Google’s Gmail is “the preferred online service of terrorists,” according to former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden. He made that reference during a recent adult education forum at St. John’s Episcopal Church as part of a broader speech on “the tension between security and liberty.”
During the speech, he specifically defended Section 702 of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA), which provides the legal basis for the PRISM program. In doing so, Hayden claimed “Gmail is the preferred Internet service provider of terrorists worldwide,” presumably meaning online service rather than the actual provider of Internet service. He added: “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’s overall view of the Internet is interesting, as well; however, if the Internet is to America what roads were to Rome, his suggestion would seem to indicate he envisions a day when America doesn’t exist. If nothing else, he appears to be fairly philosophical about it all.
Those with privacy concerns may not be assured by his candor.
Asked whether the United States’s promiscuous surveillance was setting a harmful example for other nations, Hayden suggested that the Internet’s origins in the United States partially justifies the NSA’s conduct. If the Web lasts another 500 years, he said, it may be the thing the United States is remembered for “the way the Romans are remembered for their roads.”
“We built it here, and it was quintessentially American,” he said, adding that partially due to that, much of traffic goes through American servers where the government “takes a picture of it for intelligence purposes.”