Today on Fox News Sunday, former CIA director Michael Hayden blasted President Obama’s decision to release the Bush-era torture memos. Hayden claimed that he and other former CIA directors opposed making the documents public because it would compromise future interrogations of detainees by letting them know the “outer limits” of what the United States does:
HAYDEN: At the tactical level, 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. Now, it doesn’t mean we would always go to the outer limits, but it describes the box within which Americans will not go beyond. To me, that’s very useful for our enemies, even if as a policy matter, this President at this time had decided not to use one, any or all of those techniques. It reveals the outer limits. That’s very important.
The enhanced interrogation tactics were not “the outer limits”; they were in fact torture techniques that operated outside the law. In one of his earliest acts after taking office, Obama signed executive orders ending the CIA’s secret prisons and ending torture by requiring interrogations to abide by the Army Field Manual.
Since at least last month, Hayden has been pressing the Obama administration not to release these torture memos. But his attempts to cover-up abuses go back much further. He has tried repeatedly to prevent the public from learning about the Bush administration’s torture, pushing the “outer limits” of what’s legal:
— In 2005, the CIA destroyed videotapes of agents administering harsh interrogation tactics against two al Qaeda operatives. Hayden defended the move, saying, “What matters here is that it was done in line with the law.” Hayden also claimed that videotaping of interrogations had stopped in 2002, even though evidence later came out suggesting that taping had continued.
— In 2004, IG 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.” He continued to exert aggressive oversight of the agency, and in 2007, Hayden ordered an unprecedented internal investigation of the IG. The move appeared to “undermine the independence of the office.”
Host Chris Wallace also asked Hayden about the revelation that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003, based on information released in the new torture memos. Hayden claimed that such information had not been made public and refused to confirm or deny the accounts.