Starr Forum: The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies

Starr Forum: The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies

Greetings and welcome. I’m Michelle English,
and on behalf of the MIT Center for
International Studies, I’d like to welcome you to
this evening’s star forum. We are honored to have with
us, General Michael Hayden to discuss his latest book,
The Assault On Intelligence– American National Security
in an Age of Lies. We’re selling his
book, and there will be time to get your book
signed at the end of the event. We also have several
upcoming events that we hope you’re
able to attend, including one next
Thursday, October 4th on citizenship under attack. Details for this talk and others
are available on our website, or you can pick up a
flyer at the entrance and also sign up to get email
notices if you haven’t already. In our typical
fashion, today’s talk will begin with our
speaker, followed by a conversation between the
speaker and the discussant, and conclude with Q&A
from the audience. For those asking questions,
please line up behind the mics. And we ask that you be
considerate of time and others who want to ask a question. And a reminder that this
will be a question and answer session, not a personal
statement session. I’d like to begin by introducing
our discussant, Joel Brenner. Joel is the former head
of counterintelligence under the Director of
National Intelligence, and was senior counsel at
the National Security Agency. He’s the author of
American the Vulnerable, Inside the New Threat Matrix
of Digital Espionage, Crime, and Warfare, and the principal
author of the MIT report called, Keeping America Safe
Toward More Secure Networks for Critical Sectors. He’s a research
affiliate at both the MIT Center for
International Studies, and C Sales internet
policy research initiative. Please join me in
welcoming Joel Brenner. JOEL BRENNER: Thanks, Michelle. It’s a pleasure
and an honor for me to introduce to you a
military and civilian servant of our republic who has served
us for more than 40 years. And I emphasize of our republic,
because in the times we are in, we are once again confronted
with first principles and with the strengths
and weaknesses of our form of government,
which is now put in front of us every day in the most
forceful and often distasteful way imagined. I’m not going to recite general
Hayden’s biography for you. I will only say this– that he’s a man of wide
and deep liberal education. He is the only man or
person in our history who’s been the head of both
the Central Intelligence Agency and the National
Security Agency. I had the good fortune
to be hired by him to be his Inspector General. And I think I can say,
probably the only case in the history of
our government, where an Inspector General
and the head of an agency actually got to like each
other, became friends. Working for him was
a pleasure and honor. And it’s a pleasure
and honor for me to introduce him to you today. Please welcome
Michael V. Hayden. General Hayden. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Thanks
for the opportunity to be with you
here this evening, and thank you for all
for braving the weather and coming in here. I think the order
of March is, Joel said that I can talk
for about 20 minutes to kind of set the
framework of the book. And then have our conversation
between the two of us, and then most importantly
between all of us. I do look forward to
the commentary questions and discussions
that will follow. So let me talk a little
bit about the book. First of all, the
title, that’s double entendre up there
on the top line. OK a thought on intelligence
and in all meanings of the word. American National Security
in an Age of Lies, OK, that’s pretty
straightforward in terms of a judgment
as to where we are. So the book begins, I
reminisce about being in Sarajevo during the third
Balkan war of the last 100 years or so. And Sarajevo was
a beautiful city. And if you just kind of sit
back and look at the skyline, you can look at all the Austrian
era government buildings. And then the skyline
is interrupted by steeples, onion shaped
domes, and minarets. This had been a
vibrant tolerant city. I was walking around it 10 years
after it had hosted the Winter Olympics– if you recall that from 1984. But of course, it was by
and large a destroyed city when I was walking through it. If you were walking along
the Miljacka River there, passed the magnificent
National Library, near the spot where Princip
killed the Archduke. You look up in the hills and
you see Serbian artillery. Now you look down here,
you see the results of the Serbian artillery
in the streets below. What struck me as I
walked through Sarajevo was not how much the Sarajevo
seemed different from us. It actually was the opposite– how much they didn’t
seem different from us. Again, this has been a
vibrant multicultural tolerant beautiful city, and here we are. And so I think, a
conclusion I took out of that walkabout–
and frankly a lot of other points in my career
because our government sends people like me to places
that are generally not happy. The thought that struck me was
that the veneer of civilization is actually quite thin. And it appears to be
naturally occurring for anyone who’s had
the life experience most of the people in this
room have had, it is not. And the veneer of
civilization is something that has to be
protected and nurtured. Now I quickly add, I’m not
predicting societal collapse or civil war here in North
America, but I am worried. And I begin– I pivot quickly, then. I’m worried about the
question of truth, and that’s what the whole
core theme of the book is. I enjoyed writing it. If you pick it up and read it,
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did researching
and putting the thoughts down. It’s through the
lens of an Intel guy, but I got to talk to folks I
would not normally talk to. Historians, philosophers. Historians of philosophy,
philosophers of history, and just a whole
variety of folks. And based upon my own background
and then talking to folks a lot more about this, in
essence, what is going on now, in large part
throughout the West, is a rejection of
the way of thinking that developed in the
16th and 17th century in the Enlightenment. And I don’t want to
over overemphasize that, but frankly, it’s true. Western man, after
that period, generally was pragmatic, experimental,
fact-based, observation, hypothesis, adjustment, repeat. All right? In other words, our
definition of truth, by and large, was the
best working theory we could develop at the
moment of objective reality. And I said that very
carefully, because obviously, the discovery of objective
reality is a process, not an end point. But it was objective
reality that we were trying to reflect before
we made any important decisions. And that dynamic is what
I think is under threat. Now, that should concern anybody
in the Western intellectual tradition, but it really,
really should concern Americans. If Germany backs away from the
values of the Enlightenment, it’s still Germany. If we back away from the
values in the Enlightenment, we are no longer America. America was a concept under
which we build a nation, not the other way around. And so if you
remove the concept, you remove the basic,
fundamental character. The people who put
this thing together were fundamentally scholars
of the Enlightenment, the Jeffersons, Madisons,
Hamiltons, Jays, Masons of the world, and they
put this structure together based upon Enlightenment values. In other words, we can only
govern ourselves as a republic if we all have a
broad confidence in the pursuit of truth, and
broad agreement that we can arrive at a generalized
understanding of what constitutes truth. And that’s what I
think is under threat. So I use a motto now in talking
about the book that’s actually not in the book, but it’s
a pretty efficient way of getting many of the
main themes out there. I talk about this
thing I’m talking about being a three-layer cake,
with each layer being slightly smaller than the one below. So you have a basic
layer that’s quite large, a second layer, and then a
little third layer at the top. The basic layer, and therefore
the most important one, is frankly us. All right? It is the American population,
where our political culture is moving in the direction
of a post-truth reality. “Post-truth” was the Oxford
dictionary Word of the Year for 2016, and it is defined
as decision-making based less on fact, evidence, and data,
and more on feeling, preference, emotion, tribe,
loyalty, grievance. And think about
that for a minute, and then we’re go– yep, that’s
kind of where we’re going. Now, there are lots of
reasons for it, all right? AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]. MICHAEL HAYDEN: There
are technical reasons, and I’ll try to touch on them. If not here, maybe
in the Q&A with Joel. There are economic reasons. I spent a lot of time
in the book actually explaining that the
winds of globalization have been at my
back for 50 years. But the people I grew up with,
I’m from Western Pennsylvania, the winds of globalization have
largely been in their face. And the uneven effects
of globalization have created grievances
not fundamentally economic. More cultural than economic,
but grievances nonetheless. Which then creates
the conditions for people with simple
answers appealing to grievance, and
tribe, and loyalty to actually make that case. So most of the people
I talked to sound like everybody in the room. We kind of agree
broadly on things. And so in researching
the book, I figured, I’ve got to go get
the other side. So I asked my
brother in Pittsburgh if he would fill the back room
of a Pittsburgh sports bar on a Steeler weekend
so that I could go up there and
talk to folks who might view this differently. My brother– Harry is his name. Harry overachieved. He filled about 45
folks in the room. I’m convinced now
that all of them had gun racks and red
baseball caps in their trucks. [LAUGHTER] Many of them were relatives. [LAUGHTER] A significant fraction more
I’d gone to high school with. And then everyone else had the
same socializing experience that I had in
Western Pennsylvania, until– by the way,
driving up on the turnpike, my wife was saying, now,
don’t get into an argument with these people. Just ask open-ended questions. Let them talk. So we were there
2 and 1/2 hours, and then we all had to
go down to Heinz Field. It was the Steeler
Weekend, right? We’re not going to miss kickoff. And we’re getting in
the car, and my wife turns to me after the 2
and 1/2 hours and goes, I can’t believe you
took that stuff. [LAUGHTER] Why didn’t you respond? You told me– OK. So what did I find? 1, hardworking, go to church,
go to work, join the PTA, make their kids do their
homework, pay their taxes, volunteer. And if I had a flat tire
outside of that bar, they’d have stopped and
fixed it, help me fix it. More veterans, or
parents, or children of veterans in that room than
any green room or boardroom I have been in since
I left government. So let’s make sure we know
