Or Maybe America Post-9/11 Inspires More Disillusionment?

Michael Hayden thinks he has an explanation for all the whistleblowers. It’s those damn millennials.

How do you make sure every one of [the people who have clearance] was and remains a loyal American or a loyal member of British security services and so on. Beyond that, Catty, there’s another dynamic at work here. In order to do this kind of stuff, we have to recruit from a certain demographic, and I don’t mean to judge them at all, but this group of millennials and related groups simply have different understandings of the words loyalty and secrecy and transparency than certainly my generation did. And so we bring these folks into the agency, good Americans all, I can only assume, but again, culturally they have different instincts than the people who made the decision to hire them.

The reason Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden leaked vast troves of documents, according to Hayden, is because they’re young and not as loyal as people like him.

That may be true, to a point. Both Manning and Snowden seem to have a cosmopolitanism that a lot of Americans — those Americans raised during the Cold War — don’t have. We live in a globe now, just just America, and it’s possible Manning and Snowden felt some loyalty to humankind, rather than just America.

But there’s another problem with Hayden’s claim. There have been a number of whistleblowers who are of his generation. Consider all the intelligence people who’ve joined VIPS in response to idiotic foreign policy, after all.

Or consider an even more interesting example: Bill Binney. Binney was, during the Cold War, one of the most aggressive spies out there. He has said to me, repeatedly, that he’s the guy who invented Collect it all (though he, of course, wanted privacy protections for Americans). But when his approach came to be rolled out against Americans as part of the War on Terror that Hayden pursued with little self-reflection, Binney balked, quit the NSA, and started complaining that his program had been repurposed to target everyone.

Now, Binney didn’t bring a trove of documents with him. But he’s definitely animated by some of the same things that animated Manning and Snowden.

And Binney is two years older than Hayden.

There are a lot of things that motivate whistleblowers, and Daniel Ellsberg (who is 14 years older than Hayden) has said repeatedly that Snowden is just like he was.

But I do think one thing that has happened is that during the Cold War, for good or ill, Americans believed that they were the force of good. That belief is a lot harder to sustain in this day and age, for a range of reasons (not least the warrantless wiretapping and torture that Hayden facilitated). So just maybe the values remain the same, but America has changed?

27 replies
  1. bloopie2 says:

    Hayden uses the term “loyal American”. Loyal to what? The country and its principles, or the government and its actions? As Mark Twain is rumored to have said, “Loyalty to the Nation all the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it.” I wonder if Hayden, as a devoted civil servant, is able to distinguish between the two–and if so, whether he believes today’s government deserves so much loyalty.

    • jo6pac says:

      Yes the young ones are loyal to the constitution and law unlike clapper and friends that are blindly loyal to the machine.

      • P J Evans says:

        I think Hayden wants blind loyalty to managers, going up the tree. The idea that loyalty is, like respect, earned, or that it’s two-way and people who see others like them thrown under the bus for doing the right thing – that never seems to have occurred to him.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Note that Hayden does not even realize that he just spilled the beans regarding his own allegiance to his country. He had to mention British security services. His allegiance is to fascism and the British Crown. He is a traitor.
      He does not care about Citizens of any country. He is beholden to money. Period.
      To Hayden, if you are a Millenial, you can not be trusted because you can not be bought.

      Fsscists are so stupid to not realize that if you keep taking everyones wealth via wars, false commodity shortages, and inflation, that eventually there will only be a minority of the population that supports you.

  2. GKJames says:

    But doesn’t that question ipso facto delegitimize National Narcissism & Myth-Making, Inc.? The idea that it might be what we do, rather than what we incessantly prattle on about, which is at the core of some of the mayhem we encounter is so startling that only a traitor could even conceive it. The impertinence of it all. Before you know it, someone will question the rightness of nearly two decades of GWOTting against those swarthy heathens who hate us for our freedoms. And for my money, Hayden’s the archetype of the unhinged nut (“do you realize how much paperwork is involved in getting a warrant?”) in a system not short of them.

  3. Tom Maguire says:

    OK, let’s put America on the couch! Values may or may not have changed but technology has.

    The end of the Cold War is a key – when the US had a serious rival that could literally end life on this planet, betrayal had more consequences. One might be as patriotic today as Hayden in 1970 but calculate that a leak was less costly in terms of larger goals (like American values vs. gov’t secrecy).

    Now, I thought the Age of Disillusionment began with Johnson’s meatgrinder approach in Vietnam, compounded by Nixon/Cambodia/Watergate. The failing NY Times did print the Pentagon Papers and the WaPo did push hard on Watergate, so it’s not as if whistleblowers were unknown then. Of course, Deep Throat was a disappointed job seeker, so go figure.

