April 19th, 2009
12:31 PM ET
5 years ago

Former Bush CIA director slams Obama for torture memo release

Hayden is the former CIA director.
Hayden is the former CIA director.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A former head of the CIA slammed President Obama on Sunday for releasing four Bush-era memos, saying the new president has compromised national security.

Michael Hayden, who served as former President Bush's last CIA director from 2006 to 2009, said releasing the memos outlining terror interrogation methods emboldened terrorist groups such as al Qaeda.

"What we have described for our enemies in the midst of a war are the outer limits that any American would ever go to in terms of interrogating an al Qaeda terrorist. That's very valuable information," Hayden said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."

"By taking (certain) techniques off the table, we have made it more difficult - in a whole host of circumstances I can imagine - for CIA officers to defend the nation."

But Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said certain techniques should not have been allowed in the first place. McCaskill called them "a great recruitment tool for those who want to do harm to our country."

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel dismissed Hayden's assertion that releasing the memos had undermined U.S. intelligence efforts by giving al-Qaeda critical new information.

"One of the reasons the president was willing to let this information out was that already the information was out," he said on ABC's "This Week."

"Go get the New York Review of Books. It's there."

Hayden said he called several senior White House officials to express his opposition before the president released the documents. Hayden also noted that four previous CIA directors, as well as current agency director Leon Panetta, opposed the release.

The memos said, among other things, that interrogation tactics such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation and slapping did not violate laws against torture absent the intent to cause severe pain.

Obama prohibited the use of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding shortly after taking office in January.

Such techniques "undermine our moral authority and do not make us safer," he said Thursday when the White House released the memos.

As a result of the administration's decision, Hayden argued, CIA officials will be less willing in the future to engage in interrogation tactics now sanctioned by the federal government.

"The basic foundation of the legitimacy of the agency's action has shifted from some durability of law to a product of the American political process. That puts agency officers in a horrible position," he said.

"The really dangerous effect of this (decision) is that you'll have agency officers stepping back from the kinds of things that the nation expects them to do. ... You're going to have this agency - on the front line of defending you in this current war - playing back from the line."

Hayden also said - contrary to the assertions of many critic - that the interrogation techniques in question had forced suspected terrorists to reveal valuable information and made the country safer.

He predicted that the release of the memos would be "just the beginning ... There will be more revelations, more commissions, there will be more investigations."

McCaskill, also appearing on "Fox News Sunday," countered that the United States will be better off in the long run by clearly prohibiting interrogation techniques such as waterboarding. And Graham said that while he was concerned that the release of the memos was a "huge tactical and strategic mistake done for political reasons," the decision to allow certain enhanced interrogation techniques was a mistake to begin with.

Graham added that he always thought waterboarding "was a procedure that would come back to haunt the country, and quite frankly it has."


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (132 Responses)
  1. Willy Brown

    Yep the old democrat ploy to bash the last guy and give away secrets. Kind of like that lost lap top Madum Aldull lost in the Clintoon Admin.

    April 19, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  2. RopoloWyo

    What Obama "compromised" is the criminal conduct of Bush-Cheney and Hayden. The only hope criminals like this have is that their conduct doesn't come to light. People like them need to learn from their mistakes the same way other criminals do...through indictments and trials by juries.

    The damage done to America during the Bush-Cheney reign must be addressed. Opening the files and telling the truth is agood start.

    April 19, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  3. Chris

    Posted by Scott Huse

    "April 19th, 2009 3:59 pm ET

    I bet most you hippies against these techniques have never put one foot on hostile foriegn soil… frankly until you have and have seen the wickedness that exists in these parts of the world do not chastise our own for doing what is nessessary to obtain valuable info…. plus, what is your idea to get intel you band of educated fools you think if we ask nicely they will tell us everything we need to know. you call us war criminals but you have never seen the otherside"

    I'm against these techniques and I was apart of the 1/327 IN BN 101st Airborne Division during their first deployment at the start of the war. So I have seen the wickedness as have a lot of my friends. These friends consist of younger soldiers coming into the Army that are more and more liberal than their older counterparts. These are people who hold liberal views but care enough about the country to put their life on the line. Yet despite the fact you seem to have fought for the freedom of speech we all are entitled to, you hardly hesitate to demean someone else's differing opinion without any logical argument other than to label them as liberal hippies to scared to fight. I'm sorry buddy but any intelligent person can see your argument holds no weight and contains no real points as to why torture is effective. Even John McCain, who was actually tortured, says that torture doesn't work. So what level of experience do have that makes your lack of an intellectual opinion any more valid than John McCain's? Or even more than mine considering I have set foot on a foreign soil, seen the wickedness that exist over there, and have seen the otherside?

    April 19, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  4. Lombardi Graham

    I wonder when have another attack I bet all this stuiped people on here will change there minds I all these democracts and i'am one didn't have family members kill when 9/11 hit. But have you seen when one of own get captured they don/t interrogate they kill on the spot and also I DON'T THINK OF YOU EVER SERVED IN THE MILLITARY BEFORE BECAUSE IF YOU DID YOU WOULD'NT BE MAKEING THESE COMMENTS. Oh but if it was one of family member had died you would be crying get them the best way you can I bet obamma would agreed everything would be okay just a bunch of hypocrites who don't have a mind of there own aslong as obamma has problem with it you got a problem withit think for you'r self . How many on this site though it was okay to torture when 9/11 hit i bet all of though what ever it takes as long as we get them for what they did sound like a doublestander here. When are people going to wake up are you be like JIM Jones were obamma will all of you drinking the kool aid are is this some type of cult we are starting to see were you people are so gone I ever seen one man has so power and to pursade you think the way he think like if Obamma said it true then it must be true. P.S. I just you would think for yourselfe and stop letting someone think for you. P.S WELCOME ANY RESPONSE TO THIS I WON'T BE FOOLED I DON'T NEED ANOTHER GROWN MAN CONTROLING ME MY DAD DID WHEN I WAS A CHILD AS A CHILD I THOUGH LIKE A CHILD BUT NOW I'AM GROWN I THINK FOR MY SELF.

    April 19, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  5. Notfooled

    Not fooled by guys like this who's only claim to fame is that he because CIA chief due to the pyramid system.

    April 19, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  6. di from NC

    One of the things that the rest of the world has always loved about this country is the way we are so open. We tell it like it is and deal with it! If the Bush team needs to pay for their actions (and they do) then we,and the rest of the world need to know all that they did. Making the memos public was the only right thing to do. When we give in to fear,and live our lives based ,only on what keeps us safe, then the terrorists have already won. The things that make us ,as Americans,the great people that we should be are doing the right thing not the easy or the popular thing.

    April 19, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  7. skeeve

    War? Pardon me...I can't help it but remind people rather famous
    "The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!"
    This war exist only in the mind of Hayden...

    April 19, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
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