what we’re talking about here. Who we’re talking about. All right? These are people who
fight the nation’s wars. All right? And so one of– and we have
a long, extended dialogue. And one of the questions
I asked was, oh, come on, how many of you really think
Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower? [LAUGHTER] I mean, almost unanimous. I go, you’re kidding. I used to run NSA. [LAUGHTER] I know how this kind of works. And I made the point, number
1, they wouldn’t do it. But number 2, the plumbing
doesn’t work that way. They almost certainly
couldn’t do it. And what makes– what
evidence do you have? And I just looked at the group,
what evidence do you have? And one person in the front
row, about where are you, sir, just kind of looks
at me and goes, “Obama.” [LAUGHTER] That’s it, OK? [INAUDIBLE] QED. All right, [INAUDIBLE]
has been demonstrated. I mean, that’s– where
do you get your news? “Facebook.” OK? So we’ve got uneven
effects of globalization. We’ve got people who feel
culturally disrespected. Not just economically, but
culturally disrespected. They have genuine grievances,
the uneven effects of globalization. All right? We’ve got this post-truth
drift, in which tribe means a lot more than data. You know, “Obama.” Right? And then added onto that was
the technical development of how they get the news, which is
Facebook or any social media. I was invited by
the Nobel Committee to go to Gothenburg, Sweden,
in December of last year to give a talk during
the Nobel Weekend. They’re handing out the
prizes in Stockholm, and in Gothenburg,
they’re having a day-long seminar on truth. Let that wash over you, OK? The Nobel Committee invites
the former head of the American Central Intelligence
Agency to come to Sweden to talk to the Nobel group
about truth in the 21st Century. Talk about weird. So I do my 10-,
12-minute TED Talk. It was fine. But I went there to learn, and
there were wonderful scholars there. And there was one, a woman
named Zeynep Tufekci, who is Turkish by birth, North
Carolinian by choice. And she’s an expert
on social media. And she gave me a
wonderful metaphor that I cite in the book,
but it’s just great. She says, social media
is a lot like Doritos. OK? I can make this work, hang on. [LAUGHTER] A Dorito is only pretending
to be a tortilla. In reality, it is a
delivery mechanism for salt and fat, which of
course, creates a craving for more salt and fat. And so you go into
the social media. It knows you at least as
well as you know yourself. The business model
for social media is to keep you there,
keep you on the site. The ROI is based
upon the clicks, and so it gives you something
that’s pleasing to you. But the longer you’re there,
the more you want salt and fat. And the algorithm,
the core algorithm, keeps giving you
salt and fat, defined in this case as more
firmly-held, more extreme versions of that with which
you entered the enterprise in the first place. So rather than pulling
you in the direction of the global commons to have
a discussion, what it does is it pulls you into
the darkest corners of your own self-defined ghetto. And that creates the
great division, right? One other aspect
about layer number 1. Again, I got to talk
to people I would never have talked to in the book. I talked to Ed Luce,
Financial Times correspondent here in the United States. Brilliant observer of
the American scene. Actually, accidental
meeting on the Acela, and we had quite a
great chat, and we’ve continued our conversations. In his book on what’s happening
in American democracy, he has a wonderful description. He said, Marx had
it exactly wrong. It is the elites of the
world who are uniting, and it is the workers of
the world who are reaching for their national flags. And I would offer
you the proposition that Luce makes is that
many people in this room are probably more comfortable
with their European counterparts than they
are with some sections of the American population
in the American heartland. Put another way, I am
more comfortable watching [INAUDIBLE] play at
Daimler-Benz Stadium in Stuttgart in the Bundesliga
than I am going to NASCAR. And that’s just a fact. So layer 1, the biggest
layer, most important. Layer 2 is the administration. Layer 2 is the president. And simply put, to get to
the premise of the book here very quickly,
objective reality is not the instinctive
departure point for what Donald Trump says or does. It’s something else. I was talking to a PDB briefer,
President’s Daily Brief. Retired, so not an
active one, and actually a scholar of the process. So somebody who knows
what he’s talking about. And he said, Mike,
we’ve had presidents who have argued with us. And trust me, that was my
experience with George W. Bush. He would argue about what
really is objective reality. And, no, I don’t
think that’s right. And, we know how to do that. We’ve had presidents
who simply lie. And the Nixonian
image comes to mind. They don’t argue about
objective reality, they just go do
something different and say something different. It’s not an argument. They just they
just lie about it. He offered the view
that President Trump isn’t either of those, OK? He said, do you remember
President Trump gave the speech to the Boy Scouts in West
Virginia in the summer of 2017? I’m seeing some folks nod here. Yeah. Y’all agree, a little
over-the-top for 12-year-olds? OK, that was a broad consensus. Yeah, so there’s
criticism of the speech. President comes
back, (MURMURING). All the talk radio, and
7 by 24’s are playing the criticism of the speech. So the president
comes out and says, hey look, the leadership
of the Boy Scouts called me and told me it was
the greatest speech ever given at their Jamboree. [LAUGHTER] And the PDB briefer
says to me, now, you know that didn’t
happen, right? I said, yeah, I know
that didn’t happen. He said, great. Good. Do you think he does? [LAUGHTER] No, no, I’m serious. Do you think he does? Does the thought process
there make a distinction between the past I need
and the past that happened? And the answer is,
yeah, maybe not. Which is a little bit
different from lying. The departure point is something
different than an argument over objective reality. I was in a large
session yesterday. Don’t put too much into
this, but Bob Woodward was talking, OK? Flacking his book. Like I’m doing mine. [LAUGHTER] And he brings up an
incident that’s actually been widely reported in his
book, where the president says, the WTO– we’ve got to get out of the WTO. We never win our
cases in the WTO. At which point, his staff
says, actually, Mr. President, we win 85.2% of all
cases and the W– No we don’t. That’s not right. That’s bu– and so
on, and so forth, and some other short words. And, no it’s not. I don’t want to hear
about that ever again. I mean, he just– it’s just not the
departure point. Again, I looked at and
talked about things I never thought I’d talk about. I ran across the concept
of metacognition, which is, in my layman’s
terms, the ability to think about your thinking. The ability to get outside of
yourself and look at yourself. A playwright or a director goes,
ooh, that scene’s not working. A singer, I really
can’t make that note. Right? It allows you to just based
upon reality, even though you’re the– you’re your own reality. If you lack metacognition,
the academic literature says you don’t know
when to shut up. You just keep digging. OK, so I’ll give you an example. So I was pushing another book
I wrote about two years ago, and I’m on the Bill Maher
show out in California. And Maher says in my interview,
this candidate, Trump, says he’s not going to
kill just terrorists, he’s going to kill
their families too. And I go, that’s
not happening, and I go through the laws of
armed conflict, and so on. Well, the next
week, they’re having one of those endless
Republican debates, and Bret Baier is the
moderator, all right? And Bret Baier says,
hey, this Hayden fellow said they’re not going
to kill civilians. And then candidate Trump
responds, oh no, I’m a leader. I’m a real leader. People listen to me. If I tell people to do
things, they do things. And then Baier kind
of says, “war crime.” OK? [LAUGHTER] And violation of
international law. At which point– remember the
metacognition, the inability to think about your
thinking, keep on talking? At which point, the
candidate says, oh no. Look, those 9/11
hijackers, their families knew what was going on. They were in this country, and
they flew out of this country a couple of days
before the attacks so they could get to wherever
it was they were coming from and watch what their
husbands were doing on TV. That’s pure bullshit, OK? There is no reality
attached to that whatsoever. But that’s what somebody who
doesn’t have metacognition does. One more example to get– I mean, the whole
book’s about this, so there are a lot more
examples in the book. But one more example. John Dickerson, Face the
Nation before they swapped out, and he– now he’s doing the
weekday show in New York. Dickerson is doing a one-on-one
in the Oval with the president. They’re going back and forth,
and John is good at his job, so he’s asking good
questions and trying to force the president to answers. And then they get to the
very end, and he says– asked the question
I asked in the bar. What evidence do you have
that Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower? At this point, the
president won’t answer, and he, kind of in a
fit of pique, gets up, walks over, plants himself
behind the resolute desk, starts picking up some
papers, and acting– being president, you know? But Dickerson stalks him. And he looked at
him again and says, what evidence do you have? And the president responds, a
lot of people agree with me. A lot of people are saying. If I can make it trending, it is
a sufficient basis for action. And I cannot give you a more
crisp definition of what happens in a
post-truth environment. That’s the second layer. The third layer is the
Russians, all right? But after layer 1
and 2, eh, who cares? [LAUGHTER] All right, I’m making too much– too light of it. But the Russians are the
least of our problems. And if I’m doing numbers,
they’re the top 20%. Layers 1 and 2 are
the bottom 80%. If the Russians– if we
were ever to do anything like what the Russians
did, we would call it a covert influence campaign. And the physics of a
covert influence campaign are very clear. You never create a
division in a society. You identify
preexisting divisions, and you exploit and worsen
the preexisting divisions. So the Russians actually
tried this on Norway. It doesn’t work. A little more homogeneous
society, a little more– society. A little more at
peace with itself. Nothing happens. But it happens here. All right? Now, you know the history. I’m not going to
rehearse the history. They did do it. There’s no question about it. Their motives were to
mess with our heads. Check. To punish Hillary Clinton,
because he hates her. Check. To de-legitimize the
inevitable President Clinton. Check. Holy smoke, this
other guy could win. I wonder if we can push
votes in his direction. Check. OK? That’s all true. That is unarguable. The whole thing about,
