General Michael Vincent Hayden served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from May, 2006 until February, 2009. He is a retired United States Air Force four-star general and a former Director of the National Security Agency. Currently, Hayden is a principal at the Chertoff Group, a security consultancy, co-founded by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Hayden also serves as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at George Mason University School of Public Policy. NewsReal Blog interviewed General Hayden and found him to be engaging, witty, and insightful.
NRB: It appears that despite this administration’s criticism of President Bush’s policies President Obama has kept a number of them. Am I correct?
Hayden: Absolutely, Let me recount. They are following the Bush policies on rendition, military commissions, indefinite detentions, continue to argue the case for state secrets, and are threatening to veto legislation that requires the President to brief more members of Congress on covert actions.
NRB: Doesn’t that imply that President Obama has felt a lot of the interrogation tactics were appropriate?
Hayden: President Obama limited the interrogation tactics to the army field manual but did not technically outlaw anything. Remember, he took the interrogation tactics off the table by executive order but apparently does not want them taken off by legislation. It is kind of interesting and does imply he wants to keep some flexibility (as well as preserving executive prerogatives.)
NRB: Were there any instances where the Obama administration broke away from the Bush policies?
Hayden: He ended the CIA interrogation program. I opposed the decision but not the President’s right to make that decision.
NRB: It seems to me that the Department of Justice is going after the CIA. Do you agree?
Hayden: It was a mistake to release all the DOJ memos and a mistake to allow the re-investigation of a 5 year old case against CIA officers. This is an agency right now that is worried if anyone has their back.
NRB: Recently, pictures were taken of CIA operatives in Northern Virginia, by defense attorneys, and shown to the terrorists at Gitmo. The DOJ seems to be dragging its feet investigating this-any comment?
Hayden: People at the agency had been concerned that Justice seemed to be ignoring it. If these investigations are not pursued with some energy it’s just going to make the problem worse. This appears to be a violation of the law. I think the involvement of Patrick Fitzgerald in the investigation has given the folks at the Agency more confidence that this is now being pursued.
NRB: Are you upset that this is not getting much media attention?
Hayden: I am outraged that it was a one day story and not many have followed it up. The press was all over the Valerie Plame incident, which was also about protecting the identity of a CIA officer. It became a national story with a constant drumbeat. This was a one day event that went away.
NRB: The Congressional Democrats want to insert into the authorization bill a provision that would require the videotaping of interrogations. How do you feel about this?
Hayden: Videotaping is necessary to preserve evidence for a federal trial. CIA interrogates people for their intelligence value. The Obama administration made it quite clear that the videotaping requirement would be an unacceptable provision of the law. Why tape CIA interrogations and not apply it to DOD? Why would we do it? In the history of the Republic the US has interrogated hundreds of thousands, if not millions of enemy combatants and it was done without videotaping.
NRB: What would you want the American public to understand?
Hayden: The Declaration of Independence stated that we have an organized government to preserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We need to balance our actions with protecting those three ideals: the need to protect our life, our security, and our liberties. This calls for very hard choices.