Keith Alexander blames the National Security Agency's poor communication with the public for the loss of trust and tarnished image it has suffered since the first Snowden leaks exactly one year ago.
"We've got to have a way of putting the facts out so that the American people know," the former NSA director said in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Thursday. "Because I do think an attack is going to come and hit us or Europe, and then people are going to swing this right around."
Alexander said that the NSA "got way behind in the media on this." But he said his former employer is not the only one at fault. "The media took off with a lot of information that wasn't factually correct," he said.
The former director suggested a "reset," but clarified that he's not proposing changing NSA policy. "I'm not talking about taking the programs off the table. I think what we've done a terrible job in is explaining what those programs do."
A bill to reform the NSA that has passed the House would curtail NSA operations by ending bulk collection of Americans' metadata, limiting electronic surveillance programs like PRISM, and allowing companies to disclose government requests for their customers' data.
Alexander warned against any move that would dismantle the NSA's structure.
"There are a series of programs; each of those help us build the picture. And if you start taking some of those off the table, the question is, when does it become too difficult for the analysts to conclude what happened? That's how 9/11 occurred."