did anybody help him? We’ll wait for Bob Mueller. Did it throw the
election to Donald Trump? I don’t know. You ask my professional
judgment, unarguably, it affected the election. But now the question is,
how much did it affect it? And my answer is, I don’t know. And it’s not just
unknown, it is unknowable. So actually, we ought to
be done talking about that. That’s no longer interesting. Donald Trump is the legitimate
President of the United States. I know how to count. I know the electoral
college works. That’s how we
decide these things. But the Russian
efforts still continue. But we are an easy, easy target
because of layers 1 and 2. Let me– and Joel, I’ll
stop in a minute here. But as you see, the one
final example to kind of show you how layers 1, 2,
and 3 kind of interact. OK? A year ago, almost to
the day, President Trump was in Huntsville, Alabama. He’d kind of had a
bad week, and he’s taking energy from the crowd. And if you’re in Alabama,
talk patriotism and football and it generally always works. And that’s the speech where
he did the Colin Kaepernick, the knee and
everything, and you’ve got to fire the
SOB’s, and so on. All right? Put the merits of
the issue aside, the dynamics that I’m
trying to describe. Before Air Force One gets to
the East Coast that evening, the three leading hashtags
in Russian control botnets are #NFL, #TakeTheKnee,
and #TakeAKnee. And by the way, the Russians
are saying it takes great, or it’s less filling. They’re going with the patriotic
argument or the free speech argument. The outcome is uninteresting. They just want tension. That it almost
immediately picked up by the alt-right media
here in the United States. Infowars, Alex Jones,
Gateway Pundit. And the alt-right
media here takes it racial real fast, hence
the demographics of the NFL. Also, my Steelers
get wrapped in this. Remember Alejandro
Villanueva, Army Ranger, out there at the
face of the runway? The team had decided
not to go out. I actually have a relationship
with the Steelers. I know what happened. Alejandro was not trying
to break team unity. But as a Ranger, he
wanted to at least– so he’s at the mouth of
the runway with the team just a few feet behind him. But they take that iconic
picture of the Army Ranger in the Steeler uniform. His jersey, by
the way, sells out on within
about 48 hours. And the alt-right
media picks that up and begins to talk about
the Steelers’ Head Coach, Mike Tomlin, African-American. And it just deepens
the racial content of what the alt-right is
doing with this cycle. Then it bleeds over into
mainstream media via Fox. I don’t know this
for a fact, but I’m willing to bet it was via
Sean Hannity as the first hit. And then it bleeds
out within Fox to the other non-news
portions of the Fox network. And then the
president watches it with Fox and Friends
on a weekday morning and tweets out his support. Now, none of that is collusion. I call it convergence. It all goes to the same end. We are a more divided society
than we would otherwise be. It is harder for us
to compromise than it would have been otherwise. But everyone does it
for their own purposes. The president, for the base. The Russians, to
mess with our heads. The alt-right, because
they’re conspiratorial. And Fox, to boost ratings. But it all leads in
the same direction. By the way, this is a
totally artificial crisis. You realize, the NFL doesn’t
start its bye weekend until October. So in September, the
Sunday before the president gave his speech, all
32 teams are playing. There are 53 people
who suit-up per team. Do the math, it’s about 1,700. So 1,700 American athletes
suited up for the NFL the weekend before the
president’s speech. How many did not
stand at attention? 6. This is not a national crisis. But it’s a nice little morality
play as to how this works, and what’s going on in a
post-truth, divisive kind of environment. There’s a lot more to be said. What are the fact-bearers
to do in this kind of world? How do we respond to this? How do we get better? But I think that’ll come
up in our conversation. So let me stop now and
invite Joel back up, and we’ll go ahead
and have a chat. Thank you all very much. [APPLAUSE] JOEL BRENNER: Well, that was a– you’ve now had a
small taste of what it was like to work
for General Hayden. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah. I did that and said,
go fix that, come back, and report tomorrow. JOEL BRENNER: Yeah, right? General, you, as I
indicated earlier, were in public
service, most of it as a military man for
more than 40 years. I don’t think in my
many years in Washington I’ve known anybody more
discipline than you are about what to say
and what not to say, and how to say things
in a constructive and a non-inflammatory way. You’re now out there saying that
the Trump campaign normalized lying to an
unprecedented degree, and that the President
of the United States would be what in Russian
intelligence terms would be “a useful idiot.” MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah. JOEL BRENNER: What happened? [LAUGHTER] JOEL BRENNER: This
must have been– I’m serious. This is a watershed for you. MICHAEL HAYDEN: No,
not a watershed. A process, OK? So I was on– I enjoy talking
on TV, all right? And I went out
there for a purpose. I would offer you the view
that American espiona– there is no other activity
in American life more essential and
less understood than American espionage. And so it was just a commitment
on my part, if I’m asked, I’ll go and talk. Now, I’m under
contract to CNN now. But for 8 and 1/2
years, it was just– I’d just answer the phone. And I said, yeah, I’ll
come on in and talk. And oh, by the way, the
intelligence community was really happy because
I was more free to talk. You can’t say
“secrets,” but I don’t have the political
constraints that they have. So I could go out there
and try to explain things. So I’m up there before the
candidate starts to run. But then I started getting
asked questions about him. Well, is that right? No, that’s not true. How about– no, no, that’s
that how that works. And so just responding as
the fact witness, which is what I view
myself to be, puts me in a position of
being in opposition– well, I made my case as to
why so many things aren’t fact-based. I mean, one pretty early on was
the unmasking of US identities in intelligence reports. And you know all about the
art and science of that. Recall this, and Susan Rice, and
US identities, and intercepts. And, ah– and it’s just– I’m on everyone. That’s so normal. That is so routine. That is so average, I– you can only be
alarmed by that if you don’t understand how it works. Next, CNN hit, before they
asked me to do it for– under a contract, was
an 8- to 12-minute discussion with Anderson
Cooper explaining how it works. So I always see myself
as a fact witness. Now, what happens
Joel– this is hard. Because the longer we go and
the more you state the facts, the more you look
like the opposition. And then you begin to start
to smell like the resistance. And so what I’ve told CNN,
and I’ve pretty much stuck to this, although
sometimes it’s hard, I will answer any
question you ask me about what the president
says, what the president does. Do not ask me who
the president is. And I’ve tried to
stay clear of that. The “useful idiot” thing
was The Washington Post a– this is their invitation,
asked me to write an op-ed that appeared in the Post on the
Friday before the election, and would I explore all
these seemingly complex, but unexplained relationships
between the Trump campaign and the Russian Federation. And this is before we
knew all we know now. But even then, there’s
a lot of stuff. So I connected all
the dots and said, I’m at a loss to explain it. And I know Trump
supporters are going to be offended by what I’m
going to say now, but trust me, this is the most benign
interpretation I can come up with, with regard to the
evidence in front of me. I believe the Russians
feel that Mr. Trump is what was called in the Soviet
period a [SPEAKING RUSSIAN],, “the useful idiot.” All right? Our phrase is probably
“fellow traveler.” All right? Someone whom they
secretly held in contempt, but who is very
naive, and whom they were very willing to
manipulate for their own ends. I got asked that
question yesterday, and– but people wanted–
it was not on air. But people wanted me to
say something darker, that there was leverage, there
was kompramat, or something. And I said, I don’t
need leverage. I don’t need kompramat. Until Bob Mueller comes out
and shows me something more, [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] is
an adequate explanation for our policy towards
the Federation. JOEL BRENNER: Let’s stick with
truth and the main themes. I think of your book,
which if I could extract, would be that
institutions are fragile, and that they sustain
civilized life. The truth matters, and
therefore, language matters. Because the assault
on truth begins with an assault on language. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yep. JOEL BRENNER: And that the
Intelligence Enterprise, in which you spent so
many years of your career, is also based on fact. You then quote a professor,
Tom Nichols at the Naval War College, as follows. “The United States
is now a country obsessed with the worship
of its own ignorance.” What’s the future of the
Intelligence Enterprise, when so many of our fellow citizens,
and the president himself, don’t seem to believe
in any of the three things you found essential? MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah. So that’s why I wrote the book. What are we going
to do about this? So it’s largely
descriptive, and I try to get off stage making
some recommendations. So– god, so many things
to be said about that. That’s a very
open-ended question. Well done. Number 1, it’s not been
a bad couple of years for institutional America. All right? The institutions
of our government, imperfect as they
are, the Department of Justice, the FBI, the
intelligence community, American journalism,
all have their faults. And that’s one of the problems. Since they do have
their faults, people try to de-legitimize
them for any errors that may have occurred in process. But they’ve actually
stood up pretty well. And I would say so far, so good. But this is hard. I mean, one of the most
remarkable developments, Joel, is that constitutionally,
Congress should be the brake
on a president who is either acting autocratically
or simply unwise. And so I get it,
the president gets the carve-out in our tariff
laws to impose a tariff on Canadian steel for
national security reasons. But Congress can
take the power away. Congress– it’s in the law,
Congress can overrule it. The Congress has it. So the constitutional brake
on the president is unused. And weirdest of
all, the opposition to the president,
which is coming from within his own
Executive Branch, coming from the agencies and
departments of the Executive Branch. The president is going
to his allies in Congress to try to pressure the
institutions of his Executive Branch, to rein them in when
