Transcript of WTOP Radio interview with CIA Director Michael V. Hayden
November 30, 2006
General Hayden was interviewed by WTOP Radio's J.J. Green November 22, 2006. WTOP aired portions of the interview this week. The following comprises the full transcript of the interview.
Green: General, thank you for the opportunity to do this. It has been something that I had been hoping to do for a very long time, considering your profile in the national security community, for at least the last year or so. So I am really happy that this has come to fruition. You have been on the job for six months now. What are your top priorities?
General Hayden: Well, there are a variety of things. One certainly had to do with the [Central Intelligence] Agency itself, and perhaps a bit with its confidence and with its spirit. It was to allow the Agency to focus on its work. I said during my confirmation hearing that I wanted to get the Agency out of the news as either source or subject, to allow it to focus on the things the nation needed it to be doing. And in fact I think we have been successful at that. We spend a lot of energy -- myself and other members of the leadership team -- just focusing on mission, just getting things done.
Green: What are those things that need to be focused on to get done?
General Hayden: A variety of things -- two primary ones. Number one, we are the nation's premier human intelligence agency. We collect intelligence from human sources. So that absolutely has to be one focus. The other one, another Agency mission, is to be the premier all-source analytic agency. So those are the two primary ones. Look at the other things we do -- science, technology, support, and so on. It's all in direct support of those two functions. Collection of intelligence from human beings, and the analysis of all-source intelligence. National intelligence to national consumers. Those are the two things we need to focus on. That's where we try to put all of our effort.
Green: How would you assess how it's going at this point?
General Hayden: I'm pleased, but this is a business in which you can always do better. And any time you have an advantage, it's always transient. So you just have to keep working all the time. But to give you a sense in both areas: In terms of the collection of intelligence, there has been a great deal of emphasis for us to use non-traditional methods, for us that means non-traditional platforms -- what folks call "out of embassy" platforms -- and we're progressing along those lines. With regard to analysis, it's real simple; it's just "getting it right" more often. Now people have to understand. This isn't a mathematical problem in which there is a known solution, you just have to work your way toward it. This is far more "art," in terms of analysis, than it is pure abstract science. So people have to understand that even at the top of our game, there still is some ambiguity in what it is we analyze and what it is we project. Our job is to be as crisp as we can in our judgments, and as clear as we can in where the ambiguity might lie, so that policymakers know what level of confidence to put in the information we provide them.
Green: General, one of the biggest issues that some policymakers, and some people, have projected when it comes to the CIA, is the murky, dark, and kind of mystical manner in which the CIA and the Intelligence Community functions. But that, by nature, is how it has to be, I assume. But, if you can, demystify, just a bit for us, what your goal is, as the nation's premier intelligence agency.
General Hayden: Sure. But first of all, I'll comment on your characterization. You're right. We are a secret intelligence service inside a free and open society. So that sets up natural contradictions. By the way, those aren't contradictions we want to back away from. They constitute our state of nature, and we just have to live within that larger political context. Now, in terms of what it is we provide, we keep the nation safe and we keep the nation free. We keep it free by keeping it safe, obviously, some other state or body or organization doesn't impose its will on us, that's how safety leads to freedom. But in addition, we have to be very careful that in keeping the nation safe, in keeping the nation secure, we use methods that do not, in and of themselves, impinge on American freedoms. These are challenges. There have been issues raised in the last several years particularly with regard to some of the things we are doing in the global war on terrorism. But that is the objective. That takes the mystery out. That opens the curtain. Security of the nation while preserving the nation's liberties.
Green: As you mentioned, some of the things that you have done over the last few years, certainly since 9/11, have raised some eyebrows. One of the questions I would like to throw out there for you at this point: It has been both a productive and a tough year for CIA, with major gains in the war on terror but several key programs have been outed, one way or another. And I'm wondering how that has affected your ability to get your job done. How would you assess the damage as it stacks up against the gains that you have made?
General Hayden: I don't want to use the word "conflict," but there are values here. I mean to emphasize that. These are values that sometimes bump up against one another. The nation survives on a free press. The nation also survives on its intelligence services being successful. And so you have these things hitting against one another. As I've said to some people in your profession, we each have our role to play in terms of the safety of the republic. Now, in doing that, some things that we would prefer not be in the public domain get in the public domain. I have to tell you as the director of an intelligence agency, that is costly, that is upsetting. There are times when things are irresponsibly revealed, and when that takes place, our ability to protect both the security and the freedom of the nation, is reduced. Now there have been stories out there -- and you can just imagine the circumstance it puts an agency like CIA in -- when a story is put into the public domain, with distortions, or half-truths, or incompleteness, and so on. One of the things we can't do is set the record straight. We can't go out there and say, "Well, you got this part wrong." And so an agency like this [CIA], when a story is pushed into the public domain with an agenda on it, when a story is pushed into the public domain in an unfair, irresponsible way, there is almost nothing this agency can do to set the record straight without making the situation worse. And that's a difficult challenge for us.
