Snowden Leak ‘Bad News’ for U.S. Businesses, Hayden Says

Leaked information on U.S. government surveillance programs has “punished American business,” which has complied with court orders, said Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Hayden said former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosure of details about the NSA’s collection of telephone and Internet data to the U.K. Guardian and Washington Post newspapers will have a “harmful” impact on U.S. businesses and on the government’s ability to combat terrorism.

“There will be some operational fallout,” Hayden said in an interview with CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” airing tomorrow. “We will have reminded our enemies how good and comprehensive we are at this.”

Snowden, 29, fled to Hong Kong with classified materials he allegedly stole from the NSA. He’s worked for NSA contractors including McLean, Virginia-based Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp., his most recent employer.

Snowden’s actions are “bound to be bad news” for the international business of U.S. companies that cooperated with the NSA “at the direction of a U.S. court,” as well as for U.S. credibility abroad, Hayden said.

“A country or a source that might be thinking of cooperating with the United States should have almost no confidence in our discretion or in our ability to keep a secret,” he said.

The Senate Intelligence Committee will consider legislation to limit government contractors’ access to sensitive data, panel Chairman Dianne Feinstein said last week.

Feinstein, a California Democrat, also said she has asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to propose revisions in management of intelligence programs if he thinks they are needed.

About 1.4 million Americans held top secret security clearances as of October, including about 483,000 who worked for contractors, according to the Director of National Intelligence’s office. Snowden held a top secret/sensitive compartmented information clearance, a classification above top secret.

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