The head of the National Security Agency said Sunday that the former analyst who leaked information about American spying programs cause "irreversible damage" to the country and is not acting, "in my opinion, with noble intent."
Gen. Keith B. Alexander lambasted Edward Snowden, who is on the run from Hong Kong to an unknown destination, even as he attempted to refute some Americans' fears the government has carte-blanche power to snoop on their phone and Internet communications.
"We take protecting our civil liberties and privacy as one of our key foundational values," he told ABC's "This Week" in an exclusive interview.
He said the intelligence community "failed to connect the dots" ahead of the terrorists attacks on Sept. 11, 2011. The Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act was crafted to give security agencies the tools it needed to make sure it didn't happen again.
He said there is no evidence intelligence personnel have ever attempted to circumvent controls within the law so they could snoop on communications. Meanwhile, he can point to "more than 50 cases" in which the spying programs helped the agency thwart potential attacks.
The general admitted to ABC that he does not know how Mr. Snowden, most recently a private contractor, was able to flee from Hawaii to Hong Kong after taking confidential documents. Now, he reportedly has fled the Chinese-controlled city for an undisclosed haven via Moscow.
Mr. Snowden reignited debate this month over the scope of U.S. surveillance by leaking details of American surveillance programs to The Guardian newspaper. The disclosures outlined the collection of records — but not content — of phone calls from Verizon customers and the Prism program that monitors Internet communications among foreigners.
Some praised Mr. Snowden, while others decried him as a traitor.
Gen. Alexander said Mr. Snowden is "clearly an individual who's betrayed the trust and confidence we had in him."
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