NATIONAL HARBOR: Media outcry and public uproar over the Edward Snowden revelations have created a deeply demoralizing backlash against the US intelligence community and paralyzed key cybersecurity initiatives, Gen. Michael Hayden — former director of both the CIA and the NSA — said today.
“If you look at the psychic effect of Snowden on the American intelligence workforce,” he said this afternoon at the Air Force Association’s annual conference, “Jim [Clapper] and Keith [Alexander] will tell you they’re there and people are doing their job; they are; but they’re waking up every morning and expecting the daily indictment.”
It’s not just a morale problem, either. “The most competent organization when it comes to cyber-stuff, hands down, is Cyber Command and NSA. Well, why don’t we just let those good folks at the NSA get out on the local network and defend us?” Hayden said. “Many of us actually think that’s a good idea, but that dog will not hunt” in the post-Snowden world.
“We certainly need more trained people and more technology, but fundamentally, fundamentally right now the long pole in the tent is policy and law,” Hayden said. “[National Security Agency director] Keith Alexander‘s got first round draft picks up there at Fort Meade who not only are not on the field, they aren’t even in the locker room suiting up. Why is that? Because we have not yet decided what it is we want our government to do to defend us on that web or what it is we will let our government do to defend us on that web — and frankly the last 90 days’ revelations have made this even worse.”
“The Snowden revelations…they’re being rolled out by polemicists in a very negative and frankly confused and inaccurate way, and it’s just feeding the natural American fear of government overreach,” Hayden lamented.
But the problem is bigger than any single incident: “It’s generational,” Hayden said. “Snowden and Manning are bad and they’re criminals, and I wish them everything they earn, but they are also representative — now, they’re bad representatives — but they’re also part of a generation whose definition of privacy and secrecy is pretty much unlike almost everyone else’s in this room,” he told the audience of military and industry officials, most in their 40s or 50s.
The US intelligence community needs to learn to cope with the digital generation’s demands for ever-greater transparency, Hayden said, or it may not be allowed to function at all.