Who is former CIA director Hayden really protecting?


By Larisa Alexandrovna - 4/20/2009

Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Michael Hayden says releasing Bush administration torture memos harms national security and emboldens our enemies.

I have been told by several sources during Hayden’s tenure that he was well liked by Agency employees. But everyone also understood why he was there, to clean things up after the massive amount of leaking that caused the Bush administration a good deal of embarrassment.

The reality is our enemies know we tortured people. The world knows we tortured people. So our national security has already been harmed. Contrary to Mr. Hayden’s assertions, what the torture memos threaten is not national security. Rather, the memos threaten Hayden’s former boss and Hayden’s former employees with prosecution.

Here is what Hayden had to say on Fox News – the predictable outlet for defending Bush era criminal activity as somehow akin to national security interests:

"What we have described for our enemies in the midst of a war are the outer limits that any American would ever go to in terms of interrogating an al-Qaeda terrorist. That's very valuable information," Hayden said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday.

"By taking [certain] techniques off the table, we have made it more difficult -- in a whole host of circumstances I can imagine -- for CIA officers to defend the nation," he said.

That is totally inconsistent with what people have told me. Everyone I have talked to has had serious misgivings about Bush-era torture and rendition policy. The reality is that in certain situations and in rare circumstances, the CIA has engaged in extraordinary rendition in the past – well before the Bush administration.

This tool is sometimes necessary. For example, consider how the Israeli Mossad captured Adolf Eichmann in order to bring him to justice. So on rare occasions and with proper supervision, extraordinary rendition was a necessary and useful tool.

Torture, however, was not something supported as a necessary tool or even a useful one, let alone the moral issues raised by such abuse. All Agency people I have talked to have consistently told me that torture produces no actionable intelligence because the subject will say anything agree to anything, to make the abuse stop.

Moreover, extraordinary rendition and torture were never used as a matter of policy and law enforcement by the US until the Bush administration.

In other words, torture was not a tool of war policy until Hayden’s boss came into office. Extraordinary rendition was not a tool of war policy until Hayden’s boss came into office. Violations of Geneva Conventions was not policy until Hayden’s boss came into office. So whom is Hayden defending?