Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, the former director of the National Security Agency and CIA, said Sunday that the goal behind President Obama's address on controversial surveillance tactics was to largely keep the intelligence programs in place.
“The president has embraced it,” Hayden said of the NSA's practice of tapping into phone data, contending that Obama's speech at the Justice Department Friday was more about addressing a “political problem.”
“The objective is to keep on doing what he's doing,” Hayden added on “Fox News Sunday.”
Obama on Friday unveiled his long-awaited NSA reforms, saying the government would first have to obtain secret-court approval before accessing a trove of metadata. The president also said the government should no longer store the phone data but called on Attorney General Eric Holder and the intelligence community to devise a plan by March 28th on how to move forward.
With his address, Obama tried to stake out a middle ground between the recommendations made by civil liberties groups and defense hawks. Obama's reforms were more about process than ending the data collections exposed in leaks by former government contractor Edward Snowden.
According to analysts, however, the most significant immediate change was that the NSA would have to receive permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before tapping into collected phone data.
Hayden said that provision was the most worrisome of the president’s reforms.
“That’s a professional intelligence judgment,” Hayden said of determining when to search the data. “I don’t know what value the court has.”