A Former Director On What It Means For The CIA

Mar 13, 2018
Originally published on March 16, 2018 7:46 am
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All right, for more on the changes imminent at the CIA, we are joined now by a former director of that agency, Michael Hayden. He ran the CIA from 2006 to 2009, spanning the administrations of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. General Hayden, thanks so much for being here.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: Thank you, Rachel. Good morning.

MARTIN: Good morning. I want to ask you about the incoming CIA director, Gina Haspel.


MARTIN: She is currently the number two at the agency. You have worked with her, I assume. She was there at the same time you were. What can you tell us about her?

HAYDEN: Well, when she was selected to be deputy director, that is at the turn of the administration, I think the choice was enthusiastically received by the workforce at CIA. And when the agency put out the announcement, they took the unusual step of inviting about a half a dozen folks like me, former directors, acting directors, Mike Rogers, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, to say a few words about Gina. And we did enthusiastically, saying that she was a wonderful choice for the deputy job.

And so in all this turmoil, I actually think CIA is going to be a bit of a calm spot with Gina now being elevated to the director position.

MARTIN: I mean, you heard our colleague Scott Horsley mention earlier...


MARTIN: ...That when she was tapped to be the deputy director, there was this controversy because some lawmakers didn't like the fact that she had overseen some of the CIA's secret black site prisons set up after 9/11, which I can assume perhaps that was why you were encouraged to make positive statements about her back then because there was all this pushback from Congress. I mean, she's going to have to go through confirmation hearings now for this job. What would you say to those who would criticize her and her appointment to this?

HAYDEN: Sure - that Gina is an absolute thoroughgoing professional, that what she did in the fight against al-Qaida and later ISIS was simply everything that the agency, the agency's directors and the nation asked her to do. And she did it on our behalf, and she did it out of duty not out of raw enthusiasm to be involved in these kinds of difficult programs. You know, Rachel, when she was selected, I made the comment that she was a brilliant choice by Mike Pompeo because it gave the message to the workforce that the agency intended to neither repudiate nor repeat its past.

And I think that summarizes my view of Gina as director.

MARTIN: Let's talk about Mike Pompeo - in particular, how he navigated what became a huge rift between the broader intelligence community and this administration. I mean, the intelligence community, the CIA, have said numerous times that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election to try and benefit Donald Trump. And the president has denied this. How did Mike Pompeo manage that tension over this past year?

HAYDEN: Well, I think he did it well. Now, look, Director Pompeo had been a politician, and so he sounds a bit more like a politician when he makes public speeches than somebody who's not had that life experience. And frankly, he sounds an awful lot, I think thinks an awful lot like the president when it comes to foreign affairs. But when it came to representing the judgments of CIA, he was scrupulous. I've seen no indication whatsoever that he's done anything but fairly describe what it is his analysts believe to be true and that includes the, you know, the hypercharged, politically sensitive third-rail issue of what the Russians did in 2016.

MARTIN: So the rank and file at the CIA felt like he had their back on that issue in particular?

HAYDEN: I think they did. Now, look, they're a bit uncomfortable with the director infusing as much policy as Director Pompeo did in some of his public speeches. But I've already tried to explain that. I mean, he had been a politician. And again, no evidence whatsoever that they had to change any of their judgments to fit some preconceived narrative. So in that sense, yeah, really good news.

MARTIN: You were the director of the National Security Agency, also, as we noted, the director of the CIA. And in those jobs, you had to work with the secretary of state. So what do you make of Mike Pompeo now top to move over to lead that agency in this moment?

HAYDEN: So as a citizen - all right? - and no special knowledge on this because I'm a former this or that. As a citizen, I think having a secretary of state who is more compatible with the president, who sounds and thinks more like the president will actually make some things easier for the administration. On the other hand, Secretary Tillerson was a counterweight to some of the instantaneous, spontaneous, instinctive decisions that the president was prone to make. And I think we're going to miss the counterweight.

And one way to think about this, Rachel, is that Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Mattis were actually pretty close. They actually went out of their way to talk with one another about key issues.

MARTIN: Secretary Mattis as secretary of defense, yeah.

HAYDEN: Defense, right. So now the question I'm asking myself, where does this leave Secretary Mattis in this dynamic?

MARTIN: What is his relationship with Mike Pompeo, do you know?

HAYDEN: I can only assume it was fine, all right? But I also believe that Jim Mattis' worldview was closer to Rex Tillerson's worldview than it is to Mike Pompeo's worldview. And so again, where's the dynamic going to end up here?

MARTIN: Michael Hayden was the director of the CIA under the administrations of both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. General, thank you so much for taking the time with us.

HAYDEN: Thank you, Rachel.

MARTIN: We are covering breaking news this morning. President Trump has fired his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. Mike Pompeo, the director of the CIA, will replace him as the secretary of state. You can get updates on this breaking news story by going to npr.org and staying with us all morning. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.