Snowden -- facts, fictions and fears

Story highlights

  • Michael Hayden: Many have misconstrued NSA access to phone calls
  • He says agency has information on calls but not content of the calls
  • Hayden says agency needs metadata on calls to track terrorists
  • He says NSA was criticized in wake of 9/11 for not detecting the plot
"Any analyst at any time can target anyone. Any selector, anywhere ... I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the President. ..."
Thus spoke -- this time not Zarathustra, the Persian prophet -- but former National Security Agency systems administrator Edward Snowden.
To be sure, Snowden was reaching for dramatic effect, but if his words were true, he would have been violating not only the laws of the United States, he would also have been violating the laws of physics. He had neither the authority nor the ability to do what he has claimed he could do.
To determine what we think of Snowden's allegations about the NSA's activities, we should have a clear idea of what the NSA is actually doing, not what Snowden implies or alleges or what some 24/7 networks allow their commentators to proclaim.
Michael Hayden