Why Is Michael Hayden’s Desperation on Illegal Interrogation More Urgent than on Illegal Wiretapping?

Even though he admits yet again that torture didn’t get Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Furaj al-Libi to reveal the name of Osama bin Laden’s courier, Michael Hayden has launched yet another round of sophism to defend the case that torture led to Osama bin Laden–and if it didn’t it produced a whole lot of information. The only thing that’s novel about this latest effort is the new contortions he goes through to try to avoid admitting that torture didn’t do what it was promised it would do: provide the most critical information quickly.

But it got me thinking.

Michael Hayden was a not-bad CIA Director. Particularly compared to his predecessors George “Slam Dunk” Tenet and Porter Goss and his Gosslings he was reasonably successful.

But he was a pretty big failure as head of the NSA.

There’s all the revelations the government wants to send Thomas Drake to jail for revealing: that Hayden chose to enrich SAIC with $1 billion of pork rather than invest $3 million in house for something that worked far better. That management failures prevented NSA from implementing the security improvements that might have prevented WikiLeaks, not to mention so much of the hacking done by our enemies.

And while I don’t hold it against him, under Hayden’s command, NSA did fail to find the 9/11 terrorists whose calls in the US had been picked up on wiretaps to an al Qaeda safe house. Nor did NSA pick the hijackers up as they were wiring their excess funds back to Dubai from a Giant store close to Ft. Mead.

But Hayden’s real failure, of course–and a near parallel to the torture decision that he says “I thank God that I did not have to make”–was in bowing to Bush and Cheney’s claim to inherent power to set up an illegal wiretap program that not only compromised Americans’ privacy, but didn’t work.

Indeed, the Inspectors General who reviewed Hayden’s illegal wiretap program found it to be about as ineffective as the CIA Inspector General found torture to be.

So why is Hayden wasting his breath boasting about how effective torture was rather than making specious claims that the illegal program implemented under his command nailed OBL?

Mind you, the NSA (or perhaps Pakistani SIGINT) played an absolutely critical role in tracking down the courier that led us to OBL. But no one claims the illegal program provided even a shred of intelligence that helped us find OBL. If anything, our belief in the magic of the illegal program–and SIGINT in general–apparently led counterterrorism types to dismiss the importance of couriers for some years after it should have become clear al Qaeda had taken measures to avoid using the telecom they knew Americans were tracking.

So why is Hayden blowing so much hot air about the value of torture? Would claims that the illegal wiretap program Hayden implemented played a role be even more ridiculous?

  1. Disgusteddan says:

    I think the answer to your question is obvious. The penalties if he were convicted of illegal spying would be a slap on-the-wrist fine or even some jail time. The penalties for his war crimes, over-seeing the torture program, are death.

    This is why all the Bushies need to keep up their defense of the (torture) enhanced interrogation program. They can NEVER let anyone think it was just to satisfy their own Sadistic tendencies.

  2. kbskiff says:

    Isn’t SAIC the prime contractor for Fusion Centers? I know they are for the one in South Carolina.

  3. MadDog says:

    EW, I beg to differ on your statement of:

    …Michael Hayden was a not-bad CIA Director. Particularly compared to his predecessors George “Slam Dunk” Tenet and Porter Goss and his Gosslings he was reasonably successful…

    You may have been snarkily damning with faint praise, but if not, you should have been. *g*

    Mikey Hayden was one of those typical bureaucrats whose rise to the top of both the NSA, and then the CIA, was because he readily and agreeably sucked up to and polished the knobs (blowjobs for the insiders here *g*) of those who he perceived really had power.

    Mikey would do what his Master wanted regardless of the law said. He would convince himself that breaking the law was really adhering to law since his Master said so.

    Mikey got the position at the CIA not because he was a good manager, but to the contrary, because he was a bad manager in that he was always ready and willing to do whatever his Master ordered.

  4. MadDog says:

    One of the things that struck me about Mikey’s piece today was his deliberate decision to omit mentioning the elephant in his room.

    By that I mean Mikey totally avoided admitting that the real truth was that the actual result of torturing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Furaj al-Libi was that they lied.

    The Torture Apologists have tried oh so hard to avoid discussing or even dealing with this fact and that’s understandable because for a good number of years during the Bush/Cheney regime, and now continuing into the Obama years, the Torture Apologists have consistenly based their torture apologies on the unbelievable premise that their torture would produce the Truth!

    It works therefore it must be right!

    Only it didn’t work. It produced lies.

    Now the Torture Apologists would have us all mentally pivot to their new torture apology rationale. Namely that their torture produced lies, but they themselves knew these were lies and therefore torture works and must be right!

    Sound familiar? Yes indeedy! Tis the longstanding a priori belief of Repugnantism: “Heads we win, tails you lose!”

  5. ondelette says:

    Michael Hayden was a huge success as an NSA chief from the NSA’s point of view. He regained the ability to listen to stuff that disappeared when communications stopped going through the ether. In doing so, he gained the ability to permanently record the internet. Now with cloud computing and pads, his legacy will complete the ability to control pretty much all access to information as well as keep copy of all information. Not bad for only the small visible failures you mentioned, none of which was ever prosecuted.

    • MadDog says:

      The denizens of the National Security State love him. More power, more money, more immunity, etc.

      • ondelette says:

        Exactly. They’ve built an entire industry on the conversion he undertook. What’s not to like?

  6. rugger9 says:

    Well, Gen Hayden, who looks disturbingly close to Elmer Fudd with glasses (though the real “Elmer” was the old man of the USS Texas [CGN-39], who was otherwise a pretty capable guy), isn’t going to admit he screwed up anything, he’s a Bushie after all. No one else would be nominated then for the DC posts.

    It’s not the failure that was important [really, why else would W stop looking within 6 months of the bullhorn speech], it’s the chest-thumping cowboy sadism needed to show the world that “murka” was back in town with a Texas-sized swagger.

    However, he may not want to book the tickets to Cannes yet, there might be warrants waiting for him, which IMHO would be the best way to bring the Bushies to justice.

  7. bobschacht says:

    Thank you for continuing to study the bugs under the rocks over in the White House and Pentagon.

    On another front, I’m trying to understand why you prefer “sophism” where I would use “sophistry.” But I suppose they’re virtually synonymous.

    To me, whereas an “-ism” usually refers to a system of thought that has logical coherence, such as dualism, or Nazism. Therefore sophism should have some sort of systematic coherence that I don’t see. On the other hand, I regard sophistry as capricious intellectualization without any necessary coherence. Sophistry usually has the trappings of erudition, but not of logical consistency or coherence. But both sophistry and sophism involve a specious argument used for deceiving someone.

    Bob in AZ