he personally can’t bring them to heel. Now, you and I have been in
front of Congress a long time. We have never seen that
dynamic before in our history. So the institutions– I mean– I began to talk
for a specific reason. The Enlightenment values are
essential to the identity, our current identity,
as a people. We are a creedle nation. Who’s an American? Read the document,
understand the document, swear to the
document, you’re in. Not blood, soil,
or shared history. And there are good
countries in the world for whom national
identity is blood, soil, and shared history. Germany is one. France, somewhat the same. Not bad countries, just not us. And so if you don’t accept
the Enlightenment ideas, if you don’t accept
the values that underpin the
foundational documents, we begin to change
our self-definition. JOEL BRENNER: You
talk a lot in the book about pervasive distrust
in our country now, and you attribute
it to two factors. One is the low esteem in
which so many Americans hold our government. That is to say, our
governmental institutions. And also, the crowd
versus the expert. The pervasive influence
of social media. And you tell the
following story. “We live in a world where we
increasingly trust our Facebook friends and the
Twitter crowd more than we do the IMF, or the
prime minister, or,” you add, “the intelligence community.” What’s the future of
intelligence agencies in a world like that? This is a subject you
bring up, and then you don’t say much
about in your book. MICHAEL HAYDEN: You
mentioned Tom Nichols. JOEL BRENNER: Yeah. MICHAEL HAYDEN:
Tom tells a story. By the way, if you want to
follow an entertaining Twitter account, plug-in to
Tom Nichols, all right? It’s really quite something. But Tom tells– I think it’s in Tom’s book. Again, I’ve read a
lot, but I would not be approached as an Intel guy. And Tom talks about a particular
scientist at an institution somewhat like this
giving a talk, and it’s about some really
deep question about the origins of the universe, or some
equally difficult subject. And he gets into a one-v-one
with a particular student, they go back and forth. And at the end, the student
closes off the conversation by simply saying, well, your
guess is as good as mine. At which point, the professor
says, that’s simply not true. [LAUGHTER] And he’s right. He admits it’s a guess, but
his is not as good as his. And yet, we live in a society– elites have been discredited. All right? You’ve got a war in Iraq based
on a national intelligence estimate that was wrong. You’ve got a financial meltdown
based upon flawed econo– I mean, there are reasons
that confidence in elites has eroded. But as the American public
has discarded the elites, they have discarded
the expertise that usually accompanies elites,
and therefore, believe that– again, my guess is as good
as yours, and off you go. And the sadness, Joel, I
want to try to describe is the president plays on that. Now, by the way, brilliantly. And remember the social
media, and the torti– Doritos, and– I mean, how
did the president communicate during the campaign? Via social media, using that
same appeal to grievance that the algorithm is
set up to reinforce. I mean, it was
genuinely brilliant. It’s just– very
often wrong, in fact– I’m sorry, I’ll be very brief. But the whole refugee
thing, OK, the campaign said that refugees represented
an apocalyptic threat to the United States, and our
system for vetting refugees was absolutely dystopian. None of that is true. There is no data to support
either ends of that premise, but it appealed to a country
that had discarded expertise, was distrustful of elites, and
had its own nativist reasons for being suspicious
of people not like us. JOEL BRENNER: Let me
push a little bit, though, on how
this phenomenon may be affecting the
intelligence business itself. I mean, It seems to me that
although the intelligence community never had a monopoly
on important information, it had a corner on a
part of that market. And the part of the market
on which it has a corner has shrunk quite dramatically,
that it has lost the– well, there are lots of
people with secret information where lots of information
is no longer secret. [INTERPOSING VOICES] No longer secret, right? It’s hard to keep secrets,
as we’ve talked about often. How’s this going to affect the
contours of the intelligence business? MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah,
so– that’s actually– that’s a great question. It’s not one
addressed in the book. And I actually had conceptually
a chapter on this as to– in addition to all the things
going on, my layer cake and all that, there’s also a
significant churn inside, well, what is the meaning
of intelligence? Right? Intelligence gets to talk
first at the meeting. All right? No matter what meeting you go
in, hey Intel, what do you got? Right? And Intelligence talked
first at the meeting to set the situation. And you asked Intelligence
to set the situation because almost all the time, an
accurate view of the situation depended on information
you had to steal. It depended on espionage. That is no longer nearly
as true as it used to be. And it’s not because of leaks. It’s simply because we
live in an information age. And those things
that used to be not accessible except through
subornation of someone or intercepting a
communication, most of that’s now readily available. And so the case I would have
made in the chapter, Joel, is that if we, the Intel guys,
continually view ourselves as the teller of
secrets, our role is going to be sharply
diminished over time. And that we have to
define ourselves, as we should have all along,
as the teller of truth. Some of which is based upon
secrets we have stolen, but other parts of which
are based on things we have learned but not stolen. But that proportion
is going to change, so it does require
a redefinition of the intelligence community. But it’s not an
argument over truth. It’s not an argument over the
pursuit of objective reality. It’s just a description
that that pursuit has changed in nature. And much more of what it is you
need to talk to a policy-maker just doesn’t have to
be stolen anymore. JOEL BRENNER: Let me ask you– bring this to a close and let
the audience have a chance. But I want to throw
another one at you and go back to Pittsburgh. Those encounters that
you mentioned briefly a few minutes ago were both
amusing and really sobering. And how do we get out of this? How does the United States– you seem pessimistic
in your book about our ability as a
nation to organize ourselves mentally and
governmentally in order to deal with this problem. And one thinks, for example, of
really deep strategic thinking like NSC-68 during the Cold War. And a marvelous document. MICHAEL HAYDEN:
Wonderful document. JOEL BRENNER: If
anybody doesn’t know it, it’s not– hasn’t
been classified for many, many years. It’s the document that lays
out, under the Eisenhower administration, the strategy for
dealing with the Soviet Union at all kinds of levels. It is a very thoughtful,
serious document. Do you see anything like
that coming down the pike? MICHAEL HAYDEN: So
NSC-68 was written by the Defense and
State Department at the direction of
President Truman. It was, in essence,
what’s the plan? And Paul Nitze calls a huddle
and they craft the document. Joel’s right, it’s–
yeah, it’s magnificent. And I actually downloaded it and
re-read it as part of the book, because I was comparing NSC-68
with President Trump’s National Security Strategy,
which is actually a decent document, all right? But NSC-68 is an
homage to diversity. I mean, it just talks about
diversity as being an essential American value, and that the
American democracy cannot survive in a broader world in
which diversity is not valued. And it makes the argument,
in contrary to “America First,” or the speech
today at the UN, It makes the argument
that if we are going to– American security is
dependent upon our creating a world that is at
least not hostile, but perhaps even friendly to American values
and the approach to governance. And we’re not
seeing that anymore. Now, I– there are all
sorts of parts in the book. I talk about Walter Russell
Mead and his definition of American presidents as
being Hamiltonian, Wilsonian, Jeffersonian, Jacksonian. I won’t go into it,
but it’s worth a read, because it begins to
answer this question. But let me give you
another thought, all right? So again, I talked
to a lot of folks who I would not
normally have talked to. I’m History by
background, B.A. And M.A., so I’m– and it’s in US history. So I’m broadly familiar. But I pressed the test. I put this in front of folks
whose judgment I trust. And I said, so who’s
Donald Trump like? I said, how about Huey Long? And my interlocutor
said, “Father Coughlin.” OK? And then we got into
a conversation– Father Coughlin, Catholic
priest, nativist, a bit racist. Very popular. Unarguably populist. OK? Then I said, so have we
seen this movie before? And he says, yeah, I think so. And we had a conversation. I’ll give you the sum. Rather than trying to
recreate a narrative, I’ll give you the sum
total of the conversation. William Jennings Bryan. And here’s the linchpin. And this is really an answer
to your question, Joel. What was happening
in the 1890s was America attempting an
adjustment from the institutions of government that were
sufficient for governing an agricultural
society, and reinventing those institutions to make
them sufficient to govern an industrial society. Not unlike today, we’re trying
to reinvent the institutions sufficient for governing
an industrial society and make them suited for
governing a post-industrial, information,
interconnected, dare I say, “globalized,” despite what was
said at the UN today, society. And we’re going through
a similar struggle. So William Jennings
Bryan runs as a populist. And he’s a real
populist, all right? He’s from Nebraska. Never a man of means. Genuinely believes in
what he campaigns on. And fundamentally,
his campaign is to reject the movement
from an agricultural to an industrial society. He wants to monetize silver. He wants to inflate
the currency, which would then undercut the
financial institutions needed to continue modernization
into an industrial world, but preserves his
agricultural constituency and his agricultural base. JOEL BRENNER: And he
prosecuted Scopes. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah. Well, that comes
later, but yeah. There’s this old-time
religion wrapped into it as well in the Monkey
Trial in Tennessee later. But as a presidential
candidate, he runs twice. And fundamentally, it’s about
stopping industrialization. He loses, and we get
McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt, who are about adapting to the
realities of industrialization. And we get on with it. All right? Now, that’s bold
colors, wide brush, but that’s fundamentally true. Jennings wanted to
stop the going-forward. He lost. The equivalent of Jennings,
Donald Trump, wins. And today at the UN, he said,
we reject globalization, which is not possible. [LAUGHTER] One has to deal
with globalization. So the distinction is that we