Green: Programs like the Terrorist Surveillance Program, I believe that is the way you refer to it, is that correct?
General Hayden: That's right. But bear in mind, while you are asking me that question, it had more to do with me as Director of NSA than it does with me as Director of CIA. But you are right. It is those kinds of things. The one that has become fairly public recently is the CIA detention and interrogation program. Now some of that was the result of unauthorized disclosures. Some of it was the direct result of a decision made at the highest levels of this government to bring some of these individuals to justice, and that is what happened with the President's speech on September 6th, when he announced that those 14 members of Al-Qaida were brought to Guantanamo to face justice in front of military commissions. Clearly, when the decision was made to do that, some aspects of the program would have to be revealed, would have to be confirmed, and that is indeed what happened. But it is clear to us, though, that the imperative to bring these people to justice trumped some of the other considerations. Believe me, that's not always the case, when secret intelligence activities are made public.
Green: Admiral Scott Redd, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told me about a year ago, in answer to the question, "How was the war on terror going?", he said there are some things that maybe 30 or 40 years down the road that will be released or talked about that will be very heartening to people, as they look back on the war on terror and where we are now. Do you believe that these programs, specifically the ones that relate to CIA -- being outed, being leaked or talked about -- have put at risk the lives of CIA assets, human assets, and other relationships? And is that damage, if there is any, reparable?
General Hayden: It's a difficult question. The answer to your question is yes. I'm not going to sit here, certainly in an open environment, and draw cause and effect relationships between this story and these activities. It's just not possible for me to do that. But I can say, as a matter of first principle, that the unauthorized disclosure of classified information has actually led to the deaths of individuals who would not otherwise have been subjected to that, had this information not been inappropriately put into the public domain. More broadly, the discussions of many of these activities publicly -- and look, J.J., I'm the Director of CIA but I'm also a citizen and I understand the nature of our republic and the nature of a free press, and a free press has a great deal of power and appropriately so -- but that, then, imposes on the press a tremendous amount of responsibility. That they must take great care when they have information that can cause harm to the nation's security activities. They really have to weigh that carefully. And I've said this both privately and publicly in the last year or two: I'm not convinced at all times that that care has been taken.
Green: As a result of that care not being taken, the Agency has come under fire from some of the United States' key allies -- this year Italy, the Swiss, and Germany are all conducting investigations of what they call allegations of wrongdoing by the Agency. How would you assess the Agency's partnerships with foreign intelligence agencies? Have they been damaged by these developments, stories, leaks, etc.? How would you assess your current standing at this point?
General Hayden: That's a great question. Obviously, I can't draw a cause and effect between revelations and what may have happened. I can say, as a matter of principle, though, very clearly, that our inability as a nation to keep secrets harms our ability to cooperate with other intelligence agencies around the world. Clearly, much of the activity that we do is sensitive. And if an ally believes--fears--that we can't keep such activities private, then that ally is going to be much more reluctant to deal with us on these most sensitive matters. That is a real cost to our intelligence relationships with what we call liaison partners. That said, this Agency has worked very hard to strengthen relationships with the intelligence services of like-minded nations. In my first two months on the job, I must have contacted about three dozen of my counterparts around the world by phone -- introduced myself to them, these are people who have cooperated with us in one way or another over the years. I introduced myself to them personally, told them to feel free to call me at any time when there were problems or concerns, or areas of mutural interest, that we needed to discuss. So we've worked very hard on partnering with like-minded and like-valued nations.
Green: And General, I imagine that throughout your career, which has gone some 25-30 years, I suppose, you have made acquaintances with people in different positions, and, as time has passed, you have maintained those relationships. People who may actually be in foreign governments, obviously. Is that the case, and is that helpful? Have you found it to be helpful at any point since you've been in this position?
