According to the NSA’s mantra, the collection metadata (where, when, and to who phone calls, emails, Instant Messages etc. are sent) does not constitute a violation of privacy because the contents of the phone call (etc.) are not kept, and is therefore harmless.
Commenting on remarks made by former NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker that ‘metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata, you don’t really need content,’ Haydon happily informed the guest speakers and audience at ‘The Johns Hopkins Foreign Affairs Symposium Presents: The Price of Privacy: Re-Evaluating the NSA’ debate that this was ‘absolutely correct. We kill people based on metadata.’
The comment is made at the 18 minutes mark in this video. Notice Hayden’s smirk after he makes it.
This chilling comment follows Edward Snowden derived revelations about not only the extent to which the NSA is involved in picking drone strike targets based on information obtained through metadata, but about how unreliable that metadata can be,
‘What’s more, he adds, the NSA often locates drone targets by analyzing the activity of a SIM card, rather than the actual content of the calls. Based on his experience, he has come to believe that the drone program amounts to little more than death by unreliable metadata. People get hung up that there’s a targeted list of people,” he says. “It’s really like we’re targeting a cell phone. We’re not going after people – we’re going after their phones, in the hopes that the person on the other end of that missile is the bad guy.”’