"I used to say he was a defector, and there's a history of defection -- actually, there's a history of defection to Moscow, and that he seems to be part of that stream. I'm now, kind of, drifting in the direction of perhaps more harsh language," Michael Hayden said on the CBS program "Face the Nation."
When asked about his choice of language, Hayden responded, "Such as traitor."
He added the NSA is "infinitely weaker" as a result of Snowden's revelations of classified information, adding, "This is the most serious hemorrhaging of American secrets in the history of American espionage."
A legal adviser of Snowden's, Jesselyn Radack, later reacted to Hayden's remarks by pointing out the surveillance mechanisms exposed by Snowden have been identified in federal courts and by a White House review panel as likely unconstitutional.
"I feel very much that that vindicates Snowden as a whistle-blower. It's very rare that a whistle-blower has the imprimatur of both a federal court decision and a hand-picked White House internal review panel corroborating, basically, all that he has disclosed," Radack said.
Thomas Drake, a former NSA employee who beat charges of espionage over his work revealing problems with previous NSA surveillance, added, "I don't consider him a traitor at all. I consider him a whistle-blower. He exposed prima facie evidence regarding the extent of the surveillance program, its unconstitutionality and the fact that we're losing huge, huge amounts of trust overseas."