General Hayden: It is beyond helpful. Many times, it is essential. To be able to pick up a phone and track down a counterpart in another country, and know, going in from the first word of the conversation, that it's a personal conversation, that you are dealing with someone in whom you have confidence and someone who has confidence in you, it really is priceless. There was one instance in a previous job, where I actually had to call the head of a foreign service, get him out of a family wedding that was going on, on a Saturday afternoon in his country -- I knew him, I knew his wife, and the first thing I said to him was, using his wife's name, "Please tell her I'm sorry, but I have to talk to you." ((laughter)) It's absolutely essential. Look, there are a lot of good people out there. I used the phrase a few minutes ago, "like-minded and like-valued nations." There are a lot of nations out there who are friends to this country and friendly to this country's values. And we would be foolish not to establish relationships with these kinds of people since our interests and our concerns are almost coincident.
Green: What about other countries, though, the ones that aren't friendly...obviously are not sworn enemies, but those that may not be committed. Do you have a process or protocol under way to try to improve relations with countries that may be borderline or may be "out there," that you would like to improve relations with?
General Hayden: Hard to get into specifics, so I won't. Clearly, any relationship we have has to be consistent with broader U.S. policy with the other nation. That said, there are times when it is quite possible and quite appropriate for us to maintain robust intelligence relationships even while we are having what I could describe as very severe policy differences with that same nation. That is quite common.
Green: General, moving on to another area. Among us who cover the war on terror regularly, there are a couple of names that always seem to float to the top, and there is always a bunch of speculation going on about what's going on with these people. A number of intelligence analysts, this is out in the private sector, have said since we have heard nothing from Osama bin Laden for a very long time, and no responses from Ayman al-Zawahiri in over a month, since a Pakistani air strike, that they are dead. What do you think of this hypothesis, and is that us just speculating....I mean the media, doing what we do best, or doing the only thing we can do because of the lack of information?
General Hayden: Uh-huh. ((laughter)) I have no reason to believe that these people are not alive. That is the best I can do in an open environment, J.J., that I have no reason to believe they are not still alive, and willing us harm and working to hurt the people and values of the United States.
Green: One of the things that has come up about their strategies and tactics is that you can never pinpoint what these guys are up to. Give me your sense of how to approach the war on terror against Al-Qaida. Give me how you view of what it is that they are trying to get accomplished now, because they have had to make some significant changes since 9/11 in their operating process, because their backs have been pushed against the wall, many of their key leaders have either been captured or are dead. So give me your sense of how you think they are operating now.
General Hayden: OK. It is going to be a bit of a long answer and I'm going to do it on two tracks, but both tracks will be united by one underlying theme, and that is that their time horizon is very, very long. With that as a backdrop, the first track: The organization that attacked us more than five years ago has been badly crippled if not dismantled by American action since then. We use numbers like 60 percent or 65 percent of the Al-Qaida leadership in 2001 has been killed or captured. What has happened though, is that it has been a very adaptive enemy -- adaptive in several ways. The first, and the President made this clear in a series of speeches about a year ago, you have Al-Qaida as an organization; then you have Al-Qaida and organizations that are affiliated with it, Jamiat Islamiyah in Southeast Asia, for example, Al-Qaida in Iraq is another organization that is affiliated with Al-Qaida, and there you see the connective tissue between AQ and AQ-affiliated, in terms of funds, personnel, materiel, guidance, and so on; the third layer is not Al-Qaida, and not Al Qaida affiliated, but Al Qaida inspired. And that is what you are seeing, I think, for example -- and again, the jury is still out and we are still trying to learn details with this -- but a lot of the activity in Great Britain that you have seen over the past two years, from the 7 July bombings in the subway system there to last August's activity with regard to trans-Atlantic airliners -- some of that, at least some of that, is Al Qaida-inspired. So that is one track, the enemy adapting.
The other track I would like to talk to you about is that we, in our response to that, have been quite good in what I'll call the tactical -- the killing and capturing. In fact, we have been remarkably successful, and that may be one of the things that Admiral Redd, the head of NCTC, was talking to you about when he said, "When the history of this is written, you're going to see a lot of things that will make you feel good about what the American security establishment has accomplished over the last five yearrs." At the tactical level, at the operational level, there is a lot of good news.
