If the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s investigation into the CIA’s enhanced interrogations program has one figure who serves as a clear antagonist, it is former CIA Director Michael Hayden.
Prior to the release of this report, Hayden issued a prebuttal to the report’s release when he appeared on CBS on Sunday.
“To say that we relentlessly over an expanded period of time lied to everyone about a program that wasn’t doing any good, that beggars the imagination,” said Hayden on CBS’s Face The Nation.
Still, Hayden, who headed the CIA for the final years of the Bush administration, said he studied the program when he took over in 2006 and was unwilling to end it. “At the end of the summer I recommended to President Bush that we reduce the program, that we reduce the number of techniques, but that the program had been so valuable that we couldn’t stop it altogether,” he said. “Even though now we had so much more intelligence on al-Qaeda from the detainees and other sources, even then the program had proven its worth…in conscience, I couldn’t take it off the table.”
“First of all, the CIA workforce will feel as if it has been tried and convicted in absentia since the Senate Democrats and their staff didn’t talk to anyone actively involved in the program. Second, this will be used by our enemies to motivate people to attack Americans and American facilities overseas,” said Hayden.
“There are countries out there who have cooperated with us on the war on terror at some political risk that are relying on American discretion,” said Hayden. “I can’t imagine anyone out there going forward in the future who would be willing to do anything that even smacks of political danger.”
On Tuesday, Hayden issued his first rebuttal to the Senate committee report in an appearance on Newsmax on Tuesday with host Steve Malzberg:
“None of us were asked,” Hayden said when he was asked by Malzberg why the SSCI’s investigators declined to speak with any CIA officials responsible for overseeing the enhanced interrogations program.
“The cover story that they’re using is that there was a congressional investigation and therefore they could not get people to talk,” he added. “The congressional investigation ended in August of 2012.”
“So, you had two more years to double check your work if you wanted,” Hayden scolded. He noted that former CIA Director Leon Panetta said that he would not compel his agents to speak with Senate investigators, but that he also would not prohibit them from doing so if they were asked.
The former CIA director also noted that other agency personnel freely spoke to House investigators on a similar matter.
“Telling people something they don’t want to hear is not the same thing as telling people something that is untrue,” Hayden added. He made this assertion when asked if he lied to the Committee when he testified on the CIA’s interrogation practices in 2006.
Hayden previewed an inter-agency fight over the intelligence report which alleged that the CIA’s account of the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi citizen currently in custody in Guantanamo Bay, was deceptive. “What I laid out is what the agency will say was true in its report today,” Hayden said. “So, again, you’ve got President Obama’s CIA saying, ‘We stick by our story.’”
Finally, Hayden insisted that it “defies human comprehension” to suggest that the enhanced interrogations did not lead to no actionable intelligence.
“Every analyst I spoke to understood and indicated to me the importance of the information we got from this program,” the former CIA director added.
Hayden closed by noting that Feinstein’s committee asserted that the detainees subject to enhanced interrogations “lied” and the CIA knew it. “Well, good for us,” Hayden countered. “That’s what we’re supposed to do, isn’t it?”
“It is a one-sided prosecutorial brief against the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency,” he declared, calling it a “verdict rendered in abstentia.”
The former Air Force General and CIA director could not have been clearer. If they were not already, and there were ample indications that they were, the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee are going to war.