got on with it in the 1890s and had some fairly heroic
presidents, particularly Roosevelt. Right? We have not yet got on with
it in the 21st century, but the challenge
is very similar. So there’s a certain sense
of “getting on with it.” JOEL BRENNER: Thank you. I think now, let’s have
folks ask questions. The mics are open. The floor is open. And I’ll let you handle the– no, you don’t need me for it. You’re good at it. MICHAEL HAYDEN: First up? AUDIENCE: Thank you very
much for being here. It’s fascinating
to hear somebody who knows so much about
history and intelligence, and I’m looking forward
to reading your book. I just finished reading David
Sanger’s book The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage,
and Fear in the Cyber Age. It’s very revealing
to me, because what he exposes to me, at least for
me, which you probably already understood, of course,
but it’s a big secret, we’re actively engaged
across the world in warfare of a different kind. Cyber warfare. And it’s escalating. And I think the American
public doesn’t appreciate that. What do you think of this? MICHAEL HAYDEN: Sure. So I have not read David’s book. I know David very well, and so
we’ve talked a lot about it. So I think I have a good
understanding what’s in there. And it is actually connected
to the theme of this one up here, who talk about the
Russians and what they did. Back in February– Dan
Coats is the Director of National Intelligence. And all of his
three-letters, CIA, NSA, they’re testifying to the Senate
about– it’s the Global Threat Briefing. It’s a routine briefing. And one of the senators asked
Coats, has the president given you specific instructions to
go ahead and take care of what the Russians were doing? And Coats says, nope, he hasn’t. And then they go down the line. Nope, nope, nope, nope, no. Which is– that’s a
sadness, all right? The next week,
Mike Rogers, who’s the head of Cyber
Command at NSA, he’s in front of a different
committee and says, you said the president
hasn’t given you the direction to go do
something about the Russians. If you get the OK,
what would you do? And Mike responds, well,
they haven’t suffered enough. We have not punished them
enough for their actions, so they’re not dissuaded from
continuing their activity. The next week, Mike’s
successor, Paul Nakasone, is testifying to another
committee for his confirmation. Gets asked the same question,
gives the same answer. Let me decode that for you. These two heads of
Cyber Command were looking for a legal
and policy framework with political guidance to
routinely conduct activity in the digital domain above the
threshold of normal espionage, but just below the
threshold of what anyone would define as armed conflict. That’s a big idea,
and it had been rejected by President
Trump’s Cyber Team earlier, two fellows I
know who were both fired when John Bolton came in. And if you read what Bolton said
late last week, he’s saying, we’re going to get on with it. So watch this space. It’s going to be
pretty interesting, because it was rejected
by President Trump’s original cyber guys. Because you don’t know what
the third and fourth moves look like. All right? And the fear why cyber
begets cyber, and we kind of live in a glass house. So a lot going on. That was a good question. Yes sir? AUDIENCE: Well, the
so-called “Age of Lies” didn’t start in
the post-truth era. Bush lied to us
about Iraq, which killed hundreds of thousands. Obama lied to us about Libya,
which killed tens of thousands. LBJ and Nixon lied to us about
Vietnam, which killed millions. We were lied to about the
domestic surveillance metadata programs of your NSA. So the elites brought
this on themselves, didn’t they, by their
continual and endless mendacity for their own ends? MICHAEL HAYDEN: Well, I’d reject
quite a few of the premises of your question. Let me just pick one, Bush. President Bush didn’t lie. President Bush was wrong. I was in the room when
the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraqi weapons of
mass destruction was approved. We acted in good faith. We believed that’s what
was going on in Iraq. Now, I take the point
that that was certainly a welcome message
in the White House, to be able to
articulate a publicly available, easily-digestible
reason for war. But it was our estimate. Leon Panetta
replaced me, and Leon had written while he was out
of government about mendacity. And one of the last
things I said to him was, Leon, I’ve read
some of your writings while you were
out of government. On the Iraq thing, don’t put
that on the vice president. Don’t put that on the president. That was us. We got it wrong. I actually used the phrase,
“it was a clean swing and miss by us.” AUDIENCE: In which case,
truth is worse than lies. MICHAEL HAYDEN: No. Actually, my definition of
truth was the continuous pursuit of an accurate picture
of objective reality. And any version of the truth
at any particular moment is your best theory of
the case at that moment. AUDIENCE: Tell that to– [APPLAUSE] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Sir? AUDIENCE: Thank you. I’m a high school senior. Yeah. My question is, what was
your reaction to the news that John Brennan was stripped
of his security clearance by President Trump for
opposing him publicly? I think the act– the reason they put out
was something different. But what was your
reaction to that? And why– what is your– sorry. MICHAEL HAYDEN: “And why do
you still have your clearance?” Right. [LAUGHTER] AUDIENCE: And are you
worried about losing that? And in your opinion, why is it
important for retired figures like yourself to have– MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah, thank you. I’m not sure John has
lost his clearance, OK? Last heard, no one no one in the
government has contacted John. [LAUGHTER] OK? So– I mean, somebody
in the government’s got to fill in the paperwork. And there’s a line in the
paperwork that says “because.” And although this is an
absolute presidential authority, it is governed by
an executive order that has 13 reasons that
people can lose a clearance. And none– I’ve read them all. And since I’m on the list. I paid attention to– [LAUGHTER] OK? And none of the reasons
apply to John, all right? So I don’t know that
he has or hasn’t. The reason we– if I were
to lose my clearance, the effect on me
would be I would be able to do some
pro-bono work I do for the Department
of Defense and for CIA, going in and lecturing
classes, three and four stars, for the Department of
Defense for cyber warfare, and new senior executives
for CIA on leadership. I do that pro-bono, but it
is at a classified level. And so the effect on me
is I would no longer be able to do that, which
is kind of the reason they keep us in
a cleared status. We did not go rifle our
old files en route to CNN so that we have a scoop
that we can put on the air. So this is– I’ll
probably regret this once it gets reported
to the White House, but it’s mostly sound and fury. Not a whole lot of
there there yet. Thank you. Yeah? AUDIENCE: Thank you very much
for your presentation today. I’m a graduate student at MIT. And I very much
appreciate your advice on what we can do as a
community and as individuals to make things better, and
really try to promote– make founding decisions
based on truth. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah. So this is in the book,
and very interesting. This is observation, OK? It’s not a theory of the case. It’s an observation. The high-friction points of
the Trump administration have been– I mean, you can
document this yourself. The high-friction have been with
intelligence, law enforcement, the courts, science,
scholarship, and journalism. And what do they have in common? They’re all fact-based
institutions. Now, any of them
could be corrupt. Very frequently, one or another,
or all of them, are wrong. Right? But their only safe haven
is the pursuit of truth. And so it’s not
surprising that that’s where the high-friction points
are with an administration that seems to be un-anchored
to what you and I would call an “accepted view
of objective reality.” I’ve got to add that I did
Intel, science, scholarship, journalism, and so on. And I kind of held
my hand up here like this, like we’re all buds. Yeah. For most of my life– the intel’s the thumb, right? For most of my life, this
has not been my metaphor. That’s been the way it’s
been for most of my life, with these other institutions
shooting at us for the way we acquire information. For the way we acquire data. You mentioned
earlier surveillance. Renditions, detentions,
interrogations. And so generally,
my life experience has been these others
kind of picking at us. I’ve had no one here
talk to me about how we get data for
over three years. All they recognize now is we,
like them, are data people. And we’ve got a fundamental
issue about the rule of data. Now, if we get this
data thing worked out, we will get back
to this directly, and we’ll get back
to the old arguments. But right now, the
issue is the data folks have to hold their ground. So in answer to your
question, you’re both science and scholarship. Hold your ground. State the truth as best
you know it, again, understanding it can
always be imperfect. It can always be wrong. But it’s our best theory
of the case at the moment as we try to reflect
objective reality. And to hold your
position on reality. Refugees are statistically not
a threat to the United States. All right? That’s– there’s no data
to support that theory. American alliances are a
strategic advantage, not a strategic burden. Immigration on-balance
is a national advantage to the United States that
our European friends do not– I mean, those are facts. And the fact-based people have
to hold their position, OK? Yes? AUDIENCE: Thank you. Good evening. So my name is Inez. I am a post-Doc here. And before I ask my
question, I very briefly want to, if you allow, correct
your image about Germany. It’s really not anymore
just about soil, and blood, and shared history, even
though these elements were at some point very important. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah, good. AUDIENCE: But I think we’ve
moved on from those elements. MICHAEL HAYDEN:
Thank you, thank you. AUDIENCE: And so my
question has to– in fact, to do with
your observation that having a divided
society is so dangerous. So I’m wondering, and having
listened to you very carefully, and I respect you
in so many ways, and I can’t wait
to read your book. But how does your
book contribute to building a unified
society when you basically portray one part
of the population, and I’m not just
talking about this very interesting president, but also
his supporters, as not quite on-par when it comes to
intelligence, knowledge, and understanding of the world? You yourself said
that some people are very much in a state
of grievance, right? MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah. AUDIENCE: So how
does that book help? MICHAEL HAYDEN:
Yeah, so I really do try to be very,
very sensitive. And folks I think have
no dog in the fight have told me that the book
