While current NSA chief Keith Alexander may be the individual most closely associated with the controversial data collection programs made public by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, it's his predecessor, retired general Michael Hayden, who offered the latest defense of those programs on Sunday. "Gmail is the preferred Internet service provider of terrorists worldwide," Hayden said, as a defense of the PRISM program, which delivers vast amounts of information from several communications companies, including Google, into the hands of U.S. intelligence.
According to the Washington Post, Hayden, who ran the CIA until 2009 after stepping down as NSA director in 2005, also posited that the American-ness of the internet also gives the U.S. special privileges over scanning its content for intelligence:
Hayden suggested that the Internet's origins in the United States partially justifies the NSA's conduct..."We built it here, and it was quintessentially American," he said, adding that partially due to that, much of traffic goes through American servers where the government "takes a picture of it for intelligence purposes."
That's unlikely to be a popular argument among the "friendly" nations who found out recently about the NSA's reach. Take Brazil, for example: they're so mad about the NSA's collection of their country's communications that the country's government has commissioned a satellite of its very own to bypass American, or American-friendly infrastructures.
Hayden was also involved in the defense of the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. He was the NSA chief when the former president authorized the program shortly after September 11, 2001. In 2006, Hayden argued that programs like the warrantless wiretapping initiative would have stopped 9/11, had the authorization been in place beforehand. More recently, Hayden defended the recently revealed XKEYSCORE intelligence program, which allows analysts to sift through vast troves of browsing histories for millions of people. Hayden is also responsible for assessing Snowden's personality as a “combustible combination of naivety and narcissism."