TORONTO – Months after revelations about the National Security Agency’s cyber-surveillance practices were leaked, Deputy Director Rich Ledgett admitted the agency could do a better job of being more transparent about some of its programs.
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“There are things that we need to be transparent about; our authorities, our processes, our oversight, who we are,” Ledgett said Thursday during a last-minute interview at the TED Talks conference in Vancouver, B.C..
“We, the NSA, have not done a good job of that and I think that is part of the reason that this has been so revelatory and sensational in the media. We need to be more transparent about those things.”
Ledgett appeared on the TED Talks stage via video just two days after whistleblower Edward Snowden made a surprise appearance in front of the same audience to discuss the cyber-surveillance programs he leaked to the media in June 2013.
WATCH: Ledgett appears via video at TED Talks
On Tuesday Snowden – who appeared via telepresence robot from an undisclosed location in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum – discussed why citizens should continue to be concerned about their privacy online.
He added his biggest revelations are yet to come.
“In democratic societies around the world, people should be able to pick up the phone, call family, send text messages to loved one, travel by train, buy an airline ticket — without wondering how those events will look to an agent of government, possibly not even your government but one years in the future,” Snowden said at Tuesday’s talk.
“Trusting any government authority with the entirety of human communications without any oversight is too great a temptation to be ignored.”
Snowden was behind the leaks that revealed once top secret NSA programs including the cyber-surveillance program PRISM, which allows the NSA to run surveillance on foreign citizens using services from top tech companies including Apple and Google.
WATCH: Snowden appears on the TED Talks stage
When asked about Snowden’s decision to leak confidential documents to the press, Ledgett said Snowden should have taken other avenues in raising concerns about NSA programs – adding Snowden’s actions could have put lives at risk by jeopardizing national security.
READ MORE: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: ‘The mission’s already accomplished’
“Like a lot of things that have come out since Mr. Snowden started disclosing classified information, there were some kernels of truth in there, but a lot of extrapolations and half truths in there,” said Ledgett.
“I actually think that characterizing him as a whistleblower actually hurts legitimate whistle blowing activities.”
TED Talks host Chris Anderson said NSA officials did not accept the invitation to speak at TED until late Wednesday.
On 桑拿会所, Anderson described the 30-minute interview as “intense.”
That was intense. 30 mins of questions for NSA’s Richard Ledgett. We plan to post later today. pic.twitter杭州夜网/ytnaEqoKN5
— Chris Anderson (@TEDchris) March 20, 2014
The TED host also asked Ledgett about foreign citizens’ right to privacy when using a U.S.-based company’s services.
Ledgett responded “of course” foreigners – including Canadians – are entitled to privacy online, adding the NSA can only compel Internet companies to hand over information if the NSA can identify that the user is associated with counter terrorists or other foreign intelligence targets.