents showing that the NSA and CIA were doing what they were SUPPOSED to Do - No One would be Interested - Much Less the Press

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2014 @ 5:41pm

    "Snowden's revelations will splinter the Internet because it's convinced us that we need to further our surveillance efforts to splinter the Internet. Don't blame us, he started it."

     

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    William Payne, Mar 26th, 2014 @ 4:36am

    It's an ill wind ...

    ... that blows no good.

     

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    Dan G Difino, Mar 26th, 2014 @ 9:16am

    Internet or no internet

    I hope they hang sNOwden.

     

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    cubicleslave (profile), Mar 26th, 2014 @ 9:58am

    Quote : SPIEGEL: "The Germans are more sensitive when it comes to the issue of surveillance."

    Hayden: "I confess that we Americans underappreciated the impact of that not just on the chancellor but on the German population, and I mean this sincerely."

    Now that's an understatement on Hayden's part. Remember the Iron Curtain? East and West Germany?

    The U.S. wants good relations with Germany but we took a big dump where we eat (NSA listening post in Berlin). I would guess that we don't share intel with German intel agencies.
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/cover-story-how-nsa-spied-on-merkel-cell-phone-from-berl in-embassy-a-930205.html

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Mar 26th, 2014 @ 10:36am

      Re:

      Hayden's confession is the one thing that stuck in my mind the most from that interview. It betrays an almost criminal level of disconnect and incompetence.

      Look, even myself -- I follow and think about these issues, but I'm far from an expert and have little first-person or professional knowledge of German society and attitudes -- could have told him that Germany would be uniquely sensitive to these sorts of things. It's pretty obvious to anyone who paid attention in high school history class. It boggles my mind that Hayden could possibly be that ignorant.

      Which is why I think it's more likely that he's straight up lying and pandering.

       

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    The Wanderer (profile), Apr 2nd, 2014 @ 8:43am

    We do this, like other countries, for legitimate reasons, and it's harder to do this now with what has been made public, legitimate intelligence targets.

    Yes, Mr. Hayden, I agree that having a harder time spying on legitimate intelligence targets is a bad thing - but it's your own fault, for having failed to limit your spying to only things likely to be legitimate intelligence targets.


    Compare it to the phenomenon of antibiotic resistance.

    If you use antibiotics only in cases where there's strong reason to believe that the infections they're meant to target are actually present, they are likely to remain effective for a long time, perhaps indefinitely.

    However, if you use them broadly - even when there is little or no evidence that any harmful bacteria at all are present, much less the specific ones you want to target - then the general bacterial population evolves resistance to the antibiotics, and the antibiotics become less effective; the legitimate task of fighting the real infections becomes harder.

    Likewise, if you had used these (and similar) advanced surveillance methods only with things you had strong reason to believe were legitimate intelligence targets, those methods would have remained effective; you would have been able to continue to use them for a long time, perhaps indefinitely.

    However, because you chose instead to use them broadly - gathering up as much information as possible from all corners, even without any reason to suspect a connection to a national-security concern - you now see that these techniques are less effective; the task of observing the legitimate intelligence targets has become harder.


    You made this bed for yourselves. If you want to complain about having to lie in it, at least acknowledge your own share of the responsibility.

     

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