But fundamentally, this won't be won at the tactical level. At the strategic level, where the actions will be decisive, this is fundamentally a war of ideas. And at that level, we still have work to do in terms of marshaling our nation's resources to fight this war at that level as well. So beyond the killing and capturing, beyond the disrupting organizations, beyond the breaking up of cells, the real achievement will be, again, in winning the war of ideas. That people no longer see as legitimate the kinds of activities that we saw on September 11th, 2001 in our own country. That people no longer see as legitimate the kind of car bombings against innocents in marketplaces in Iraq . Pick your location. Morocco . Madrid . Istanbul . London . That people, again, don't see that as a legitimate way of social or pollitical change. That is going to take a great deal of time, and we are going to have to marshal the resources of our nation to do that -- not unlike the way we did it in the Cold War. If you look at the Cold War, and that half-century conflict, it too was fundamentally a conflict of ideas. And fundamentally, it was ideas that led to the defeat of our enemy during that war. Same same here. But there are additional challenges. We're a Western nation. The ideas we're talking about are happening inside one of the world's great religions. The tools we have to effect that debate are distant and limited, and our right to comment on that probably has limited legitimacy. In that case, though, we do have friends and allies who enjoyed different historic and religious traditions than we do, and it going to be very important for them to step up in this war of ideas, and to say to the people who would choose violence, that there are alternative paths.
Green: General, looking at the ideas that you are talking about, and the process of moving people beyond -- the not so current thinking now but the thinking that certainly was in place on 9/11 in the minds of many who committed these atrocities and many of those who are working with Al-Qaida's affiliates and inspired organizations and many of their sympathizers and supporters, and moving people beyond that kind of thinking. Clearly, it takes more than just guns. It takes more than just force or military might. It takes thinking people. The CIA no doubt has those people within its ranks. So am I hearing you say that the CIA is thinking about how to do this in the future, as time passes, how to win those hearts and minds? How to participate in this thinking game with people, to move people's thinking away from where the terrorists want them, to a place where it can better benefit mankind? Is that what I'm hearing you say?
General Hayden: That is exactly what you are hearing me say. And that is the great challenge we have. For much of the life of this Agency, a great deal of expertise was put into understanding communism and looking at the military readiness rates in Group Soviet Forces-Germany, or the deployment rate of SS-18 interncontinental ballistic missiles. All of that is fairly familiar to us, even communism is a Western philosophy, developed in Germany and in England . Now, we are being asked to master and understand cultures and belief systems -- as rich as we are as an immigrant nation, as rich as we are in terms of welcoming a variety of views and cultures into the American mainstream -- despite that richness, we are being asked to look into societies and cultures that are largely not our own, and to understand them to a great level of detail, to a high level of perception. That is very challenging. And frankly, that is what this Agency has to do. I said before, it is the nation's premier analytic agency for national customers, for our highest ranking policymakers. And so what we have to offer them is not information or data -- deployment rates to the readiness rates of a Soviet tank army in Germany -- but wisdom....understanding....of these kinds of trends and movements. That's a tall order, and that's what we're about.
Green: We're talking with General Michael Hayden, he's the Director of the Central Agency, and we'll have more in just a moment. When we come back, we'll discuss more about his views, the goals of the Agency, and the challenges.
General, you talked to us so far about a number of things that have taken place since you've been on the job -- the six months you have been on the job. But one thing I want to get to, because it clearly is going to determine how your next six months go, and that is Robert Gates. You've known him for a while. What kind of relationship do you have with him, and what do you look forward to, what can we look forward to, between the two of you, working-wise, assuming that he is confirmed by Congress? What can we look forward to, from him and you?
General Hayden: You are right in saying that Bob Gates has been a friend. He was the deputy national security adviser to General Scowcroft, under the President Bush "41"Administration, and I was on the National Security Council staff at that time as a Lieutenant Colonel. And so I got to know Bob Gates at that point. We stayed in touch throughout the years. During the debate several years back on the Director of National Intelligence and the restructuring of the American Intelligence Community, as I was trying to identify truth, goodness, and beauty in my own mind with regard to a way ahead, I called him, I talked with him, he offered me advice. So we have stayed very much in contact. I very much look forward to working with him, as you correctly point out, assuming he is confirmed as Secretary of Defense. We talked in the last week, after his nomination was announced, and, again, assuming confirmation, I'm sure this will be a very good partnership.
Green: General, lots of challenges out there that can only be managed with all of the country's agencies and organizations being on the same page. And DOD and CIA have to work together, I'm assuming, very closely, on a number of elements as they relate to the war on terror. Is there a wish list, or any things on your mind as you view your priorities for the coming timeframe that you would like to see happen with reference to this relationship?
