Gen. Hayden explains the NSA telephone program

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On Jan 23, 2006, Gen. Hayden explained the mission, the responsibilities, of the NSA in an address to the National Press Club. He explained how the terrorist surveillance program was NOT domestic spying vis—a—vis hostile, misleading headlines & stories in the antique media.  Now that this issue has been resurrected, it might be a good idea to revisit Gen. Hayden's remarks.  Here is an excerpt:

The president's authorization allows us to track this kind of call more comprehensively and more efficiently. The trigger is quicker and a bit softer than it is for a FISA warrant, but the intrusion into privacy is also limited: only international calls and only those we have a reasonable basis to believe involve al Qaeda or one of its affiliates.
The purpose of all this is not to collect reams of intelligence, but to detect and prevent attacks. The intelligence community has neither the time, the resources nor the legal authority to read communications that aren't likely to protect us, and NSA has no interest in doing so. These are communications that we have reason to believe are al Qaeda communications, a judgment made by American intelligence professionals, not folks like me or political appointees, a judgment made by the American intelligence professionals most trained to understand al Qaeda tactics, al Qaeda communications and al Qaeda aims.

Their work is actively overseen by the most intense oversight regime in the history of the National Security Agency. The agency's conduct of this program is thoroughly reviewed by the NSA's general counsel and inspector general. The program has also been reviewed by the Department of Justice for compliance with the president's authorization. Oversight also includes an aggressive training program to ensure that all activities are consistent with the letter and the intent of the authorization and with the preservation of civil liberties.

Let me talk for a few minutes also about what this program is not. It is not a driftnet over Dearborn or Lackawanna or Freemont grabbing conversations that we then sort out by these alleged keyword searches or data—mining tools or other devices that so—called experts keep talking about.

This is targeted and focused. This is not about intercepting conversations between people in the United States. This is hot pursuit of communications entering or leaving America involving someone we believe is associated with al Qaeda. We bring to bear all the technology we can to ensure that this is so. And if there were ever an anomaly, and we discovered that there had been an inadvertent intercept of a domestic—to—domestic call, that intercept would be destroyed and not reported. But the incident, what we call inadvertent collection, would be recorded and reported. But that's a normal NSA procedure. It's been our procedure for the last quarter century. And as always, as we always do when dealing with U.S. person information, as I said earlier, U.S. identities are expunged when they're not essential to understanding the intelligence value of any report. Again, that's a normal NSA procedure.

So let me make this clear. When you're talking to your daughter at state college, this program cannot intercept your conversations. And when she takes a semester abroad to complete her Arabic studies, this program will not intercept your communications.

Let me emphasize one more thing that this program is not —— and, look, I know how hard it is to write a headline that's accurate and short and grabbing. But we really should shoot for all three —— accurate, short and grabbing. I don't think domestic spying makes it. One end of any call targeted under this program is always outside the United States. I've flown a lot in this country, and I've taken literally hundreds of domestic flights. I have never boarded a domestic flight in the United States of America and landed in Waziristan. In the same way —— and I'm speaking illustratively here now, this is just an example —— if NSA had intercepted al Qaeda Ops Chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Karachi talking to Mohamed Atta in Laurel, Maryland, in say, July of 2001 —— if NSA had done that, and the results had been made public, I'm convinced that the crawler on all the 7 by 24 news networks would not have been "NSA domestic spying."

John B. Dwyer   5 11 06

On Jan 23, 2006, Gen. Hayden explained the mission, the responsibilities, of the NSA in an address to the National Press Club. He explained how the terrorist surveillance program was NOT domestic spying vis—a—vis hostile, misleading headlines & stories in the antique media.  Now that this issue has been resurrected, it might be a good idea to revisit Gen. Hayden's remarks.  Here is an excerpt:

The president's authorization allows us to track this kind of call more comprehensively and more efficiently. The trigger is quicker and a bit softer than it is for a FISA warrant, but the intrusion into privacy is also limited: only international calls and only those we have a reasonable basis to believe involve al Qaeda or one of its affiliates.
The purpose of all this is not to collect reams of intelligence, but to detect and prevent attacks. The intelligence community has neither the time, the resources nor the legal authority to read communications that aren't likely to protect us, and NSA has no interest in doing so. These are communications that we have reason to believe are al Qaeda communications, a judgment made by American intelligence professionals, not folks like me or political appointees, a judgment made by the American intelligence professionals most trained to understand al Qaeda tactics, al Qaeda communications and al Qaeda aims.

Their work is actively overseen by the most intense oversight regime in the history of the National Security Agency. The agency's conduct of this program is thoroughly reviewed by the NSA's general counsel and inspector general. The program has also been reviewed by the Department of Justice for compliance with the president's authorization. Oversight also includes an aggressive training program to ensure that all activities are consistent with the letter and the intent of the authorization and with the preservation of civil liberties.

Let me talk for a few minutes also about what this program is not. It is not a driftnet over Dearborn or Lackawanna or Freemont grabbing conversations that we then sort out by these alleged keyword searches or data—mining tools or other devices that so—called experts keep talking about.

This is targeted and focused. This is not about intercepting conversations between people in the United States. This is hot pursuit of communications entering or leaving America involving someone we believe is associated with al Qaeda. We bring to bear all the technology we can to ensure that this is so. And if there were ever an anomaly, and we discovered that there had been an inadvertent intercept of a domestic—to—domestic call, that intercept would be destroyed and not reported. But the incident, what we call inadvertent collection, would be recorded and reported. But that's a normal NSA procedure. It's been our procedure for the last quarter century. And as always, as we always do when dealing with U.S. person information, as I said earlier, U.S. identities are expunged when they're not essential to understanding the intelligence value of any report. Again, that's a normal NSA procedure.

So let me make this clear. When you're talking to your daughter at state college, this program cannot intercept your conversations. And when she takes a semester abroad to complete her Arabic studies, this program will not intercept your communications.

Let me emphasize one more thing that this program is not —— and, look, I know how hard it is to write a headline that's accurate and short and grabbing. But we really should shoot for all three —— accurate, short and grabbing. I don't think domestic spying makes it. One end of any call targeted under this program is always outside the United States. I've flown a lot in this country, and I've taken literally hundreds of domestic flights. I have never boarded a domestic flight in the United States of America and landed in Waziristan. In the same way —— and I'm speaking illustratively here now, this is just an example —— if NSA had intercepted al Qaeda Ops Chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Karachi talking to Mohamed Atta in Laurel, Maryland, in say, July of 2001 —— if NSA had done that, and the results had been made public, I'm convinced that the crawler on all the 7 by 24 news networks would not have been "NSA domestic spying."

John B. Dwyer   5 11 06