Former CIA Director Michael Hayden Trying To Pretend CIA Torture Report Is Just A 'Democrat' Political Ploy

from the good-luck-with-that dept

We've been covering the pending release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's CIA torture report, which is currently undergoing a fight over what should or should not be redacted. We also covered the NY Times report about how former CIA boss George Tenet (who helped mentor current CIA boss John Brennan) is both implicated by the report... and has been leading the campaign to discredit the report.

It appears that he's not the only former CIA boss tapped to do so. Former CIA (and NSA) director Michael Hayden has kicked off what can only, charitably, be described as a smear campaign against the report and any of its supporters. The piece, published in the Washington Times, tries to paint the whole thing as being a "Democrat" plot to discredit the good and righteous CIA-supporting Republicans. Frankly, the idea that any of this is a partisan battle is just silly. Lots of things in DC are partisan, but there's been little indication that the CIA report is driven in any way by partisan interests. After all, the CIA's current director, Brennan, was appointed by a Democratic President. In fact, in the past, Brennan has actually lashed out at Republicans for playing "political football" over national security issues. Of course, now that it's happening in his favor...

Hayden goes on to push a blatant smear on Retired Major General Antonio Taguba, who recently wrote an op-ed for the NY Times asking President Obama to stop hiding the report and to release it. Of course, Hayden doesn't actually link to Taguba's piece. Because he doesn't want you to actually read it. He just wants to smear Taguba, who has some experience in exposing coverups and bad behavior. He headed the military's investigation into the Abu Ghraib prison. And his statement is powerful:
Even though a bipartisan majority of the committee voted to declassify the report, there is a concerted effort to discredit it by depicting it as partisan and unfair. The report’s detractors include the C.I.A. itself: The agency’s rebuttal will be released alongside the report’s key sections. While the C.I.A. is under no obligation to stay silent in the face of criticism, it seems that between its apparently excessive redactions and its spying on the committee’s computers, the agency is determined to resist oversight.

Yet I know from experience that oversight will help the C.I.A. — as it helped the United States military. Ten years ago, I was directed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior officer in Iraq, to investigate allegations of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. My report’s findings, which prompted a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, documented a systemic problem: military personnel had perpetrated “numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses.”

The findings, along with what became infamous images of abuse, caused a stir and led to prosecutions. The inquiry shed light on our country’s trip to the dark side, in which the United States government engaged in an assault on American ideals, broke the law and in so doing strengthened our enemies.
The heart of Hayden's smear campaign is that Taguba couldn't possibly know what's actually in the report, because it's not out yet. He admits that some details of the report have been leaked to the press, but insists that no one knows if these are accurate. Of course, he also admits that he, himself, was given a copy of the report to review (in unredacted form, even), and yet he doesn't even attempt to counter what was said in the leaks. Hmm.

Hayden also pulls the "law and order" card, in claiming that the CIA couldn't possibly have done wrong because the "CIA’s program was authorized by the highest levels of the U.S. government, declared lawful on four occasions by the Department of Justice, monitored by an Inspector General, and briefed to the leadership of Congress." Except... that's not quite what the leaks from the report have said. It talks about how the CIA regularly misled Congress about the program, including what techniques they were using and how effective the torture program was. Besides, the whole "it's okay because someone said it was legal" excuse is extremely weak.

Hayden also tries to smear two other military generals who have expressed similar concerns. Former Marine Corps Commandant General Charles Krulak and former Central Command Chief General Joseph Hoar wrote a similar article for the Chicago Tribune (again, Hayden fails to link to it). Like Taguba's, it's powerful.
Mr. President, the stakes are too high to allow the intelligence community to circle the wagons and obscure the truth about torture: that it is both wrong and wrong-headed, an immoral and illegal act that makes the country less safe. People familiar with the report, as well as news reports, say that the committee has concluded that torture was more brutal and common than Americans were led to believe and that it failed as an intelligence-producing tactic. The committee also reportedly found that the CIA misled the administration and Congress about the nature and extent of the torture.

We understand why CIA officials will find these findings embarrassing. But potential embarrassment is not a valid reason to try to deny Americans a full understanding of what their government did in their name. The military took its lumps when the Senate Armed Service Committee released its report on detainee abuse within its ranks and emerged as a stronger institution as a result. President Obama should ensure that the CIA does the same.

This report offers the best opportunity yet for us as a nation to come to terms with what our government did in our name. The debate is not historical or academic.
Again, rather than addressing any of the issues, or responding to their claims, Hayden goes back to the same tired line that the report is a "Democrat" report, and that since these generals haven't seen it (while he has), they should not comment on it.

Hayden then goes on to brush off the now admitted spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee by the CIA, claiming that it was a "clumsy investigation" and not a "constitutional crisis":
Supporters of the SSCI report are likening CIA opposition to the SSCI Democrats’ conclusions as an attack on oversight itself. CIA’s clumsy investigation into how Senate staffers acquired some documents feeds this story line, but forcefully saying the report is badly flawed isn’t a constitutional crisis — it’s a disagreement over facts.
But the "constitutional crisis" that people were discussing was not a "disagreement over facts" it was over the CIA, a part of the executive branch, spying on its overseers in the legislative branch. That is a constitutional issue. You'd think Hayden would be aware of the basic separation of powers, but perhaps not. Furthermore, it's not the "SSCI Democrats' conclusions." The vote to declassify the report was not Intelligence Committee Democrats vs. Republicans but a bipartisan 11 to 3 vote.

