April 19th, 2009
12:31 PM ET
9 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. IS IT 2012 YET ??

    Obama is naive.

    April 19, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  2. Marge

    Of gee another slimey republican heard from. What is wrong with republicans I guess they are so devoid of character they love to see people tortured and exploited. That they think they are entitled to do whatever they want when ever they want. This guy needs to be checked into also. He looks like a snake.

    April 19, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  3. JP

    Nations have their closely guarded secretes, and they are never let out for political gains, no matter which administration is in charge.
    Questionable methods of interrogations should be taken off the table; never a reason to make a big publicity out of it.

    April 19, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  4. virginia for obama

    @ Tom in Delaware! Go right ahead and put a catapillar on Obama's

    shoulder. The man is so COOL and Calm and NOT INTIMIDATED by

    HATERS like you, the catapillar problably would freeze to death by all

    that COOLNESS!!!! WOW!! WHAT A GUY?

    April 19, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  5. Pat Omaha, NE

    Slam!?! Mr. Hayden, just be glad President Obama didn't call for prosecution for you and the other CIA, anti-American, throw-the Constitution-out, torturers! He is too focused on the future to worry with you guys! The world knew what you were doing....no secrets...now they know that we are taking GIANT steps away from that sad time in our history and are moving ahead with heads held high again...
    Thank you, Mr. President!

    April 19, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  6. What is Michael Hayden going to say

    he is the criminal that endorsed and followed though on the torture

    April 19, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  7. WIBeachBum

    Torture doesn't work, period. You can bet that if I were going insane from being tortured or water boarded, etc, etc that I'd be making up the first thing that came to mind to get me out of that situation.
    Darn right these people should be exposed.
    I'm so tired of reading and reading and reading of this whole Bush-era thought process. Time to move on folks. It's a new day. And a sunny one, at that.

    April 19, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  8. DEM in HI

    Too bad this jerk cannot get the same treatment he authorized in secret memos. He is a disgrace to all of the men and women in the CIA and the military. The memos show it was torture and if it was so great, why didn't it get more information about Bin Laden? My only wish is that the government terminate this jerk's retirement because it is obvious the Bushies just don't get it. They broke the law and are a disgrace to the country, to the people in the CIA and military, and to themselves. Best wishes and go away.

    April 19, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  9. Bud, from VA

    I think it was stupid, stupid, stupid listing the interrogation methods for the enemy to review. Now lets see their list, i.e., beheading, gouging eyes out, starving, electrocution, castrating, jabbing knives into various parts of the body , killing and on and on. All we are doing is give many in the world fodder to make us look bad. However, many countries or groups of people who will critisize us actually use interrogation methods that would put us to shame.

    April 19, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  10. Wayne

    You passive Demos need to stop putting your input of what is right and fair. War is not fair and those people out there will kill you quicker then fly crap. You think just becuase they are human beings that they should be treated with dignity. They don't give a crap about you or me, and all they want to do is eliminate the U.S. Just think if they killed your closest family, would you still keep your views. I bet NOT!
    If you haven't been a war,then sit back and shut up. Your showing your ignorance about a subject you know nothing about. Or even better, why don't you leave America and live with them. They will surely love you.

    April 19, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  11. VON BISMARK -Vienna

    Would this guy like to be tortured if he were captured in the battlefield?

    April 19, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  12. Scott Huse

    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

    April 19, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  13. Bosworth

    Releasing the memos was purely political theatre. Those involved in authorizing the release: (1) owed the Plaintiffs in the FOIA case for their previous electoral support; and (2) knew that their own people would be safe from prosecution. It was just cheap politics to better entrench their standings in the polls by underscoring the perceived injustices of their competition. Good politics. Lousy foreign policy. It also set a perverse precedent – all former presidential administrations had better be careful at what they put in writing, lest they face full disclosure by the succeeding administration. Sounds noble on paper, but extremely naive – and in this case, dangerous – in practice.

    April 19, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  14. Andy

    America's enemies do not need an incentive to be recruited, but one was provided through Bush's conduct of the war on terror. America tends to speak from both sides of its mouth and the world will have none of it. This is unfortunate for its citizens living, working and fighting abroad.

    April 19, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  15. AJP

    Tell Hayden to "sit on It."

    April 19, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  16. Dee

    He is only trying to cover his own butt!

    April 19, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  17. Jack

    Dace From Tucson-

    We executed the Japanese and Germans for mass executions and starvations as well as genocide. Water boarding prisoners is on nowhere near the same level. Grow up, study the subject more, and stop name calling when you don't have a solid point to make.

    Another point, why is the enemy allowed to behead people at will and we cannot take the kid gloves off with a little bit of water. Yes, Torture is wrong, but waterboarding is not the same as electroshock to the genitals or mutilations. Personally, I hope Bin Laden gets a little roughed up when he is captured by the republican president in 2012.

    April 19, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  18. Scott Huse

    apparently von bismark you have never been to war

    April 19, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  19. The Broker.

    Some of us write, because it is a passion. Others? It belongs to no one-person. But it does belong every person...

    April 19, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  20. check this out

    check out this story an website,
    it will show you a lot also

    here is a hint..
    "legalizing torture and assassination"


    April 19, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  21. A True American

    US: Waterboarding, sleep-deprevation of suspected TERRORISTS.

    Them: Breaking fingers/pulling out finger nails, beating, shooting, and beheading of INNOCENT people (journalists, doctors, aid workers, businessmen, engineers).

    I think you all should take a brief moment to read about Daniel Pearl, Jack Hensley, Paul Marshall Johnson, Jr., Nick Berg, Willaim Bradley, Eugene Armstrong, Tom Fox, Ronald Alan Schulz, John Roy Young, Joshua Mark Munns, Paul Christopher Johnson-Reuben, Jonathon Michael Cote, Ronald Withrow and Cydney Mizell (to name a few). These were all AMERICAN citizens who were held hostage and later killed by extremely brutal means.

    Who would you rather be tortured by?

    April 19, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  22. Tbone85

    I agree with Scott. We're in danger from following the ideas of well-educated fools. We're better off following the failed policies of uneducated but enlightened individuals (like the previously successful administration) who think like him. Torture provides highly reliable intelligence and is morally OK as long as it is not U.S. soldiers or citizens who are subjected to it. America can be a beacon and example for the rest of the world as long as they don't examine our actual practices. I nominate Scott for President.

    April 19, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  23. JonDie

    IS IT 2012 YET ??: "Obama is naive."

    At least he's not stupid and ignorant (like you) and/or a mass-murdering thief and terrorist (like Bush).

    Obama-Biden 2012!

    April 19, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  24. Joe citizen abroad

    Shouldn't this guy be on a golf course somewhere drawing down his IRA? The Republican sneer-and-smear machine never rests.

    April 19, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  25. Shawn

    I am extremely proud of President Obama for releasing these torture memos, but disappointed that he seems to be balking at prosecution. People in the Bush administration who committed WAR CRIMES should be prosecuted. And considering Bush/Cheney presided over 10,000 Americans deaths by Islamic terrorists - the most in US history - it seems pretty odd to suggest it's Obama who threatens national security.

    April 19, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
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