Former NSA boss compares PRISM critics to Al Qaeda

Former NSA chief Michael Hayden, who served as the agency’s director from 1999 to 2005, worried Tuesday that if Edward Snowden is extradited to the U.S., “transparency activists” will respond with cyber-terror attacks.

Hayden lumped everyone concerned over PRISM and interested in government transparency into a group he characterized as hostile to the government by definition.

“Certainly Mr Snowden has created quite a stir among those folks who are very committed to transparency and global transparency and the global web, kind of ungoverned and free,” Hayden said Tuesday in a speech at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Hayden described these transparency activists as “nihilists, anarchists, activists, Lulzsec, Anonymous, twentysomethings who haven’t talked to the opposite sex in five or six years,” and wondered, “Who are they going after? Who for them are the World Trade Centers? The World Trade Centers, as they were for al-Qaida?

As TechDirt notes, “transparency advocates” are not all hackers—legal groups like the EFF and ACLU committed to upholding civil liberties online and and off are all highly critical of PIRSM, as is anyone concerned with government overreach. Characterizing anyone unwilling to trust the government with blind faith as an enemy of the state is dicey stuff. To do so is it to call the government infallible and beyond the need for accountability which is, y’know, what the whole American Revolution thing was for in the first place.

Now, before you accuse me of advocating a whole new revolution here, I’m not. But this kind of us vs. them stance is dangerous, say nothing of a double standard. The U.S. Embassy in Vietnam said Tuesday that Washington is “deeply concerned” about Vietnam’s increasing internet controls. “Fundamental freedoms apply online just as they do offline.”

Hello? What about the rights we’re supposed to have to communicate privately online and over the phone without the government spying on us, and potentially handing our chats over the DEA?

We haven’t known about it until this year, but the government’s surveillance programs have probably been in place for a while. Hayden was the head of the NSA until 2005—is it really a stretch to think sitting NSA director Keith Alexander thinks the same way—that “transparency advocates” are like Al Qaeda members with computers, armed and ready to take down the U.S.?

Scary stuff.

Image: Salon