The Bill of Rights may guarantee certain limits on government today. But if there is a terrorist attack tomorrow, a bureaucrat within the national security state may decide, without asking permission from any elected official, that the people are actually owed less protections than before. The more innocent people that terrorists succeed in murdering, the less our own government is limited by the Constitution. With every attack that the government fails to prevent it gains new powers.
Who was affected by growing surveillance power? "Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras are fond of accusing the NSA of suspicion-less surveillance. That's almost a nonsense comment for somebody with my background," Hayden said. "I am not a law enforcement officer. I don't suspect anybody. I am simply going out there to retrieve information that helps keep my countrymen free and safe. This is not about guilt. In fact, let me be really clear. NSA doesn't just listen to bad people. NSA listens to interesting people. People who are communicating information."
He feels that Edward Snowden has distorted the debate about gathering that information and when it constitutes an unreasonable search under the Constitution. Observers looking at his leaks are like people who began watching a murder mystery in the third act. He urged his audience to reassess the leaks in context.
For most of the life of NSA, y'all were pretty enthusiastic about our intercepting the communications of the Soviet Union. And one of our targets in the Soviet Union was SRF, Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces. The guys with the ICBMs. And they used to transmit their orders out of SRF headquarters in Moscow through microwave shots up over the Urals to Soviet ICMBM fields in the Far East. And we were all over that network. We were intercepting communications 24 hours a day, looking, I must admit, for words of interest. Like launch. There isn't a civil libertarian alive who gave a damn about that.
The 21st Century equivalent of those Soviet SRF signals on that isolated microwave network jumping over the Ural mountains are proliferator, drug trafficker, terrorist communications, pretty much existing in emails, in a global telecommunications grid, coexisting with your Gmail and you Hotmail.
And so the fundament I want to give you here is, if you want these guys to do what they did for you during the 1970s and 1980s, they gotta be on networks where your stuff is.
And that's just the way it is.
So if I understand the argument correctly, to keep apprised of a possible nuclear war with the Soviet Union, an event that could've precipitated a literal doomsday for much of humanity, the NSA spied on a few military posts in the USSR, and no one cared. Today, America's enemies use the same platforms to communicate as U.S. citizens. So the NSA must be given access to all platforms we use to let them do their jobs.