    But from another – Snowden may or may not have had a different mindset from someone thirty years ago but he had a much different media environment and technical opportunity. Hoovering up and sneaking out efiles and pitching them to Wikileaks is far more manageable than smuggling a phone book of paper docs from the office and handing it to… the NY Times, which may or may not publish them? The NY Times is still the establishment – different office, same building, as it were.

    Hayden is reminding me of any aging sports star reminiscing about how the game was harder and the players tougher back in the day. Not to pick on Hayden – I know that for myself, the older I get the better I was.

  4. Tom Maguire says:

    Related to the changing technology point – back in paper and phone era, compartmentalization was probably stronger. An employee might be disgruntled by his own project and hears rumors of others, but figures, waddya gonna do.

    Snowden and Manning could document outrages from all over the intel universe. What starts as disgruntlement becomes outrage, they gather it up, and here we are.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    If politicians want fewer whistleblowers, they should be better politicians.  There are so many shits among them, working directly at odds with what they say, the founding principles of this government, and the social will of their constituents, the wonder is that there are not hundreds more.  This is most assuredly not a recruitment, a surveillance or a legal problem.

    • PeasantParty says:

      Absolutely!  DiFi and the entire Intell Committee need to be drug out by their ears.  They have failed any attempt of real over-sight.


  6. PeasantParty says:

    There are still unanswered 911 questions.  I think when there is a leak, the first thing those asshats worry about is the truth about that.  I’ve said it before and will say it again. Heck, I don’t care if you think I’m crazy.  Israel was involved.  Now, how much involved I don’t know.  I’m still searching for a real Congressional document.  It may have been removed, never to see light again.  I just think somebody might have a hard copy.  Jason might.  I am told there are some very interesting foot notes on those docs.

  7. lefty665 says:

    Screw Hayden. He rolled over, sold out the the intelligence business, betrayed the people he worked with and the nation. Dedicated professionals like Binney figured out how to collect intelligence while protecting privacy.

    For more than a generation the first commandment of the spooks was “Thou shalt not spy on Americans”. Their belief was that they made very sharp tools to help keep our nation safe from foreign aggressors, and that if those tools were turned inward they enabled tyranny.

    Hayden took the “not” out of the commandment, turned those sharp tools inward and massively expanded them. The collection of our communications that ensued continues and threatens our liberty. His successor, Alexander, was even worse. Hayden is not a patriot, he has lead the way to subverting the Constitution.  He has a perverted concept of loyalty.

    We owe a debt to the people of several generations including, Binney, Snowden, Manning et al who have blown the whistle on Hayden and his ilk.


    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      From the-more-things-change-the-more-they-stay-the-same department:


      “Hayden’s theory, however, doesn’t hold water. Whistleblowers and leakers have been a fact of life throughout United States history — and before its existence, too.

      In 1772, Benjamin Franklin — born about 276 years too early to be a millennial — obtained letters from Thomas Hutchinson, governor of Massachusetts, in which he mused about repressing the rights of colonists. Franklin leaked the letters, and they were used by the movement for independence to rile up the colonies against their British rulers.”

      Note that Franklin and Hayden see the British in completely opposite ways.

      • lefty665 says:

        Interesting story, don’t recall hearing it before. Wonder if it might have been a whistle old Ben sent up on the kite string instead of a key, although the key is appropriate on the cryppie side of things.

        Expect Franklin and the rest of those guys, especially folks like Sam Adams and Patrick Henry, would see people like Hayden much as they viewed the British.  Hummm, time to dig out Tom Paine, I haven’t read “Common Sense”  or “The American Crisis” in a few years.

  8. Fred says:


    your conclusions reveal the deeply ingrained biases resulting from the years spent obtaining a PHD at the University of Michigan while being deeply involved with liberal democratic party members. Neither Ann Arbor, your native NYC nor UM are representative of America in general.

    • emptywheel says:

      Thanks, really glad to learn that my “native NYC” is not representative of America. If I ever live there in my life I’ll need to know that.

      And my conservative W MI? Where I’ve lived for longer than the PhD took? Or UT? Where I lived before the PhD?

      Surely you can troll more intelligently than that?

      • fred says:

        Yes shame on me for having such a faulty memory, not having talked to you in person since 2006 or 7. I should know better than rely on wiki for a bio:


        Disagreement with your conclusion about Hayden – by calling it biased – is trolling? Thanks for setting me straight Marcy.

        • emptywheel says:

          So I understand, you went to my bio — for what?

          Yes, it is erroneous on many levels, missing the Republican voting counties I’ve lived for (depending on how you count) the majority of my life. But why would you go look for it and be sure you had found something valuable in the first place? Maybe my beliefs don’t come what predetermined (and, as it turns out, erroneous) bubble you imagine I have?

