Michael Hayden: The Nation's Biggest Liar, or Unassailable Patriot?

The Senate torture report was not kind to the former director of the C.I.A.
Photographer: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Senate Committee's Report on the C.I.A.'s Use of Torture has no shortage of blame to go around, but at the top of those at the department who it sees as guilty of lying to the American public is former C.I.A. director Michael Hayden. 

As the report portrays it, Hayden, who served as the head of the C.I.A. from 2006 until 2009, misled Congress and the president about the details of the spy agency's handling of the interrogation of terror suspects. 

"In December 2008 and January 2009, CIA officers briefed the transition team for President-elect Barack Obama on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program," the report states. "CIA Director Hayden prepared a statement that relayed, “despite what you have heard or read in a variety of public fora, these [enhanced interrogation] techniques and this program did work.” The prepared materials included inaccurate information on the operation and management of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, as well as the same set of examples of the “effectiveness” of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques that the CIA had provided to policymakers over several years. The examples provided were nearly entirely inaccurate."

A large chunk of the report, in fact, directly compares Hayden's April 12, 2007 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee with the findings from the C.I.A.'s own records. 

Hayden's assertion, for instance, that he was not aware of any CIA personnel who expressed reservations about using the enhanced interrogation techniques was also highlighted in the report as running contrary to the facts. 

"The non-stop use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques was disturbing to CIA personnel at DETENTION SITE GREEN. These CIA personnel objected to the continued use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques against Abu Zubaydah," the report states. Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times, according to CIA records. 

Hayden has denied the report's claims that he was less than truthful when testifying before the Senate committee, taking a swipe at chairwoman Diane Feinstein in the process. 

"I'll go so far as to say she's incorrect. Lying is intentionally, intentionally misleading someone, alright. Let me make another distinction, telling people something they don't want to hear is not the same thing as telling people something that is untrue," Hayden told Newsmax. "I don't know why I would go there to try to be inaccurate, incomplete or deceptive in front of my oversight committee. I can tell you that what I laid out is what the agency believed to be true and let me add, what I laid out is what the agency will say was true in its report today."

Though the Senate report concludes that former president George W. Bush was kept in the dark regarding the details and extent of the C.I.A.'s interrogation program, Bush has refused to criticize Hayden and portrayed the staff who carried out the techniques as “patriots.” “Even if some officials privately believe they were not given all the facts, they feel it would be immoral and disloyal to throw the C.I.A. to the wolves at this point,” Bush told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. 

Blogger Andrew Sullivan, meanwhile, was not as forgiving of Hayden.

Here’s my question: how does any media institution justify having this person comment on this report? He has lied so brazenly and so often, anything he says must be treated with instant suspicion. 

Here then, is the full Senate report, including the juxtaposition of Hayden's testimony with the committee's findings (which starts on page 491).