is actually reasonably respectful of the president. And he is the way
God made him, and we accommodate all presidents. This combination is
much larger than others. So I do, again, try
to maintain the– a respectful dialogue. It’s just not meant to solve
all the world’s problems. Even all the world’s problems
with regard to truth. So the unifying principle,
why is it in the book, why is it not in the book? Why do I let myself
talk on CNN, which is a very untraditional
thing for my tribe? And it’s– I’ve actually
discussed this with myself, with my wife, with
other counterparts. So what are you doing here,
and why are you doing this? And the crossover point for
me is that this is not normal, and it cannot be allowed to
pretend that it’s normal. And we cannot allow a population
who cannot afford to do this all day, every day,
which is what I do, to be lulled into the sense
that this is actually acceptable behavior. And so I used the phrase in a
panel a couple of weeks ago, an emergency break glass. And so we know, and it’s
one of our challenges, how does one respond to the
most norm-busting president in our history without
violating the norms of your own institution
or of your own vocation? And that is a constant
stress point for us. But that’s the
purpose of the book. No, this is not normal. There’s a part– if
you read the book, there’s a part in the book where
I actually stop the narrative and say, I just re-read
the last 100 words I wrote. Holy smoke. I mean, when you
put it together, even though it’s all publicly
available, when you put it together you go, oh my god. That’s remarkable. And that– anyway, I’m
trying to ring the alarm. Trying to set up a flare
for this particular aspect. The president is not
particularly limited by law or constitution. The most important
limits on the president are the norms of the office. And if you don’t pay– if you disregard the norms,
we head towards a dark place. JOEL BRENNER: Can I
add one thing, though? MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah, yeah. Please. JOEL BRENNER: You know, I think
one of the things that you do, and I think do well, is to make
these arguments without being disrespectful to those
people who are ta– have taken it on
the chin, in ter– economically, or who are
not members of the elite. And I think one of
the things we’re dealing with in this
country right now is– let me ask a question. How many people in
here know somebody who’s serving in the
armed forces right now? Oh, I’m surprised. That’s great. That’s really great. That’s unusual in
university audiences. That’s terrific. But I think part of the
answer is, if I can be so bold as to step in, is not only
to make these arguments, but to get to know and not
be disrespectful of the rest of the country. It’s amazing, I
think, how little most of the people
that I deal with know about what goes on in
the rest of the country. And I think that’s what’s really
interesting about your account of going back to Pittsburgh. PRESENTER: Thank you. Yeah. AUDIENCE: Hello. First, thank you for
coming here to speak. I am a senior at
Clark University. I was just wondering if you
feel that with the divide, that the mentality of
“ignorance is bliss” is the way that Americans are
coping with what’s going on, rather than addressing it. Such as turn to social media,
as you said with the Doritos comparison, seeing just
what they want to see and ignoring the other way. Is that “ignorance is bliss”
mentality dangerous, per se? MICHAEL HAYDEN: Well,
again, if you’ve got structures of government
based upon informed citizenry, which is the theory of The
Federalist Papers– by the way, I’ve read more of The Federalist
Papers in the last three years than I have in the
last three decades, and I’m sure others
have shared that. It is an informed citizenry
that makes it work. So yeah, if you’re
voting by tribe– and look, I know it’s
an imperfect world. It’s not black-and-white. This is– not all
this is all that new. But an informed citizenry
is kind of the engine of– and Joel, I quote
this in the book. Oh god, a fellow who’s
written a very short book, a small pamphlet. I’m sorry, I can’t
remember his name, but I quote him near
the end of the book. And he talked about,
truth is the only place you can place your foot to
push back against autocracy. If truth isn’t in
play, then there is no firm ground in which
you can take your stand and push back
against the autocrat. There’s a wonderful quote. And I cite it. I don’t steal it. Post-truth is pre-fascism. AUDIENCE: Thank you very much. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah. Yep? AUDIENCE: Good evening, General. Thank you. My name is Nick Lavin
from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. You touched a little bit about
the intelligence community itself and how this is
affecting it as an institution. But with it being a
political institution, and the inherent capability
of their assessments to either be rejected or
accepted by the principal himself, does this affect the
morale of the intelligence community itself? And how do we navigate
such turbulence? MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah,
so great question. So how’s that working
for the people that have to go to work every day? So I talked to someone Joel
knows, we’ll get his name, that retired recently. Iconic ops officer, somebody
you ought to pay attention to. So I talked with him at length. And I said, all right,
I know the world’s not black-and-white, but
what’s happening? And what he told me
was, you’re right, it’s not black-and-white. So it’s not binary. But more so than any other
time in my experience, the question I’m
hearing from the people below decks, the one’s just
rowing, generally younger, a little more newsy, a
little more social media, the people I’m hearing– the
question I’m hearing more than I’ve ever heard before
from the people below decks is simply, am I still
part of a good thing? And the question I’m hearing
from the people above decks, he said, again, not
black-and-white, but more than I’ve heard it in the
past, is, does this matter? Does what I do still
make a difference? So that’s the struggle. And so Gina Haspel,
whom we all supported as a wonderful choice, despite
controversies about things that may or may not
have been in her past, Gina understands that. And she’s– I mean, she
says, I can’t control this, I can’t control that. I can control this. We’re going to block. We’re going to tackle. We’re going to do our mission. And that’s what
leadership is needed now. Yeah. Yes? AUDIENCE: Thank you for
being here today, Mr. Hayden. My name is Naomi Gaskin. I’m from Clark
University, as well. I am wondering, when
you wrote The Assault On intelligence, what
was your intended reaction from the reader? Because it seemed as though your
intended audience is that layer 1 of your cake. What do you hope people do
after reading your book? MICHAEL HAYDEN: So to view
it as a reasonable argument. Joel’s right, I’ve worked
really hard to be respectful. And there’s very little
demonization in the book. And if there is,
I made a mistake. I didn’t intend it. And so I do want to
try to call people back to fact-based arguments. And so the reaction from
people inside government, I have had no negative
reaction by people in the– in fact, I get– [INAUDIBLE] That’s good. Thank you. The broad public response,
such as that is, I– my only metric that’s
statistically relevant is Amazon. OK? So I go to the Amazon page. 83% of my evaluations are 4
or 5, and most of them are 5. And then I’ve got a whole
slew of 1’s and 2’s. It’s a minority,
but there’s a lot. A lot for a book
that’s got over 80%, up there in the stratosphere. And so my view is, there
is an ideological reaction to the prose, rather
than an appreciation as to whether it was an
interesting or un-interesting book. I think people
self-select in terms of reading a book like
this, so it’s not surprising that it’s broadly positive. And it’s probably not surprising
that it’s probably binary. There’s not much middle ground. So we gave have
them the best shot. AUDIENCE: Thank you. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yep. Yes? AUDIENCE: Good evening, sir. Thank you for coming to speak. I’m a student at Harvard,
and Tom Nichols is actually my professor this semester. MICHAEL HAYDEN: OK. AUDIENCE: So I’ll pass on
that he got a name-drop here. I just had a quick
question for you about– you said you wanted to
see a cultural change in the intelligence community
from being tellers of secrets to tellers of truths. So how does the community, and
the people and organizations that surround it
and feed into it, how do they navigate
that cultural shift? MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah. So that’s a great question, and
it’s really hard, all right? So I’m going to
be very efficient, but it’s going to be something
that’s not in the book. All right? It’s not that secrets
aren’t going to be useful. They’re still going to exist. We’re still going
have to steal them. But Joel, I actually think
they’re harder to get. Now, the really,
really secret stuff is going to be
really hard to get. You’re really going to
have to be really stealthy. You’re really going have
to be really clandestine. OK? That demands a relatively
closed society, and not the broader society. The society of the CIA. But since so much
more information is going to be
readily available, is going to be
publicly retrievable, you need a far more
permeable membrane between the agency
and the broader world. I realize I just proposed
contradictory cultural realities. And so the balance
is going to have to be created in the future. There’s a very
permeable membrane between most of the agency
and the broader society to allow the agency to harvest
the wisdom of the broader society, but have a hardcore
deep inside the agency that is even more protected and more
clandestine than it is today. That’s a tough balancing act,
but that’s the requirement. AUDIENCE: Thank you, sir. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yep. AUDIENCE: Thank you
very much for your talk. I’m a PhD candidate here at MIT. We make a lot of
technology here at MIT, and technology has a history
of coming in and essentially kicking us back in about– some years after. I’m not sure Zuckerberg really
knew what he had in mind when he started doing Facebook. MICHAEL HAYDEN: It’s a classic
case of ambition and technology getting in front of wisdom, law,
policy, and normative behavior. AUDIENCE: Yes. So if I’m looking
at technologies right now that
we’re making, what’s your take on things
like deep fakes, and their capacity of
creating mass misinformation? And especially, how do we get
those type of cats in the bag again? MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah. So what was the
phrase you used here? What was my opinion on– AUDIENCE: “Deep fakes.” MICHAEL HAYDEN: OK, got it. Got it. Deep fakes. Yeah, and so we’re more
vulnerable by the technology we use. All right? And I may have said– I’ve talked to a lot of folks
between here and Harvard. If I’ve said this
before, I apologize. But we have a body
of folks, like the whole entire