      • lefty665 says:

        Your views seen pretty firmly in line with the Constitution and prevailing beliefs about respecting the right to privacy that were more common before the post 9/11 hysteria. Dunno where you acquired that, it could be any number of places around the country.  I’d guess it started at home, mine did. We fought a revolution in large part over search and seizure. Having an ingrained bias for first principles is a feature, not a bug. It is part of what keeps some of us coming back. Thank you.


    • John Casper says:


      Your comment reveals “the deeply ingrained biases” that are inconsistent with conservatives.

      Please prioritize the “deeply ingrained biases” your comment claimed were revealed.

      I was able to donate a little more than $300 to the site last year. I hope to do better this year. Have you already donated? If not, how much were you planning on?

      OT, the software gives you five-minutes after you comment to edit.

  9. UserFriendly says:

    As a Millennial I’ll go one further.  I actively hate everything about this country.   Why the hell would I have anything but contempt for this miserable oligarchy?  I did all the right things, got good grades, a degree in engineering and when I graduated in 2008 with $120k in non dischargeable student debt I was just shit out of luck because Wall Street tanked the economy.  Then Obama goes and gives them a blank check and says go ahead, keep screwing over home owners.  My generation got screwed so much harder than any other.  I pay 70% of my income just to make minimum payments on my debt and I will never be able to afford a house or a family.

    Then this election we got railroaded by old rich people who wanted their first woman president so bad that they couldn’t care less how demonstrably corrupt she was.  This whole rigged system is such a farce I can’t wait for it to fail, and fail hard.

  10. Ptolemy says:

    Am an old boomer fart and I agree with you 100%. Loyalty to what? a bunch of narcissistic psychopathic oligarchs or the human race. Michael Hayden is human filth, no matter how highly he regards himself or his generation.

  11. justsomeguy says:

    UserFriendly, I understand your contempt completely. I have family in the same boat as yourself, and find the precursors for their similar experiences to be the same as you’ve described.

    Marcy, an excellent article.

    We live in a globe now, (not)just just America, and it’s possible Manning and Snowden felt some loyalty to humankind, rather than just America.

    I think it’s time to dispense with “countries” as a whole. We really just need a planet.

    P.S.- Do I have to be a logged-in member to use the reply button?

  12. John Casper says:

    User, what kind of engineering?

    Can you help me out with the 70% of your income to service your student loan debt? I’m no expert, but that sounds kind of high.

    Are you supporting organizations that want to change bankruptcy laws?

    Trump and Sanders campaigned on spending a trillion on infrastructure. Do we have enough engineers and other skilled workers to absorb that?

    To what country do you want to immigrate?

  13. UserFriendly says:

    Chemical. Graduated in 2008 with a mix of federal and private student loans to cover out of state tuition at a state school, Spent 3 years working 50 hour weeks at two part time jobs applying to thousands of jobs which completely destroyed any sense of self worth I had and still gives me anxiety when I think about applying for new jobs. That whole time I had to go further and further into credit card debt to keep my head above water. When I finally got a job it was through a friend and it started at $58k which is $12k less than the average starting salary I was expecting when I was taking out the loans. Few raises since but still have barely gotten back down to $120k of debt at 31. Where would I want to go? Anywhere, no one takes debt slaves though and If I just bail on the debt then they take my dad’s house.

    This whole country is so full of greedy people that no one stops and thinks about the billions we would be saving on single payer, or how much better the economy would be if new grads weren’t turned into debt slaves. Actually, free college would practically pay for itself. College grads make more, pay more in taxes, use food stamps less, get arrested less, show up at the hospital without insurance less. But none of that for the worlds most greedy selfish country. We can afford to build enough bombs to create a thousand terrorists that hate us, but no money to invest in the next generation to ensure we stay competitive.

    Not to mention that when Nixon took us off the gold standard he made the national debt irrelevant. We don’t borrow money from anyone, we ‘print’ two kinds of money, Cash and T-Bills. The deficit is just how much cash we decided to add to the economy. Basic Algebra, this must always be True:
    Government + Private Sector + Trade Balance = 0

    Which is why every time we run a surplus it is followed by a depression.

    The only constraint on federal spending is real resources and workers willing to be hired, spending after that creates inflation. Which is why Obama could have solved the GFC in a week rather than prop up the crooks who broke it in the first place.
    But neither major party has a brain cell between them to figure that out so we’re screwed. That is also why the Euro is failing miserably btw.

    • John Casper says:


      I’m very impressed by your understanding of Modern Monetary Theory #MMT.

      You get it, federal liabilities are private sector assets. “(Federal) Taxes For Revenue Are Obsolete”


      Note, federal taxes themselves are not obsolete.

      You’ve been earning $58,000/year since 2011. 70% of that is $40,600. Let’s take what you paid in debt reduction for five-years. Five times $40,600 = $203,600.

      $120,000–that’s your remaining debt–plus $203,600 = $323,600.

      What interest rate are you paying?

      What tuition did the state school charge you?

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