Michael Hayden says disparage remarks about US spies could hurt the moral authority of their leaders
Donald Trumps public disparagement of US intelligence agencies would have a discouraging attempt on the countrys snoops and undermine the moral authority of their leaders to send them into harms way, a former CIA director said on Wednesday
Michael Hayden, who served as director of the NSA and then the CIA during the course of its George W Bush administration, entered the growing controversy over the president-elects attitude towards the US intelligence community. Trump has questioned its conclusion that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee and the CIAs reported discovering that Moscow had meddled in the presidential election in Trumps favour.
It also emerged that Trump had only met intelligence officials to receive what is normally a daily briefing, four times since the election. I get it when I need it, he said. An aide said on Wednesday that he would from now on receive a presidential daily brief three times a week instead of just once.
Hayden said that missing the daily briefing would be discouraging but may not be catastrophic if he was well briefed by top aides. However the public denigration of the work of the intelligence agencies would be more damaging, Hayden said.
That would be very discouraging, if the information is repudiated, if the information is never utilized, Hayden told the Guardian in an interview. That datum is sometimes bought at great cost. A director of the CIA sends people into harms route to get information otherwise unavailable. If its not use, if its repudiated or its contradicted, under what moral authority then would I as a director send these men and women out to do it?
Hayden, who served as NSA director from 1999 to 2005 and CIA director from 2006 to 2009, said: I have been fairly concerned about what the president-elect has said. Its not only the question of Russian hacking and his reluctance to accept what appears to be good evidence that the Russians did this.
There is the broader question Im concerned about, he added. Will the president accept the intelligence guys to come in and give him points of view that are different from his a priori hypothesis or faiths? Thats really important, so Im looking for clues about that.
He noted that Jimmy Carter had preferred to be briefed by his national security consultant, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and suggested that once in office, Trump might prefer to get his briefings from his vice president, Mike Pence. Asked about the health risks role of “the mens” Trump has picked to be his national security adviser, retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn, Hayden expressed reservations.
Mike is going to have to act a little bit differently from how he has during the campaign. Mike is tactically brilliant. He has been a very successful general officer at the tactical level. This is a strategic undertaking, so its going to extend him, Hayden said. And especially for this president who has said some intemperate things on the campaign, I would like the national security consultant to be a pacifying influence and Mike in the campaign was at least as intemperate as the president.
The former CIA and NSA director was speaking after devoting an address at a conference on terrorism organised by the Jamestown Foundation thinktank, at which he was also critical Trumps proposed counter-terrorist strategy, in particular the suggestion that the US might find common cause with Russia in Syria to fight the Islamic State.
Im personally very sceptical of any convergence between Russian and US interests in this part of the world, he said, pointing to Russian support for the Assad regime, which he argued was generating terrorism by its repression.
[ Trump] literally said: if you oppose Isis youre our friend, he said. Well, the world is a complicated place. There are other issues out there.
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