At St. John's Episcopal Church across the street from the White House, Hayden appeared during an adult education forum and spoke on "the tension between security and liberty."
Hayden defended Section 702 of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA), which provides the legal basis for the NSA's PRISM surveillance program.
"Gmail is the preferred Internet service provider of terrorists worldwide," Hayden said, though he presumably meant online service rather than an actual ISP. "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," he added.
When asked whether the NSA's widespread surveillance was setting a bad example for other countries, Hayden said that because the Internet was invented in the U.S., the NSA's program was justified.
If the Internet lasts another 500 years, Hayden said, it may be the thing the U.S. is remembered for, "the way the Romans are remembered for their roads."
"We built it here, and it was quintessentially American," he said. Because of that, a high proportion of traffic moves through American servers where the government "takes a picture of it for intelligence purposes."
Hayden admitted the U.S. "could be fairly charged with the militarization of the World Wide Web." But that apparently isn't as bad as online anonymity.
"The problem I have with the Internet is that it's anonymous," Hayden said. "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?"