Former CIA director talks American cyber security
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 02:03
A survey conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies two years ago asked citizens of developed nations to name what nation-state they feared the most in cyberspace for its access to private information. Former CIA and National Security Agency director General Michael Hayden revealed to his audience Wednesday night that the majority of these participants named the United States.
Hayden smiled, paused and gestured with an arm movement signaling that this was a victory for the country’s secret intelligence agencies.
“That’s a compliment,” Hayden said. “Thank you.”
Hayden, who was appointed under former President Bill Clinton as the director of the NSA from 1999 to 2005 and director of the CIA under former President George W. Bush between 2006 and 2009, spoke at Mitchell Hall as part of the Center for Political Communication’s Global Agenda lecture series. Moderated by Ralph Begleiter, professor and director of the Center for Political Communication, the series features speakers under the theme of “Spies, Lies and Sneaky Guys: Espionage and Intelligence in the Digital Age.”
Begleiter, who introduced Hayden, said the former NSA director was in public office during especially tumultuous times in America’s history.
“He stayed at NSA through some of the most challenging contemporary moments—after the 9/11 attacks against the United States, helping to improve and coordinate U.S. intelligence efforts, until Bush appointed him CIA director in 2006,” Begleiter said.
Hayden spoke for approximately one hour to students and community members about how technological advances have created a paradigm shift in the field. He explained that through NSA and CIA initiatives, America becomes party to intelligence intended for other recipients.
Hayden said the CIA extracts information of value through people and tangible forms of data, while the NSA gleans data by electronic means. Available technologies have considerably enhanced the abilities of both organizations to gather useful information for national security measures in the United States.
“In terms of stealing other people’s secrets, technology is making this the golden age of signals intelligence,” Hayden said. “In the NSA, we were challenged to keep up with this revolution of telecommunications.”
He said one of the most prominent challenges in intelligence operations is striking a balance between protecting American citizens’ liberties and ensuring their security. He said this struggle arises from the ethical implications of infringing on the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects Americans against unlawful searches and requires warrants for probable cause. He said breaching Fourth Amendment rights involves a clash between what Americans want their government to do and what they will let their government do.
Hayden told the audience that all countries are involved in the practice of international espionage.
“Everybody does it,” he said. “It is considered acceptable international practice.”
He also said American intelligence operations are not run like those of other nations across the globe.
“We don’t steal things for profit,” Hayden said. “We don’t steal things to support American commerce. There are very few nations on earth who could form those last two or three sentences I formed and have them be true. I think there are a total of five. Everyone else steals for commerce, everyone else steals for profit. We don’t—we focus on espionage in the cyber domain for national security.”
Junior and political science major Jordan Katz said he understands keeping certain information secret is part of Hayden’s job, and that he was pleased with the stories and behind-the-scenes details that Hayden divulged.
“The information that he is privy to is something we shouldn’t know,” Hayden said. “He obviously couldn’t tell us everything, because that wouldn’t make sense.”
Katz said he was also interested to learn how integral Hayden was to the intelligence missions at the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He thinks intelligence missions, carried out by agencies like the CIA and NSA, are invaluable for protecting national security.
“America should do whatever it takes to protect national security and protect our liberties,” Katz said. “I think some things obviously can go overboard, but in times of war or in times of uncertainty, it’s kind of necessary to be a little more proactive and make sure that you’re protecting national security over people’s liberties.”
Advances in technology, Hayden said, are being wielded as protection for all American citizens.
“[It’s] a new weapon,” he said. “This whole electronic underworld is gaining increasing significance in the things that are necessary to secure your safety.”