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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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June 12th, 2013
08:26 PM ET

Hayden: Bush aides satisfied Obama continued policies

National Security Agency Director Gen. Army Gen. Keith Alexander told Congress on Wednesday dozens of potential terror attacks were prevented because of secret surveillance of phone records and other similar programs.

Current and former government officials are coming forward to defend the NSA's tactics, which a former agency contractor,  Edward Snowden, said he leaked to the media.

The revelations have revived heated debate in Washington over balancing national security concerns with privacy rights.

President Barack Obama said tradeoffs were necessary to protect Americans from terror, and some Republicans, including several high-ranking lawmakers and officials, have defended them.

Then-Sen. Obama did not champion similar policies under former President George W. Bush's administration.

Former NSA director under Bush told CNN there is no need to rub it in.

"We should just take a sense of satisfaction that what we were doing, once candidate Obama became President Obama, he saw that these were of great value and frankly, were being very carefully done," said Hayden.

"National security looks a little different from the Oval Office than it does from a hotel room in Iowa," said Hayden.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and other lawmakers posit constitutional questions about the surveillance programs, and suggest there are credibility problems with the intelligence apparatus.

Hayden disagrees with those assertions.

Yet questions remain over how the programs do not violate the Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure.

The NSA program mines metadata from phone calls and stores it for possible retrieval.

But Hayden said the Supreme Court has ruled metadata is not covered by the Fourth Amendment.

"It could still be a privacy issue. It could be a legal issue. But it's not a constitutional issue," Hayden said.

Whistleblower William Binny, a former NSA analyst, told The Daily Caller on Monday that the agency could be recording calls on a target list of 500,000 to 1 million people.

"I can't conceive of [that] being true," said Hayden. "I think it's technologically beyond the capacity of any surveillance agency to do that ... and it just doesn't make sense with what it is we know about this program. I mean, the agency gathers from American telecom providers what are essentially business records. They don't collect it, they don't put alligator clips on some wires somewhere."

The NSA director told Congress on Wednesday that in his view, dozens of terrorist events have been prevented in part because of information gathered by these surveillance programs.

"During my tenure, what is now the Verizon program was part of what we now call -  for that period back then - the terrorist surveillance program. And we did have a whole series of intelligence reports that came out of that program, that would not otherwise have been available," said Hayden.

Hayden said he understands concerns about the issue.

"But I probably know a little bit more about the program, a little bit more about the people who are conducting the program," said Hayden. "Our constitution was designed to prevent the abuse of power."

"In this case, you have two successive presidents, the two chambers of Congress and the American court system all aware of the program, and all through our political processes agreeing with the program," said Hayden.

Richard Clarke, former national coordinator for the surveillance program under the Bush administration, wrote in an op-ed for The New York Daily News Wednesday.

He said "the law under which President George W. Bush and now President Obama have acted was not intended to give the government records of all telephone calls. If that had been the intent, the law would have said that. It didn’t. Rather, the law envisioned the administration coming to a special court on a case-by-case basis to explain why it needed to have specific records."

"A bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress apparently disagree with Richard. Because they have authorized this program and continued to authorize this program," said Hayden.

"Frankly, the Obama administration was more transparent about this effort than we were in the Bush administration. I mean, they made this meta data collection activity available to all the members of Congress. Not just all the members of the intelligence committees," said Hayden.

Watch the full interview with Hayden in the video below, or here.

Filed under: National Lead
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