Retired General Michael Hayden, former head of both the NSA and CIA, told USA Today that while he “trends toward the government” on the ‘master key‘ approach to the San Bernardino case, he thinks Apple is right that there should never be a back door to encryption. His remarks were made as Tim Cook called for the government to drop its demands that Apple help the FBI break into an iPhone.

Hayden went so far as to specifically call out FBI Director Jim Comey in his comments.

In this specific case, I’m trending toward the government, but I’ve got to tell you in general I oppose the government’s effort, personified by FBI Director Jim Comey. Jim would like a back door available to American law enforcement in all devices globally. And, frankly, I think on balance that actually harms American safety and security, even though it might make Jim’s job a bit easier in some specific circumstances.

Comey has repeatedly attacked Apple’s use of strong encryption on iPhones …

Hayden said that while he would have loved a back door into encrypted devices while he was running the NSA, the problem – as I argued – is that others would inevitably gain access to it.

“When you step back and look at the whole question of American security and safety writ large, we are a safer, more secure nation without back doors,” he says. With them, “a lot of other people would take advantage of it.”

Hayden said that there were, though, no easy answers.

What we’re trying to do here is what free people and this free people have done since the inception of the republic, which is to balance two things, both of which are virtues: our security and our privacy. There are no permanent answers to that. We debate them continuously based on the totality of circumstances in which we find ourselves. The point I make to our countrymen: This is not a struggle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. This is a good people, trying to find the right balance.

Lest anyone think Hayden has gone soft in his retirement, he had uncompromising things to say about everything from waterboarding (justified to get information to protect America) to the NSA’s mass surveillance of phone records (the NSA should have been a bit more open about it, but people over-reacted).

The entire piece – including Hayden’s assessment of current Presidential candidates – is well worth a read.

Photo: FPA