A former high-ranking US intelligence official has admitted that Washington uses the metadata obtained by the National Security Agency as the basis for killing people.
Michael Hayden, who served as the head of the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), made the comments during a recent debate at Johns Hopkins University, according to David Cole, the Georgetown University Law Center professor and Hayden’s opponent at the debate.
“When I quoted Baker [the former general counsel of the NSA] at a recent debate at Johns Hopkins University, my opponent, General Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and the CIA, called Baker’s comment ‘absolutely correct,’ and raised him one, asserting, ‘We kill people based on metadata,’” Cole wrote in the New York Review of Books.
Hayden paused for minutes after making the statement and then qualified it by adding, “But that’s not what we do with this metadata.”
Baker has already said metadata alone is more than enough to reveal vast amounts of an individual’s personal information.
Metadata is a reference to the information collected by the NSA from American citizens and “suspected militants” in other countries. The US uses the data to select targets for drone strikes around the world.
According to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the agency analyzes metadata as well as mobile-tracking technology to determine targets, without employing human intelligence to confirm a suspect’s identity.
Last week, two House committees voted unanimously to support the USA Freedom Act, which would bar the NSA from collecting metadata in bulk. But Cole noted that the bill doesn’t address all the facets of the NSA’s spying program.
The Freedom Act only applies to American citizens, not foreigners who are also under surveillance, nor does it address what he termed the NSA’s “guerilla-like tactics of inserting vulnerabilities into computer software and drivers, to be exploited later to surreptitiously intercept private communications.”