NSA director turns
table on Congress

By WND Staff

WASHINGTON – During testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in its inquiry into possible lapses leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack, the director of the National Security Agency blamed deep cuts on his budget throughout the 1990s for the NSA’s inability to keep up with an exploding amount of intelligence information.

Responding to criticism that the NSA had not kept up with technology, Lt. General Michael V. Hayden said, “We are digging out of a deep hole.”

That hole, he explained delicately, was created by congressionally mandated budget cuts and stricter rules about how intelligence gathered in the United States could be used.

According to Hayden, the NSA was forced to downsize by one-third in both personnel and overall budget in the decade of the 1990s.

“That is the same decade when packetized communications (the e-communications we have all become familiar with) surpassed traditional communications,” he said. “That is the same decade when mobile cell phones increased from 16 million to 741 million, an increase of nearly 50 times. That is the same decade when Internet users went from about 4 million to 361 million, an increase of over 90 times. Half as many landlines were laid in the last six years of the 1990s as in the whole previous history of the world. In that same decade of the 1990s, international telephone traffic went from 38 billion minutes to over 100 billion. This year, the world’s population will spend over 180 billion minutes on the phone in international calls alone.”

Hayden reminded the committee that he went public in February of 2001 on “60 Minutes II” saying he could not guarantee Osama bin Laden could be stopped even if the NSA were at the top of its game.

“I am not really helped by being reminded that I need more Arabic linguists or by someone second-guessing an obscure intercept sitting in our files that may make more sense today than it did two years ago,” he challenged the senators. “What I really need you to do is to talk to your constituents and find out where the American people want that line between security and liberty to be.”

Thursday’s hearing was the final public hearing of the joint committees. After a halting start, the panel conducted a series of hearings and produced a series of reports critical of the Central Intelligence Agency and FBI.