population, that is accustomed to
getting their data about the outside world
in digestible doses from curated sources. It’s called the evening news
and the morning newspaper. And now those folks
are getting their news in a tsunami of
data coming at them. Almost none of it is curated. And so the first
effort is education about how to read, absorb
news, and teach ourselves, teach our children
to be critical consumers of information. And there are efforts
underway to do that. But we have to– again– actually, my description
of Facebook is quite apt here. A case of ambition
and technology getting ahead of norms,
policy, law, and education, and we have to catch up. OK? AUDIENCE: Thank you. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yes, ma’am? AUDIENCE: Hello. I’m Una Hidari. I’m a fellow at the center,
but my background is mainly in journalism, and that’s going
to be the focus of my question. You said that Russia wasn’t– [INAUDIBLE] problem, or
not as big of a problem as is being presented. And one of my problems
with the way reporting is being done lately
in the past two years in the United States is
that it has been dominating the airwaves, the Russia–
the US relationship to Russia, and the probe, and
everything else. Don’t you feel the journalists,
who are the ones fighting against the lies
that are being spread about the administration, should
also take into consideration the fact that the Russian
stuff has also been overblown? I feel they haven’t– journalists haven’t been doing
their part in that sense. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah, yeah. The answer is “yes.” All right? And so I think I
pointed out earlier, how do these fact-based
institutions push back against the
non-fact-based movement without violating
their own norms? So in my case, it’s kind
of non-normative to be so much on TV. I’ve made my peace with that. We don’t reveal secrets. OK. For journalism, I don’t think
it’s being non-fact-based. For journalism, I think the
challenge is being obsessed. And I would say the obsession
is not so much with the Russians as it is with the president. And so I’m on CNN a lot. I actually know stuff about
what’s going on in the world. I can’t tell you the
last time I commented on an international anything. They want me to know what’s
happening to Rosenberg, and what do I think about
wearing a wire in the Oval Office. And so if I have a complaint,
it’s not that it’s untrue, but it’s just too
narrowly-focused, and thereby denying you information
about the broader planet. That would be my norm-busting
behavior for journalism. Yep. Sir? AUDIENCE: So groups face
cognitive challenges. Group-think,
willingness to believe lies, believing silly things
because they feel good for group internal dynamics. I’m delighted that these
things like group-think are finally playing a large
role in our national dialogue. It concerns me that
the focus there is entirely on group-think and
similar cognitive challenges occurring in a populist
rabble subculture context. And there’s very
little discussion that these cognitive
challenges are also faced by elite subcultures. Thoughts? MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah, sure. Totally agree. OK, next? No, I mean– remember my
little hand puppet here? OK. I would have made the
case back in the day, there was a whole lot of
group-think over here, and the commentary about what
it was we were doing over here. I mean, I would. And we’ll probably
have to make that case before I leave this Earth, and
we get beyond the current issue and get back to some
of these other issues. All right? So that– I’ll give you one
that can be controversial. And I’m not going to
argue about it, all right? But when you say, why
did you support torture? My response is, well, you’ve
already concluded the argument. There’s nothing
more to talk about. Torture is always
wrong, you know? “Why did you murder
that person?” I mean, that’s an accusation. That’s not a question, right? “Why did you kill that person?” Oh, different que– do
you see what I’m saying? So my complaint back
in the old world was that the language of
most of these institutions had already presumed an
answer to, a destination for, any discussion we were
going to take place. So we’d always push back
against the presumption that was inherent, embedded,
in the language. So yeah, I’m very familiar
with group-think among elites. I kind of participated in it. I have a certain worldview
based upon my life experience, and I have to remind
myself constantly, well, maybe there’s another
way of looking at it. I tend to look at things
through a security lens, when in reality, one of the great
discoveries of the last 10 years is there are a whole
bunch of other lenses out there that are
really interesting. AUDIENCE: So is there some way
to broaden the discussion to– MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah, of course. By the way– I mean, I gave you the
basic narrative of the book. So I do that chapter
1, Sarajevo Truth. Oh, what’s going on? And then I stop the narrative. It’s really quite clumsy. But I felt duty-bound to
describe the intelligence policy relationship during
the Obama administration, so that no one was operating
under the misconception that Intelligence
had been chased out of the Garden of Eden
on the 20th of January. That we had serious issues
with the Obama administration. And there is an issue of
tension between intelligence and the administration. Not nearly at the level we’re
experienced today, but– So I’ll give you a
real short shorthand that just tries
to suggest, yeah, I understand this is
happening on multiple levels. The question I would get from
my foreign friends, generally people of my background
in other countries, during the Obama years
is, where are you guys? Because of the
broad retrenchment. The question I now get
from my allied friends is, who are you guys? All right? Gives you some sense as to,
there were tensions before. There are tensions now. Just over different lines. Yes? AUDIENCE: Yes, hi. I’m in the same camp as you. I’m a bit pessimistic. We can’t take the genies
out of the bottle, and I don’t think we can change
people’s cognitive processes, just like the people
in the bar you met. I read once– I
think it was Tolstoy who said that “Today’s truth
is tomorrow’s history, which is like a currency that has
abandoned the gold standard.” That being the case,
truth is like a– we’re in a truth bubble, where
we’ve printed too much of it. And either that bubble
is going to burst– you’re the Alan
Greenspan of truth. That’s how I’m looking at you. So can you imagine a scenario
where either a bubble of truth could burst? What could a truth George
Soros do to burst this bubble, or could recreate so many
truths that– make the bubbles– keep them small enough not
to cause the world conflict? Make the world a worse place? MICHAEL HAYDEN: So back
to the theory of the case. Truth is the working–
the best working theory of objective reality at the
moment, which always develops. And there could be
competitive theories, right? This is going to
be a weird answer, but let me just
try it, all right? So they had to go in and brief
President Obama on Syria, all right? And obviously, they’re
going to tell him the truth. The Intel guys are going
to base it on data. Well, maybe not obvious to you. It’s obvious to me. But how you organize that
data is very compelling. There are four or five
theories of what is going on in Syria, what was going on. Each of them are true, or each
of them are based on truth, but each of them lead to a
different course of action. OK? Mr. President, this is
a war between autocrats and Democrats. That’s the original
insurrection against Assad. That leads you to a
certain course of action. Mr. President, this is
Sunnis on [? Adelites, ?] and the Christians and the
Kurds are staying out of it. This is an ethnic conflict. And that leads you to a
certain course of action. Mr. President, this is a
humanitarian catastrophe. A half a million
Syrians are dead. Half the population
is displaced. That leads you to a
certain course of action. Mr. President, this
is fundamentally about the Sunni-Shia
split, and the line of confrontation between
the two branches of Islam is being fought out along
the Aleppo-Damascus axis. Which leads you to a
certain course of action. Mr. President, in the
strangest of ways, this is a resumption of
the East-West competition between ourselves
and the Russians. And that leads you to a
different course of action. All of those are
true, but there are different theories of the case. And it’s– you
know, original sin? Veil of tears? We do the best we can. Sir? AUDIENCE: I have a
question in terms of the fundamental premises
that you had here is the seeking the truth, and
that will create a lot of– that’s a big issue. And the question is, if the– it’s how seeking the truth is. And Janet, I think, Napolitano
at the University of California recently said that the biggest
issue for security right now is sustainability
issues with climate change. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Right. AUDIENCE: So that
cuts across now those two fields, security
and climate change. But one of the thing– Noam Chomsky used
the expression, or coined the expression
called “intentional ignorance.” And the issue I submitted,
one of the biggest problems with seeking the truth
is you’re bumping up against the concept of
intentional ignorance, which has a subset of concept of
bad faith, where you choose not to admit something that’s
the truth and not the truth. So how do you deal? And number 1 is, do you talk
about that in your book, about intentional ignorance? Or how do you deal with
intentional ignorance? MICHAEL HAYDEN: So I guess
in an oblique way, when I– the basic premise is that
the objective reality is not the departure point for
decision-making or speech. And so that is– in many cases, it’s
intentional ignorance. Did I bring up the
WTO to this group? Yeah. I mean, there’s a case
of intentional ignorance. Talked about the
medical condition. Piers Morgan interviewed
the president on the margins of Davos, and
it was a long-form interview. One of the episodes was
about global warming. Morgan brings it up,
and it’s on YouTube. It’s fascinating to watch. The president says,
you know, they used to call it
“global warming.” They don’t do that anymore. They call it “climate change.” As there’s parts of the
Earth that are warming, there are parts of the
Earth that are cooling. Right? That’s why they call it
“climate change”, Piers. And oh, by the way, 10, 20 years
ago, they said the poor ice caps were going away. Now the polar ice caps
are at record levels. Which I guess is technically
correct, in terms of they’ve never been smaller since we’ve
been recording polar ice caps. And the question I ask
is, this is the president. And no judgment on the man. He is the president. He travels in an ecosystem. So did someone after
that interview say, Mr. President,
private word, please, and try to punch through? And that’s kind of the
theory of the book. What do the fact-bearers
do in this environment? And oh, by the way, I spent
