Former CIA Director Michael Hayden was fielding questions about the Senate torture report during a BBC interview Wednesday when he voiced what may have been the least self-aware complaint in the history of the U.S. intelligence community.
Hayden avers that he and the CIA have been treated unfairly.
"Let's get to the report itself, which reads far more like a prosecutorial screed than it does some reasoned document as to what went on there," he told his interviewer. "I mean, this is a bill of attainder. This is accusations. You know the people at CIA were never interviewed, not me, not the other directors. No one actively involved in this program was ever interviewed by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence staff. It's as if we were tried and convicted in absentia. We were not given an opportunity to mount a defense. And there was no discovery process by which alleged evidence could be revealed and challenged."
Can you imagine? He feels as though he suffered the metaphorical equivalent of a conviction without a trial or evidence. He reputation is being "attacked" without due process.
Such is the outraged complaint of a man who said, after an American citizen's horrifying literal drone killing without charges or trial, "I'm quite comfortable with it."
During 2006, the year that Hayden took the helm at the CIA, U.S. drone strikes killed an estimated 90 civilians, including 73 children, inside Pakistan alone. He stayed with the program, which went on to kill scores more Pakistani civilians during his tenure. Hayden also favored signature strikes—drone killings where the CIA doesn't even know the identities of the people that it is blowing up.
He favors indefinite detention too—sorry, innocent Gitmo detainees.
So imprisoning Muslims without charges or trial is morally defensible, as Hayden sees it, as is killing without due process, even when scores of children predictably die as "collateral damage," and even when U.S. citizens are targeted in secret.
The no-fly list? Also just fine, no interviews required.
But criticizing Hayden in a Senate report that was researched for years, based on CIA documents, and given to the current CIA director to review before publication? Criticizing him in a report that results in no penalties whatsoever without due process? That's an outrage to him. Why, a man's reputation is at stake! I sometimes suspect that some people in the intelligence community would more zealously safeguard the public image of CIA colleagues than the very lives of foreign children. But few come as close to expressing that preference as Hayden just did. Little wonder that successive presidents found him to be such a useful bureaucrat.