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NRB Interview: Michael Hayden and the War on Terror, Part 1

Posted on March 26 2010 3:16 pm
Elise Cooper is a freelance author focusing on the conservative point of view on issues involving national and homeland security. Her articles have been published by various conservative blogs, magazines and Republican newsletters.
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General Michael Vincent Hayden served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from May, 2006 until February, 2009. He is a retired United States Air Force four-star general and a former Director of the National Security Agency. Currently, Hayden is a principal at the Chertoff Group, a security consultancy, co-founded by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Hayden also serves as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at George Mason University School of Public Policy. NewsReal Blog interviewed General Hayden and found him to be engaging, witty, and insightful.

NewsRealBlog: What do you consider the most important aspect of fighting the War on Terror?

General Michael Hayden: The War on Terror is an intelligence war. The problem with the terrorists is that they are hard to find. The defining element of whether you are successful or not in this war is the elegance of your intelligence. If your intelligence is on the mark everything else seems to flow.

NRB: Do you think we are winning this war?

Hayden: We have been relatively successful. Al Qaeda is under pressure in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, to name a few. We have taken the fight to the enemy over the past 8 years and it has made a difference. It’s no accident that we have been as successful as we have been.

NRB: You were Director of the CIA when President Obama issued his executive order about interrogation techniques-did you have any input?

Hayden: I found it odd that the CIA was not consulted on the final executive order and that the techniques would be limited to those in the army field manual. No one is making the claim that the techniques in the Army Field Manual are the ONLY lawful techniques. The claim that was made was that these particular lawful techniques are all that America needs. But that is not a legal judgment that is an operational judgment. I called up on the morning that the executive order was being released and said, not that you asked, but this is the Director of the CIA and I am not concurring with the executive order.

NRB: Does the CIA currently do interrogations?

Hayden: I am out of government so I cannot comment authoritatively. I can point out that the CIA did interrogations of high value detainees because it had special authorities that no one else had. With these authorities now gone, it makes sense that someone else would have the lead.

NRB: What interrogation techniques do you consider lawful?

Hayden: I don’t need to have a view. The Department of Justice tells me what is and what is not lawful.

NRB: Do you think we need to use the same techniques to fight the War on Terror today as we used in the past?

Hayden: Not necessarily. I took a bunch of things off the table because I thought times had changed. The law had changed. Operational requirements had changed. Our penetration of Al Qaeda had changed.

NRB: Do you agree that President Obama should publicly acknowledge the acceptable techniques?

Hayden: What I would NOT do is guarantee to our enemy that this is all that will happen if we capture and interrogate you. I am not arguing for any one technique, I am just arguing for the fact that it is not wise to broadcast that these are the limits and we are not going to go any further. No one will claim that the only techniques that are legal are stated in the army field manual; yet, these are the only techniques we will use. When you decide to take intelligence tools off the table, given the nature of this war, it is the equivalent of disarmament in previous conflicts.

Tune in for part 2 at NRB tomorrow.

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