Hayden has been an ardent defender of the U.S. intelligence community since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of the agency’s massive spy operations earlier this summer.
Snowden revealed that the agency splices directly into fibre optic Internet cables, broke encryption schemes, brokered deals with major telecom companies for customer data, and, perhaps most infamously, obtained secret warrants for personal user information from Silicon Valley’s largest companies.
The later program, known as PRISM, harvests user data from Google, Facebook and other tech giants. In defense of this apparent breach of U.S. citizens’ rights to privacy, Hayden stated that Gmail—Google’s free email service—is the “preferred” email of “terrorists worldwide.”
"I don't think you're going to see that in a Google commercial, but it's free, it's ubiquitous, so of course it is," Hayden added.
According to the Washington Post, Hayden went on to claim that the “militarization” of the Internet by the NSA was justifiable in part because the U.S. had such a large role in its inception and development. Apparently he argued that the U.S. might one day be remembered for the Internet "the way the Romans are remembered for their roads."
"We built it here, and it was quintessentially American," Hayden said.
Photo by Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan/Flickr