It seems that defenders of the CIA are getting fairly desperate in smearing anyone credible (including three highly respected former high ranking military officers) speaking out on why the CIA's shameful torture program shouldn't be hidden behind black ink.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    tomczerniawski, Aug 27th, 2014 @ 11:31am

    That's so wonderfully scummy, trying to make it a partisan issue. Let's hope Republicans leap to the defense of torturing human beings to death.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    BentFranklin (profile), Aug 27th, 2014 @ 11:44am

    Articles like this are why I keep up my membership to TechDirt. It's a full-time job dispelling all the bullshit put out by the full-time bullshitters. I don't have that kind of time but I sure as hell am glad TechDirt is there for us. Thanks TechDirt!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    That One Guy (profile), Aug 27th, 2014 @ 11:56am


    It's pretty obvious the CIA, both current and former, are getting increasingly desperate to bury the report, or at least redact it to the point of uselessness(which they've done, unless some politician wants to put it all on the line and release the report un-redacted), and it's pretty easy to see why.

    'The findings, along with what became infamous images of abuse, caused a stir and led to prosecutions. The inquiry shed light on our country’s trip to the dark side, in which the United States government engaged in an assault on American ideals, broke the law and in so doing strengthened our enemies.'

    They are desperate to avoid having history repeat itself, and if the report is released, and a big enough, and sustained enough, public outcry results from it(as should happen), then it's very possible heads will roll, and their actions will become public for the world to see.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    That One Guy (profile), Aug 27th, 2014 @ 11:59am


    Hopefully the tactic will backfire, big, as both sides scramble to push for the release of the report so they can't be painted as supporting and/or hiding torture.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2014 @ 12:10pm

    My first thought is why is any one even putting what the NSA or the CIA has to say in the media? Do these news media outlets think any of the readership actually believes what comes from the NSA/CIA anymore? Or is it just to get it on record so it can't be squirmed out of if the story changes, as it frequently does when they find out the excuse before didn't float at all?

    As has been said so many times before, if you are afraid of the truth being leaked putting you in a bad position, might the logical thing to do be not to do it in the first place?

    The more this drags out, the more I want to see the intelligence committee get fed up with all the stonewalling and just rule it unclassified and release it as it is, showing just what the CIA is trying to cover up. I personally would love to see the scurrying that would occur as sunlight is shined on the roach nest.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 27th, 2014 @ 12:18pm

    What Hayden is really saying

    He's saying: "We don't want US citizens to (re)gain any level of trust and confidence in the CIA whatsoever." Probably because part of gaining any trust involves them no longer doing the things that cause people to not trust them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2014 @ 12:19pm

    Re: Desperation

    On our 'trip to the dark side' - we are still there, and it's debatable if we were ever unambiguously 'good'...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2014 @ 12:54pm

    The best of America? That people like Antonio Taguba, Charles Krulak and Joseph Hoar can achieve high military ranks and not have their minds permanantly dynamited into a shape dictated by 'national security'.

    The worst of America? Everything else in this article.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2014 @ 1:59pm

    I have no idea why anyone listens to this asshole while he talks out of the other side of his mouth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2014 @ 8:26pm


    They're complaining about the release of the condensed (relatively speaking) executive summary version of the report, not the full report which isn't being released. The full report is 6300 pages, while the summary is only about 400 to 600 pages and was written specifically to remove the stuff that really needed to be removed in order to be able to release a report that isn't redacted. And yet still, much of the important stuff was redacted anyway.

    The most absurd thing to me is that the SSCI even let the CIA touch the report (first or at all) with black pen in hand. The SSCI is the overseer. The CIA the overseen. The SSCI investigates the CIA and produces a scathing report into the CIAs wrongdoing. Who in their right mind would ever give the CIA any say whatsoever in what that report says and how much of it can be released to the public? Yet, that is precisely what the SSCI has done. And the outcome was predictable.

    This Congress and President are spineless and are nothing but glorified cheerleaders, kneeling before the out of control intelligence community.

    And it is absolutely sickening.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Padpaw (profile), Aug 27th, 2014 @ 9:25pm

    More people seem to be waking up to the idea both parties are in bed with each other at their higher levels. They just use blame the other party as a distraction to the ignorant masses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    David B., Aug 28th, 2014 @ 11:54am


    Only one (1) of the 'enhanced torture techniques' ever killed anyone, 'Cold Cell' torture killed two innocent Muslim men mistaken for terrorists. The story is that cold cell torture is in use all over the US, and many have died from the hypothermia. See

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    relghuar, Aug 29th, 2014 @ 3:47am

    separation of powers :-)

    "You'd think Hayden would be aware of the basic separation of powers"

    I think he's perfectly aware of the separation of powers - i.e. he wants to have powers and others should just shut up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Winghunter, Dec 16th, 2014 @ 10:40pm

    CIA 'Report'

    Since only outgoing RINO Mike Rogers and his Socialist counterpart wrote the 'report' that neither wanted to deal with at all (According to personnel there at the time) I offer that it's not worth the paper it's printed on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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