In a speech Sunday in Washington, the former director of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency said that terrorists around the world prefer to communicate with Gmail.
The Washington Post reported that the remarks were made by Michael Hayden as part of a speech at an adult education forum at St. John's Episcopal Church, just across Lafayette Park from the White House.
"Gmail is the preferred Internet service provider of terrorists worldwide," Hayden said, apparently referring to the search engine's email service as opposed to any actual Internet service provider. "I don't think you're going to see that in a Google commercial, but it's free, it's ubiquitous, so of course it is."
The Post reported that Hayden's remarks came during a section of his speech defending a section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is the legal basis for the PRISM program of Internet and online communications surveillance revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden this past June.
According to the paper, Hayden's speech was on the topic of "the tension between security and liberty," and touched on the question of what the Internet represented to the upper levels of the U.S. national security establishment.
"We have a very difficult time with this," Hayden said, before asking "Is our vision of the World Wide Web the global digital commons -- at this point you should see butterflies flying here and soft background meadow-like music -- or a global free fire zone?"