Meet the Press   |  December 15, 2013

2: Hayden weighs in on the NSA, surveillance debate

Gen. Michael Hayden says Edward Snowden should not be given amnesty and the NSA is not abusing its spying powers.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now to the spying debate in america. a special task force is recommending a sweeping overhaul on the national security , including how it got its way with americans. what does this mean for intelligence gathering ? i'm joined by general michael hayden , former director of the national security agency and cia. thank you for joining me this morning.

>> good morning.

>> the president wants to change the way how a lot of spying goes on and the collection of data of americans. once you build a security state, to the extent it's built, how do you dismantle it?

>> it's a good yes. it's a question i've been asking public audiences for two or three years. at what point do the things that were necessary at one time become less necessary, and who has the political coverage to step back some of the things that were quite appropriate for the situations of danger in which we found ourselves, but as we get better at this, as the threat changes, how do you draw back? it's a great question. and the element there that's required is courage.

>> edward snowden is still a controversial figure. he was runner-up to pope francis as time person of the year. we'll talk to nancy gibbs about that in just a couple minutes. but as criticized as he is, and i do get that, who else was exercising a real check and balance on the access of this security state?

>> it's not surprising to you, probably, someone of my background says i didn't see the access. i saw the potential of problems.

>> you don't see abuse.

>> no, there is no abuse. by the way, i don't see any unlawfulness, either. this was all done according to the madsonian formula. the president authorized, the legislature lejs lagislated and the court oversaw. we can have a legitimate argument whether it's wise, whether it's a proper balance between liberty and security, but there were no abuses.

>> but there is a fundamental principle that's embedded in our revolutionary finding in the enlightenment, the inalienable rights of each individual for liberty, for privacy, and that the government can't invade my privacy without some reasonable suspicion . ryan wrote a piece in the new yorker about this. here's what he writes. the nsa's collecting of data looks a lot like what facebook does, but it is fundamentally different. it in verts the crucial legal principle of probable cause. the government has been putting together a haystack with no reasonable position.

>> we're protected against unreasonable search and seizure, all right? it doesn't say all searches must be based upon reasonable suspicion . so now unreasonable search and seizure depends upon the totality of circumstances in which you find yourself. and, david , i fully admit, look, snowden was important. he accelerated a debate. i think he misshaped the debate, but he certainly accelerated it. but the debate was coming. there are three things that are changing. number one, the nature of our enemy is changing. it used to be nation states . now it's individuals. that requires tremendous granularity that you didn't quite have to have when the problem was the soviet union . the second thing that's changing is technology. that seems to be self-evident. the third thing is an understanding, a cultural understanding, as to what constitutes privacy and a reasonable expectation of privacy . look, privacy is that negotiated line between ourselves as unique creatures of god and ourselves as social animals . that negotiation continues all the time, and it's actually accelerating right now. so you have the nsa trying to deal with all three of these tectonics moving. that's really hard.

>> it's not terribly worried about that, but what the government is worried about is not having another terror act on anybody's watch and the political repercussions. so the safe thing to do would be to say, you know what would be great, is if we just gathered everything up, that way we would be covered. if i'm a senator and say you're head of the nsa, i don't think this is legal. i'm concerned about this. what ability do i have as a representative of the united states , of the people in congress, to shut you down? i can't even talk with anybody about it, this private program.

>> that's been overstated in terms of what's going on. jim clapper wrote letters to congress in '09 and 2011 in which he explicitly said, hey, guys, we're getting it all, in terms of the met adata of phone calls .

>> let me ask you about snowden because this is top of the mind for me. should there be any kind of deal for him, any kind of amnesty?

>> i would strongly oppose that. look, i know there is a great fear he's got a lot more out there.

>> will we ever know what he's got? the "new york times" says we won't this morning.

>> i don't know. i really don't.

>> what are the repercussions?

>> he seems to have a negotiating edge on us because he has this overhang in terms of negotiating. i wouldn't do it. i understand the attraction, but i wouldn't do it because that simply motivates future snowdens to do these kinds of things.

>> if the government has all this data, our electronic fingerprint, as it were, inside this haystack. is there a way to encrypt that data? i've heard you can encrypt the data, and if the government wants access to it, then they need a warrant, essentially, to crack the encryption, to be able to look at it.

>> first thing, it doesn't have all that data. the only place where we're really exhaustive or comprehensive is in the metadata of phone calls . i'm comfortable with it, but i understand others not being comfortable with it. i think the key, david , is what do you do with that data? how do you access it? under what provisions do you ask that data question? that might get the appropriate balance between privacy and liberty.

>> to protect the democracy, do we have to be less safe in order to preserve our freedoms?

>> yes. obviously. look, we can do more. and those who say it's a false choice between our liberty and security, those folks aren't responsible for either. we make these kinds of choices all the time. the thing that we have to do is make it an informed and mature choice so we understand what is reasonable and not reasonable based upon the totality of circumstances. look, david , the afternoon of september 11 , i changed some things at nsa within my authority but based upon my understanding as to what was reasonable and unreasonable that afternoon compared to that morning.

>> and the public does have to engage in this debate and make some decisions and put pressure on politicians as a result, whichever direction that goes.

>> sure.

>> general michael hayden , thank you very much.

>> sure.

>> i really appreciate it.

>>> when we come back, our roundtable comes back. they'll weigh in on edward snowden in this debate. should he have been chosen as it's as