Double, double toil and trouble.
Gen. Michael Hayden appeared
before the Senate Homeland Security Committee Wednesday preaching some back-to-basics fear mongering:
I should add that cyber, terrorist and criminal threats today all merge in a witches’ brew of danger.
"A witches' brew of danger?!" Such a ridiculous phrase would be comical if it wasn't uttered from a supposed national security expert at a scary-sounding congressional hearing ("The Future of Homeland Security: Evolving and Emerging Threats"
). As hard as it is to take seriously someone who uses the phrase "witches' brew of danger," Gen. Hayden's remarks succeeded in scaring me, though not because of his warnings of new cyber-attacks and homegrown terrorists, a phrase that evokes more thoughts of a potato farm than fears of an attack. What I found scary about Gen. Hayden's remarks were his warnings about the media's criticism of ill-conceived security theater measures:
But look at the reaction even today when the bureau tries to collect information without a criminal predicate, in that area we called “spaces between cases.” And heaven save us from the Associated Press if the New York City Police Department tries to do the same thing.
In one minuscule sense Gen. Hayden is right: the FBI investigating people without criminal predicate evokes some outrage from those of us who have read the Bill of Rights. Gen. Hayden, in case you haven't read it, the Fourth Amendment requires that the FBI have a reason a.k.a. probable cause before rifling through American's private effects. While we're on the subject, General, that "Associated Press" you want saving from is protected by the First Amendment, which, in case you missed it, also protects Americans' freedom to associate with whomever they like without interference from the government.
Equally disconcerting are Gen. Hayden's potential motivations for pointing out America's apparent unpreparedness for the "witches' brew of danger." Gen. Hayden is currently working at the Chertoff consulting group. Yes, the group run by former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who is no stranger to using fear for profit on something like say, the soft porn body scanners. Chertoff - using his position as former Homeland Security Director - told us America needed to install the naked body scanners in every airport for our security while Chertoff Group represented the scanners' manufacturer, no doubt for a hefty fee.
But you might remember Gen. Hayden better from his time as Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), where he oversaw the NSA's domestic spying program, and told congressional staffer and whistleblower Diane Roark that he could count on a victory in the Supreme Court when the obviously unconstitutional domestic spying was challenged:
. . . Roark says, she warned Hayden that no court would uphold the program. Curiously, Hayden responded that he had already been assured by unspecified individuals that he could count on a majority of “the nine votes”—an apparent reference to the Supreme Court. According to Roark’s notes, Hayden told her that such a vote might even be 7–2 in his favor.
Or maybe you have a more recent memory of Gen. Hayden drawing "boxes" of operating outside the law at the First Amendment Center in 2010. (If you missed it, it's available here
during the Q & A section. Note the question from NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake
Regardless of how you remember Gen. Hayden, Congress would be wise to listen to less self-interested, fear-mongering testimony about our national security. (Though I don't expect much from the Senate Homeland Security Committee, considering its Chairman, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), jumps at any chance to politically capitalize on hysteria in Washington. (Examples here and here.))