General Hayden speaks at Peters Twp. High School
Former CIA and NSA Director General Michael Hayden talked about his experiences during a presentation held Nov. 18 at Peters Township High School.
The North Hills native spoke to about 300 students from Peters, Mt. Lebanon, South Allegheny, South Fayette, Thomas Jefferson and Trinity high schools. Several other area districts watched the presentation via internet video conference. Also watching were two high school classes in Alaska and one in Texas. Both the schools watching online and those in attendance at Peters Township were also able to participate in the discussion with Hayden by asking questions.
The World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh brought in Hayden to talk to the students with a presentation titled “In the Name of National Security: Balancing Secrecy and Transparency.” Dr. Steven Sokol, president and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, moderated the presentation.
From 1999 to 2005, Hayden was director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and from 2006 to 2009 he served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He is now a principal at the Chertoff Group and a distinguished visiting professor at George Mason University.
Peters Township High School junior Alessia Mihok said she was “really excited” that Hayden was speaking at her school. “I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to see him,” she said.
“It’s amazing that he came here to a high school,” added Peters Township junior Olivia Hilborn. “I realize how big of a deal it is to see him.”
Ryan Williams, a junior at Peters Township, said he wanted to see Hayden speak because, “I’m interested in going into the field of history.”
At the beginning of the presentation, Hayden told the students that intelligence is “stealing other countries’ secrets.” He added, “Espionage is not only compatible with democracy, it is necessary.”
Hayden said espionage dates back to the earliest of United States history.
“This country’s first spy was George Washington,” Hayden said. He talked about Nathan Hale, who was one of the spies Washington sent to observe the British. At age 21, he was caught and executed by the British.
Hayden said there are three components to gathering intelligence. The first, he said, is “to simply spy.”
“We’re talking secret agent stuff here,” he said of the CIA. Another way, he said, is to intercept communications, which is what the NSA does. The final way of gathering intelligence is via the National Geo-spatial Intelligence Agency, which takes photos using satellites.
“We put that all together” and try to inform leaders so they’ll make smart decisions and smart policy, Hayden said. He said using all of the sources helps to stop some proposed terrorist threats.
“We live in a democracy that thrives on transparency,” Hayden said. He said the NSA and CIA have to look at “what is the right balance between staying secret and being transparent?” He added, “All nations spy.”
Hayden talked about metadata, or the fact that a phone call occurred. The metadata is stored in a database and is a record of phone calls made, but not of the content in the calls.
“The NSA has all that,” he said. He said there are probably more than 1 trillion records in that database.
“It’s the lightest touch possible” to see if someone is affiliated with a terrorist group. He said two of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists had lived in San Diego for a year and if the metadata program had been in place it would have been known that they were communicating with al-Qaida.
“If this had been in existence, we would have known two terrorists were living in San Diego. History may have been different,” Hayden said. He added, “I think this program is going to continue.”
As for working with two different presidents – George W. Bush and Barack Obama – Hayden said even though it was hard for him to imagine two presidents more different from each other, it was “amazing how little change” there was between Bush’s second term and the approach Obama takes.
“We’ve had remarkable continuity over the two administrations,” Hayden said.
The United States is a “world power” when it comes to intelligence, spending about $50 billion per year, Hayden said. He said other nations combined do not spend that much on intelligence.
“We are the only nation in the world that has that global responsibility,” Hayden said. “We spend a lot of money on it and frankly we are pretty good at it.”