Former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden has long been the face and voice of the growing security state within the United States. While many of his representations have been challenged, he continues (like Dick Cheney) to create his own reality to justify powers viewed as authoritarian and unlawful. Now, with the approaching release of a comprehensive report on the torture program, Hayden is out in the press denying the findings of the report that torture did not result in any meaningful new intelligence and that the CIA tortured people who were already cooperating with conventional (and legal) interrogations. Hayden took to the airways to champion torture by attacking the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D, Cal.) and said that she was just being “emotional” and should not be involved in such a serious debate.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Hayden cited comments Feinstein made last month that the report would “ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.” That was just Feinstein being “emotional” Hayden insisted: “That sentence — that motivation for the report — may show deep, emotional feeling on the part of the senator, but I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”
It was an ironic moment since Feinstein has been widely denounced by civil libertarians for her blind support for the intelligence community, including her campaign against Edward Snowden and her defense of massive surveillance programs targeting the entire population in meta data collection. When she was granting the security agencies their every wish, she was pragmatic and powerful. However, once she allowed an investigation into torture, she became emotional and incompetent. Of course, under Hayden’s approach, the United Nations, various countries, numerous human rights organizations, and former government officials are equally blinded by their emotions in denouncing the torture program — and our failure to prosecute former Bush officials.
It is equally telling that Hayden views the condemnation of torture to be a purely emotional response. Torture is a war crime as well as a domestic crime. It is like saying that a prosecutor is a bit too emotional in denouncing murder. Normal people tend to have a certain emotion over torture. We had some pretty powerful emotions when we tried Japanese officers for water boarding our POWs. Hayden made his career by dismissing questions of illegality as emotional tripe.
Ironically, Hayden is my neighbor down the street from my house. The few houses that separate us are nothing like the “emotional” divide over war crimes. I still strongly oppose the record of Feinstein in the expansion of national security powers in this country. However, having Michael Hayden as a critic on the subject of torture is a good step toward redemption.
Reprinted with author's permission.