Former Central Intelligence Agency director Michael Hayden on Sunday rejected accusations that the agency lied about its use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques just ahead of the release of the much anticipated "torture report" prepared by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is expected Tuesday. Hayden also asserted that not only are the report's conclusions not true, but it could be used as justification by terrorist organizations to attack U.S. personnel and facilities abroad, if released.
"To say that we relentlessly over an expanded period of time lied to everyone about a program that wasn't doing any good, that beggars the imagination," said Hayden on CBS's Face The Nation.
The report, which was only approved by the committee's Democrats (Republicans on the committee say they plan to release their own report), concludes that the CIA routinely exceeded legally allowable techniques to get information from detainees and that the techniques were not effective in obtaining it. Yet, the agency systematically lied to the White House, Congress and the Department of Justice about its efficacy in order to continue its operations.
Still, Hayden, who headed the CIA for the final years of the Bush administration, said he studied the program when he took over in 2006 and was unwilling to end it. "At the end of the summer I recommended to President Bush that we reduce the program, that we reduce the number of techniques, but that the program had been so valuable that we couldn't stop it altogether," he said. "Even though now we had so much more intelligence on al-Qaeda from the detainees and other sources, even then the program had proven its worth...in conscience, I couldn't take it off the table."
Knowing that Senate Democrats are unlikely to change their mind on the release of the report, Hayden's comments read less like a plea for halting the report's release and more like a warning of what is to come within the agency, on American facilities abroad and with international cooperation.
"First of all, the CIA workforce will feel as if it has been tried and convicted in absentia since the Senate Democrats and their staff didn't talk to anyone actively involved in the program. Second, this will be used by our enemies to motivate people to attack Americans and American facilities overseas," said Hayden.
"There are countries out there who have cooperated with us on the war on terror at some political risk that are relying on American discretion," said Hayden. "I can't imagine anyone out there going forward in the future who would be willing to do anything that even smacks of political danger."
On Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry added his weight to the Obama administration's concerns in a phone call to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee chair, in which he reportedly warned that allies were concerned that violence in the Middle East could erupt, should the report be released.
The report, which has been delayed numerous times and has reportedly cost $40 million to produce over the course of five years is considered by Feinstein to be "one of the most significant oversight efforts in the history of the United States Senate, and by far the most important oversight activity ever conducted by this committee."