Security

Former NSA director: ‘I would lose all respect for Russia if they haven’t fully exploited Snowden’

Above: Former NSA director Michael V. Hayden.

Image Credit: Flickr

Former NSA director Michael V. Hayden lacks concrete data on whether Edward Snowden provided Moscow with information on U.S. intelligence operations targeting Russia.

That’s according to Hayden’s own admission. But it nearly doesn’t matter, he said.

“He may have done serious, serious damage already with what he’s made public now,” Hayden told VentureBeat Wednesday.

“Frankly, Snowden has made so much classified American information public that he may not have had to provide specific things to the Russians,” Hayden said.

Hayden was responding to assertions from former Soviet KGB general Oleg Kalugin Wednesday that Snowden is cooperating with his Russian hosts and lives under control of the country’s federal security service, or FSB.

Kalugin told VentureBeat that Snowden, thought to be residing outside Moscow, has made the FSB “very, very happy” with the secrets he’s allegedly given Russian security services.


 

READ MORE: Former KGB general: Snowden is cooperating with Russian intelligence


Hayden said he just doesn’t know.

“All I know from facts is that he’s been granted temporary asylum by the Russian Federation. It’s tremendously ironic that Snowden fled from being an employee of one of the most transparent intelligence communities in the world to one of the most autocratic states in the world,” Hayden said.

Snowden has repeatedly denied publicly cooperating with Russian intelligence officers.

The impact of Snowden’s document theft will be felt for generations, Hayden said. And the impact goes beyond leaking operational intelligence files.

“When you talk about leaks, the metaphor is water. You lose a bucket, a tub, a barrel, that tells you how bad the leak is. Snowden isn’t like that. Snowden isn’t revealing our analysis of X, Y, Z.

“What Snowden has revealed is the plumbing. He’s revealing how we go about collecting intelligence. Therefore, that kind of information makes any adversary better able to protect their communications against NSA,” he said.

America’s adversaries and the global public have been able to glean rare insight into NSA operations as a result of Snowden’s actions.

The retired general said Snowden has likely satiated his new host country with useful information.

“I would lose all respect for the Russian and Chinese security services if they haven’t full exploited everything Snowden had to give,” Hayden said.

Hayden described Snowden, 30, as a shrewd operator who was able to exploit lapses in the NSA’s technical abilities to monitor its own communication channels and red-flag employees illicitly downloading digital files from agency servers.

“Following the Bradley Manning event, NSA began putting powerful network-monitoring tools on its network. NSA Hawaii was about the last part of the network to get that kind of coverage, and Snowden took advantage of that lapse,” Hayden said.

Before he successfully fled to Hong Kong and then to Moscow last August, Snowden worked as a civilian contractor at an NSA facility in Hawaii thought to focus on the Pacific Rim.

Bradley Manning was an Army intelligence analyst who, beginning in 2010, leaked the largest cache of classified documents in U.S. history. They later became the basis of the WikiLeaks fiasco, in which thousands of U.S. government diplomatic and intelligence cables were published in the press.

Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison last year.

Hayden painted a portrait of Snowden as an idealist who knew exactly what he was doing when he came aboard the NSA as a civilian contractor. Snowden has told interviewers that he became a man of conscience when he realized the scope of NSA surveillance.

Hayden threw cold water on Snowden’s assertions.

“This was not an innocent suddenly faced with things he didn’t expect. He wasn’t a gatherer; he was a hunter. He aggressively pursued information in order to, at least in my mind, weaken America’s health,” he said.

Snowden could not be reached for comment.

Hayden had harsh words for Moscow, pointing to the upheaval caused by recent Russian military incursions into the Crimea, in particular Ukraine.

“There’s no question Russia is not a superpower. American intelligence is now going to have to turn its attention back to Russia,” he said.

Hayden, a retired four-star Air Force general, was NSA director from 1999 until 2005. Then-President H.W. Bush later appointed him CIA director. He served in that capacity until 2009.

Hayden denied the NSA had embarked on a massive campaign to collect every phone call of American citizens in the name of fighting terror. And he took a shot at U.S. political leaders for not sensibly conveying what the NSA’s true mission is in the first place.

“One of the things that became quite clear in this whole episode is how flat-footed our government has been in explaining forthrightly and clearly to the American people what NSA is doing and why. The government has always been behind the power curve, so to speak, in talking about this story,” he said.

“There’s still a large part of the American population that thinks were collecting their emails. But, no, we’re not.”

More information:

Edward Snowden is an American former technical contractor for the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and a former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who leaked details of several top-secret U.S. and British gov... read more »

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17 comments
Laurent Munier
Laurent Munier

I think it's the NSA who's done the serious damage here. Snowden just pulled back the curtain to reveal the wizard.

Sony Jim
Sony Jim

Former NSA director... FORMER. This guy is a nobody. 


Former work colleagues have openly commented that they had found Michael Hayden to be "narcissistic", and "grandiose". He was also criticized for externalizing fault, and on two occasions was found to have lied and provided false reports that he knew to be untrue & contain significant errors. During his final years several colleagues resigned over areas they believed to be immoral, unethical and against the interest of the nation.

For the past two years he has been running around giving press interviews to anyone who will hear him even though he has no actual capacity to represent any government department. He has no position, no authority and no current knowledge as he has not held a position for more than 5 years...

Mr Hayden has been busy spouting malicious accusations all without providing any evidence. He has also failed to provide notice of any conflicts of interest he may have to the subject being discussed. For example Mr Hayden has accused network technology company Huawei of building in back doors into their technology and has called on western companies to boycott their products. Mr Hayden has failed to provide evidence of said "back doors" in Huawei products and has also failed to disclaim that he has a major conflict of interest as he is paid money as (a board member) of competing network company Motorola and it is his job to attract business to Motorola.

Michael Hayden is technologically illiterate, and he is a self absorbed little man who should be ignored. But most of all he is a liar and a traitor to his country.

Brian H Fitzsimons
Brian H Fitzsimons

"Snowden fled from being an employee of one of the most transparent intelligence communities in the world" well it is now [post Snowden].

DerekGBirch
DerekGBirch

@i_intelligence ..>and, only my opinion, I think he was-and is- a totally willing traitor. I don't believe his "high-principled" 'cover'.

DerekGBirch
DerekGBirch

@i_intelligence I don't pretend to be an expert-I'm not. (not a "walter mitty" either). But I'd be flabbergasted if they hadn't....>

Dave Roberts
Dave Roberts

And we should trust his utterances, like many others, who abrogate constitutional precedent? Speak to the hand with one finger flying high, Hayden!

Paul Berti
Paul Berti

Isn't he stuck in Russia because the govt revoked his passport?

Martin Lopez
Martin Lopez

Says the former chief of the organisation that spies on the entire planet

JetBlackCloud
JetBlackCloud

@ageis really hard to be bothered by it too when they are an arm of a country that tortures, starts illegal wars, etc.

Eric Chan
Eric Chan

If you can trust the guy that have been spying on us indiscriminately for the last 10years+ .... If Snowden wanted to betray the country, he would of kept everything quiet and just sell his info to Russia. How would someone be so stupid and risk prosecution and public scrutiny when you don't have to?

Paul Choi
Paul Choi

..."And that is why the NSA needs more funding"...

Iheanachor George
Iheanachor George

....so all those political fugitives who run away from their country to US are fully exploited!

Joshua Darlington
Joshua Darlington

I would "lose all respect" for the NSA if Snowden isn't a mole.

Shane Hawk
Shane Hawk

And in turn, who really has respect for an NSA director whether former or current?