Hayden in reflective mood

Very interesting snippet from a WashPo interview with General Michael Hayden, former head of the NSA.

Q: Privacy advocates say the government is asking Americans to trust it when it comes to the NSA’s activities. Given the existing level of mistrust of the government, what is the argument for trusting the NSA?

A: One argument is, you may or may not think what NSA was doing in terms of the metadata and the American telephone records or the PRISM program or the e-mails — foreign based, but collected here in the United States — you may actually think, “You know, I need to know more about that. I’m not comfortable.” But you can’t say it was illegal. It reflects two laws of Congress in 2006 and 2008, passed by both houses, by both parties, overseen by the intelligence committees, approved by the courts. I mean, in the American system of separation of powers, that’s a trifecta — executive, legislative, judicial branches. So it’s not illegal.

But i’m quite open to a national conversation about, “Got it. Not illegal, now is it wise?” To have that conversation, my old community is going to simply have to explain what it is they’re doing more than we have historically done. I actually think that if we get to most people out of the mainstream — all right, here’s what we’re doing, here’s why we’re doing it, here’s why it helps, here’s how we’re overseeing it — I think most people would say, “Eh, I wish maybe you didn’t have to, but okay. I’m okay for now. Call me in a couple of years.”

It’s impossible to imagine a British official or government minister talking like this.