Surveillance Back in Spotlight After Paris Attack

The NSA's programs don't “look all that scary this morning,” says Michael Hayden.

Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency (NSA), speaks about the electric grid cyber security initiative during a conference hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), August 6, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency (NSA), speaks about the electric grid cyber security initiative during a conference hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), August 6, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Widespread American sentiment in the hours after Wednesday's killing spree at the Paris satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was all about solidarity with France in the face of Islamic terrorism. Now, a year and a half into the controversy over the National Security Agency's classified data collection programs sparked by former contractor Edward Snowden's leaks, some policy angling has also begun.

The NSA's programs don't “look all that scary this morning,” said Michael Hayden, a former director of the NSA and CIA, on MSNBC on Thursday. Saying the Snowden revelations had hurt intelligence cooperation between governments, Hayden said he hoped that “meaningful intelligence cooperation between like-minded democracies gets a boost from yesterday’s dangers and we go forward in a more cooperative fashion.”

His comments came as authorities combed intelligence collections for clues and terrorist links to the Paris suspects and experts acknowledged vulnerability to a similar attack in the U.S.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the French services pick up cell phones associated with the attack and ask the Americans, ‘Where have you seen these phones active globally?’” Hayden said.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday that the attack is “an indication of just how serious a threat we face. And there are men and women in the U.S. national security infrastructure that are working around the clock to try to protect the American people and American interests both here at home and around the world.”

“We do continue to be very vigilant about this and there is a very active effort to monitor communications from ISIL that are made in public forums, to use our network of tools and our links to other countries that have a sophisticated intelligence infrastructure to try to monitor exactly what threats are emerging,” Earnest said. 

Elizabeth Wasserman contributed to this report.

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