Former National Security Agency head Gen. Michael Hayden condemned Edward Snowden as “troubled” and “young”—someone who didn’t know the damage he was doing when he leaked details of the NSA’s surveillance activity.
Snowden was a “combustible combination of naiveté and narcissism,” said Hayden, a Bush-era official who is also the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and a retired general.
It’s been a big week for leakers: On Tuesday, another high-profile leaker, Pfc. Bradley Manning, was cleared of the charge of aiding the enemy, but convicted of 19 charges related to leaking top-secret documents to WikiLeaks. And on Thursday, Snowden was granted a temporary asylum in Russia.
With Snowden, 30, and Manning, who was 23 at the time of his leak, Hayden sees the generational divide.
“Let me connect the dots between Manning and Snowden,” he said. “These are two young men, I think both troubled, who did very bad things, who are representative of at least a fraction of the generation from which we’re now recruiting. A generation that has a different balance point between transparency and secrecy than our generations have had. We need to recruit these kids, they’re America, they’re talented, but they also need to be shown what the balance point is over here for their Facebook page? That’s not the balance point the government will insist they observe of their secrets.”
It’s a familiar refrain. Shortly after Snowden exposed the government’s secret collection of Americans’ phone call data and Internet communications, the president chided the former NSA contractor for triggering a global manhunt for his capture.
Hayden spoke with that same mixture of dismissive disdain, conjuring up an image of a young man who had gone terribly astray—a sharp contrast to the picture Snowden’s allies have painted of an intelligent, talented young employee who broke the law, sacrificed his citizenship and potentially his future to stop what he saw as systemic wrongdoing.
“He’s a young man in whom we trusted and he’s betrayed that trust,” Hayden said. “That’s not just ethically wrong, that’s a series of felonies and he has done that. He may claim he’s done it for a higher purpose, I’ll grand that within his own conscious he may believe that.”
Snowden showed the world the NSA’s “plumbing,” Hayden said. “Snowden is telling the world how we get information.”
Watch the full interview below.