“It’s unfair to blame Hayden for things that occurred long before he took the job. But he deserves credit for standing up for the folks over there at CIA, even though a lot of the stuff he has dealt with didn’t happen on his watch,” said an intelligence official.
Former CIA analyst John Brennan was compelled to withdraw his name from consideration, after a number of bloggers, led by Glenn Greenwald, raised concerns that he had supported Bush’s interrogation policies. Hayden did one better than Brennan – he carried them out, defended them, and in some cases, lied about them.
On waterboarding, Hayden acknowledged to Congress that “it is not certain that that technique would be considered to be lawful under current statute.” And yet, he has refused to label the technique “torture,” dismissing it as an uninteresting “legal term”:
Well, first of all, we’re not talking about torture, all right? I mean, torture is a legal term. Now, there are some things that are illegal that are not, that are not torture. And so we cloud the debate when, when we throw the word torture out there, I think, in a far too casual way.
In 2004, CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson issued a report warning “that some C.I.A.-approved interrogation procedures appeared to constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as defined by the international Convention Against Torture.” In October 2007, Hayden “ordered an unusual internal inquiry” into Helgerson’s office, focusing on complaints that Helgerson was on “a crusade against those who have participated in controversial detention programs.”
When it was revealed that the CIA had destroyed tapes showing interrogations taking place, Hayden claimed that it was done to protect the identities of CIA interrogators. “You’d have to burn every document at the CIA that has the identity of an agent on it under that theory,” said Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) of Hayden’s excuse. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) called the incident a “mockery of the rule of law.” Most disturbingly, Hayden claimed that videotaping of interrogations had stopped in 2002, even though evidence later came out suggesting that taping had continued.
Before arriving at the CIA, Hayden was director of the National Security Agency. In that position, he misled Congress about Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program. He told a committee investigating the 9/11 attacks that any surveillance of persons in the United States was done consistent with FISA. Of course, at the time, Hayden was operating an illegal spying program.
Sen. Rockefeller also criticized Hayden for making statements that did not correlate with the intelligence. “The positions attributed to you are not consistent with assessments that have been provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee over the past year,” he said.