"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Fareed speaks with former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden about the recent revelations of former CIA contractor Edward Snowden about alleged NSA activity.
Tell me what your reaction is to the revelations of Edward Snowden.
Well, I'm very disappointed that these legitimately secret things have been pushed into the public domain where they help our enemy and punish our friends overseas and our friends in corporate America. But in terms of what the agency is doing, frankly, Fareed, I think it's what the nation expects the agency to be doing – to be defending the United States while still respecting American law and American values.
So I want to ask you, is the NSA listening in on phone calls that Americans make?
No, it's not. Unless, of course, it's got a very specific, individualized FISA warrant, which has been the situation for more than three decades. In terms of the one program which I'll just call the meta data program, the one that the FISA order to Verizon seemed to reveal, this is indeed about meta data. It's about fact of call. NSA is getting, from the telecom providers, records that they create for their own purposes. These are essentially billing records that the telecom providers are sharing with the NSA.
Fareed, NSA puts them in a very large database, and then sits and waits until it has…an arguable proposition that a reasonable man would look at and say, yes, this is correct, to ask that database a question. Let me give you concrete example. We raid a safe haven somewhere in Yemen. We pick up a cell phone we've never seen before. There's pocket litter in the possession of the individual clearly indicating he's affiliated with al Qaeda, he's a terrorist. We take that new phone number and we simply ask that database, does this phone number show up in connection with any of the phone numbers, any of the phoning events that we have gathered here? And if, for example, a phone number in the Bronx kind of raises its hand and says, well, yes, I've been in contact with that phone regularly for the past three months, we then get to ask the phone in the Bronx, who else do you call? At which point, Fareed, we're done in terms of what this program authorizes. If we want to do anything more with that domestic U.S. number, we've got to go back to the court.
So would it be fair to describe this as, as I've seen somebody do, as the meta data program collecting data in a way that is on the outside of an envelope – who you wrote to, what the return address was, but nothing about what's inside the envelope?
No, that's absolutely correct. And that's almost a perfect analogy. It’s the outside of the envelope. And, by the way, the Supreme Court ruled back in 1979 that that outside of the envelope information, the meta data, is not protected by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. There isn’t a reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to that information.
Do you feel as though, when you were at NSA or watching when you were at CIA, looking at these things, that there were areas where you wouldn't go, even though you felt as though it might be useful because of privacy concerns? In other words, did the privacy wall come up and you guys would say, well, you know, we can do that to find this kind of data, but that would be too much?
Fareed, the first thing you have to understand, that when it comes to privacy, what CIA, NSA – all the elements of the American intelligence community are concerned with – is the privacy of U.S. persons, which I think you know is a group a bit larger than just American citizens. It includes everyone in the United States and U.S. citizens no matter where they are in the world. Those are the people whose privacy is protected by the American Constitution. And that’s the guiding light. That’s the guidepost for American intelligence collection.
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