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Former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden said Tuesday the government would be giving intelligence services one more entryway into Americans' data should it prevail in the dispute with Apple over unlocking an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists.
"Even when you're just looking at this through a security lens, that's actually not the best resolution for American security. Put another way America is more secure — America is more safe — with unbreakable end-to-end encryption," Hayden told CNBC's "Squawk Box."
The tech giant has refused a U.S. magistrate's order to create software that would allow the FBI to circumvent security measures built into the operating system on an iPhone 5C used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife killed 14 people at a county government facility in December.
FBI Director James Comey has said that law enforcement does not intend to create a back door into all iPhones.
Hayden, now a principal at the Chertoff Group, led the NSA during the Sept. 11 attacks and the launch of the Iraq War.
Under his leadership, the agency engaged in controversial practices, such as the warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens' international phone calls and surveillance of Americans' Internet communications.
Hayden acknowledged that he has in the past argued for opening back doors into specific products, but said the world is changing. Taking the NSA as an example, he said intelligence agencies must balance their offensive and defensive roles.
"Both missions pivot around the concept of vulnerability. If you know the vulnerability, you win. If you know the vulnerability, you can protect," he said.
Companies should not be immune to decisions arrived at through the American political process, he said, but the American political process must make smart decisions. On balance, American security is better served with unbreakable code, he added.
The FBI is "not asking [Apple] to decrypt it. They're asking them to suppress the iOS, and this is self-destructive," Hayden said.
The more the method is used, the more vulnerable it becomes, he said.