some time in the book saying, you can’t bend your
spear on every issue. You’ve got to pick. Because if he views you to
be– and he’s important, because you elected him. Right? Maybe not you,
personally, right? If he thinks you’re just
reflexively opposing him, you’ve lost all authenticity
in saying, Mr. President, you can’t do this one. Here’s why. And so where do you draw
that line in the dialogue, particularly for this
president, who is described as– look, to be fair
to the president, he is almost preternaturally
confident in his own instincts, in his own a-priori narrative
of how the world works. And I write in the book,
before you get too judgmental, remember, those are
the ones who got him elected when all
the “experts” said it wasn’t going to happen. JOEL BRENNER: General,
you’re not only at, but after the top of the hour. And I know there are more people
who want to ask questions. So let me make a suggestion. Let’s have the questions come– MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yep. [INTERPOSING VOICES] JOEL BRENNER: And then you can
wrap– and then wrap it up. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Short stuff. Otherwise, I won’t remember. JOEL BRENNER: Right. Real quick. MICHAEL HAYDEN: OK. AUDIENCE: Real quick. Let me make a suggestion. I think first, it was
very, very refreshing for me to hear
you, listen to you. And I appreciate
your views very much. Now, it will be
much more convincing if an intel chief or
any intel personality would say that,
look, in years past, under other administrations,
lying was the exception. But in this administration,
it became the rule. Because there is no denying that
all Intel operations involve some propaganda,
some misinformation to serve certain
national interest goals. So you cannot do at all without
at least twisting the truth, or– MICHAEL HAYDEN: Right. I don’t agree with the premise,
but I’ve got an answer. OK. AUDIENCE: Good evening, sir. I think we’re in a
unique environment here, where we have people
who represent the policy sector, academic
research, private sector technology, and also military. In your personal
opinion, where does both the moral and the
legal responsibility for making the changes you
talk about in your book, where does that fall? MICHAEL HAYDEN: OK. Got it. AUDIENCE: Sorry. JOEL BRENNER: Last one. AUDIENCE: So you touched
briefly at the beginning on loss of faith in elites,
2008, the war in Iraq, et cetera. Could you at some
point speak to either if you think there’s
anything that could have been done to avert where we are now? Or getting past
this moment, what could be done in the future
to avoid that sort of crisis of confidence? MICHAEL HAYDEN: Got it. OK. JOEL BRENNER: General
Hayden, the last word. MICHAEL HAYDEN: All
right, here we go. So the lying thing, all right? So Intel should never– I disagree with
some of the premise. There’s no reason
for Intel to lie. You’re in a classified
environment. You’re talking to a policymaker. For god’s sake, why
don’t you tell them what you really believe? All right, sometimes it’s hard. I mean, we actually–
it’s so hard that we actually
have a name for it. It’s called the Phenomenon
of the Unpleasant Fact. [LAUGHTER] Where you go in there with
something that you know is going to cut
across his policy, his preference, his politics. Now, when I walked in there
in April of 2007 and said, hey Mr. President–
hey, surprise, I think the Syrians have a
near-complete nuclear reactor in the eastern Syrian desert,
I wasn’t making his day. He did not need another nuclear
issue in the Middle East. Oh, by the way, the
president’s response to me was, are you sure this time? [LAUGHTER] We worked our way through that. It’s more nuanced. There is a difference
between political speech and intelligent speech. Political speech is
allowed some hyperbole. Political speech is allowed
some lack of nuance. “Make it clear, make it loud,
repeat” is political speech. I’ll give you a real
But I’m an Intel guy. I had that goal. I didn’t know– I
did not know that. AUDIENCE: And I disagree it
was right to move Qaddafi. We didn’t base it on
international law [INAUDIBLE]—- MICHAEL HAYDEN: I’m
all good with that. But we’re talking about the
intensely political issue here in the United
States about CIA creating talking points for the
administration that were then used for a political
purpose, unarguably. All right? There is only one
good option for CIA when creating talking points. Don’t do it. OK? Because intel
speech is different than political speech. And so the right
answer would have been, you guys write down
what you think. We’ll check it. And by the way, that
was always my response when Steve Hadley would call. Hey, Mike, that was
a great briefing. We know that’s going to
be on the front burner. We want to make sure
we get it right. This is all virtuous. We want to make sure
we get it right. Could you guys give us some– no. You write it down, we’ll
check your spelling. And here’s your reason. Who did the attack? Terrorists? Al-Qaeda? And I could I can develop
three or four descriptions as to identifying the attackers. All of them correct, but
each of them freighted. All right? Don’t get involved
in picking the word. Let them pick the word. And when they come
back with “terrorists” rather than “al-Qaeda,”
which again, has political connotation, or
some other choice of words, you get to say, well, while
that’s technically correct, that’s probably not
the word I’d use. I could use a more
precise word there, but that’s not my business. And so again, I’m only
drawing the comparison because political
speech is different. Now, occasionally you’ve
got to pick up the phone. I did this. Steve, what you guys
said yesterday, if asked, we can’t back you up. Ooh. And that generally
led to changes in how things were said. Responsibility. Who gets to fix it? The real answer
is, all the above. All right? But I do think intelligence
has a special responsibility. Let me tell you why. Number 1, it’s a
fact-based institution. If it’s not, you have
no reason for it. But it’s beyond that. And I freely admit, intelligence
does a lot of edgy things. If it was easy, they’d ask
the Department of Commerce. [LAUGHTER] We get to act in an environment
in which the ethical, legal, and operational realities
are often ambiguous. And so– this is not a word I
would use, but critics of us would talk about
“questionable activities.” All right? And it’s just the
nature of the business. And we are asked to do things
no one else has asked or allowed to do. That’s the special
role of espionage. That only ta–
those edgy things. Even if it’s just
suborning someone in someone’s foreign
ministry to tell you things the foreign ministry
would rather not share, we do that all the time. And so– or intercepting
communications for which we’re not the intended recipient. We do that all the time. And I recognize
that’s a grayish area. As you can probably
tell from my tone, I’m reasonably
comfortable with it. I did it for a living. But that only takes
its moral justification by being attached to a
higher ethical purpose. And so this actually was
going to create a crisis– we could create a crisis in
the intelligence community more rapidly than anywhere else
in our governmental structure, because these edgy,
ambiguous things are only justified, people only
do them in good conscience, because they’re attached to
a broader ethical purpose. And if we lose sight of the
broader ethical purpose, if we think they are not
attached to a broader ethical purpose, it undercuts
the moral legitimacy of the very business. And so I think Intel
gets out on point. The last one was elites, and
how could we have averted– who asked the elite question? Repeat that one for me. Yeah. AUDIENCE: I guess,
since where we are today involves a crisis of
confidence in the elites, either what changes do you
think could have avoided that, or getting past it, what
changes do you think could avoid something
similar in the future? MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yeah. I mean, these are throwaways,
but they’re true nonetheless. Listening, respect,
non-demonization, non-condemnation. AUDIENCE: Staying out of Iraq. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Hm? AUDIENCE: Staying out of Iraq. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Well, yeah. I mean, you’ve got
courses of action. I already mentioned
the financial meltdown, getting the weapons
of mass destruction wrong, underestimating
what would happen in Iraq. Those are all elite
decisions, and the people that paid for it were the
kids of the people in the bar in Pittsburgh, right? I mean, they’re the ones who
suffered the consequences. So I understand that. But remember, the
problem I described was when you think you’re
throwing out– you’re discarding the elites, you’re
also discarding expertise. And there’s got to be some
sort of a balance there. So one would hope that
dialogue, openness, respect, non-demonization. Frankly, going out of
your way to unders– better under– one
of the blessings of my post-government life
is I spent a lot of time in the country, in
the countryside. This is a magnificently
diverse society. And my friends come
to visit America, and it is a wonderment that
a society as diverse, as different, as geographically
expansive as us, has a certain sense of
national, moral, ethical unity. It’s a miracle. And I just ask all of you
to participate in that, to be more open to that reality
that makes us who we are. The people in the back room
that I had trouble with, they rally to the
colors in distress. It’s their kids that go to war. JOEL BRENNER: General,
you’ve been very generous with your time. [APPLAUSE] Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

3 thoughts on “Starr Forum: The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies

  1. Imagine if there are people on earth who can talk to God who can give each in congress/parliaments, eternal life. You'd be dealing with power beyond measure.

    Just an idea. I just like making people think that when they thinks, there's always more to analyse.

  2. It is depressing to see how the US takes the same path as the Germany of the Weimar Republic …. a great constitution, which unfortunately could easily be undermined because the nature of democracy simply forbids the radical elements isolated to become not made responsible by law because the american concept of "free speech" …. that is really very sad ….My deepest respect for Michael Hayden and his systematic und scientific approach to save America…but I fear the worst….

  3. The countries consurned about security is using the need for security is an excuse to expand the use of Artifical Intelligence. Tracking people, monitoring people, eavesdropping on people, stealing people intellectual property, Mk ultra. Mind Reading technologies, Microscopic implanted devices in the human body. When any country talk about security its an excuse. This attempted will lead to a controlled society. Being Controlled today is the same as slavery in the past.

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