General Hayden: With the Department of Defense? I'm glad you asked, because let me try to set the backdrop for this before I answer your question specifically. There isa bit of an urban legend out there, that the distance between here and the Pentagon, which is about seven miles down the river, is the line of confrontation. That's simply not true. I actually talked about this during my own confirmation hearings, and some of the members of the Senate [Intelligence] Committee talked about -- what's the right word, I don't mean to misquote them, I'll paraphrase -- an expansion of defense activity in the intelligence realm and that sort of thing. I answered then, and I'll repeat it now: We are happy to have other players on the field. The Defense Department performing additional intelligence tasks is good news for America ; it brings more resources to a problem we have discussed as being very, very difficult. The only question, of course, is like any team, that the performance and activities of the new players are coordinated with the squad already out there on the field. And I have to tell you, that activity is coordinated. This is fundamentally a good news story. I am the national human intelligence manager; it comes with the job. I have the responsibility by law and policy to coordinate, deconflict, and evaluate all human intelligence activity in the US Government performed by any organ of the US Government, including the Department of Defense. We do that out here. I have a staff that does that for me. And conflicts are few and far between, and quickly resolved. And generally are caused by junior officers who don't have a clear understanding of some things. In essence, what I think you are going to see with Mr. Gates taking the Department of Defense, is reinforcing the success that we've had under Secretary Rumsfeld, and frankly, with Under Secretary for Intelligence Steve Cambone.
Green: General, what bothers you the most about your job? What bothers you the most about what you are faced with, what you have to do because...and I'm sure you know this, people view you as a guy who gets things done, a guy who is able to manage things and make things look a little easier than they actually are. What bothers you about your job? What bothers you about what you have to do, and what you have to work with to get it done, or what you face?
General Hayden: A couple of things, one personal and one, more kind of institutional. The personal one is that every morning I get in the car at about 6:45 a.m., and I'm handed my morning read book, which comprises elements of the President's brief plus a whole bunch of other cable traffic. It takes me about an hour, an hour and 10 minutes to get through it. I read it on my way out here to Headquarters, usually finish a little bit before 8 a.m. It is really hard to have an optimistic view on life after going through the book. I mean, there is rarely a good news story, anywhere inside, that hour, hour and ten minutes of reading. So number one, there is a challenge, again, just keeping up optimism. That's my answer with regard to a personal basis.
Institutionally, this is a critical time in the history of the republic. We are trying to deal with a new kind of threat that puts the individual safety of our citizens more at risk than any threat we've had since probably the American Civil War. And we're trying to do it without changing our DNA as a nation. We have a threat that isn't a nation-state -- what I'm talking about here now is the war on terrorism, there are a lot of other issues out there, too, that we have to tend to -- but in this particular threat, which is clearly "Job One," when you ask, what are our priorities, number one is defense of the homeland and number two is the global war on terrorism. You wouldn't have gotten that answer 10 or 15 or 20 years ago. And both of those realities bring up the safety of individual Americans in ways, again, we haven't experienced for more than a century. How do we go about doing that? Doing it successfully, and doing it ways that don't change our character? That is hard work, and I don't think the nation is going to be very understanding or very forgiving if we fail. And so that's a pretty focused environment in which we have to operate.
Green: That leads me to my next question, how to improve that. So what would you say is your overall vision for the CIA's future? How do you use what you have -- technologies that are coming on line, obviously plans, people, ideas that are out there, now -- to shape them into one big tool for the CIA to improve that picture for the future? What is your vision for doing that?
General Hayden: A couple of things. One I mentioned earlier, and that is get our focus back on work. Out of the news as source or subject. Focus on what it is the nation expects us to do. That's number one. Number two, internal to the organization, break down any unnecessary barriers between our constituent parts. I mentoned earlier we have two primary functions and other activities as well. We've got a Natonal Clandestine Service, human intelligence; we have a Directorate of Intelligence; that's our analysts; the Directorate of Science and Technology, obviously that's fairly self-explanatory. Each of those kind of have their own culture. That's understandable. Actually, that's desirable, because they are different kinds of work. But the leadership team here now -- myself; Steve Kappes, the deputy; Michael Morell, the associate deputy director -- we all agree that we will be more efficient as an Agency, and therfore better able to serve the nation, if we mute more of those cultural differences. And I'm choosing my words carefully here. I don't want them to go away. There are differences between each of these tasks laid out in front of us. But we may have emphasized the differences a bit too much and not emphasized the commonality of being part of a Central Intelligence Agency. So that is the next step. Getting more unity of effort here. In straightforward terms, looking a little more left and right inside the Agency, and being able to cooperate and communicate more easily inside the Agency.
The third step, beyond "back to work" and doing some shifts in our culture, is to bring the right kind of people on board. We are blessed as a nation, we are blessed as an Agency. We had about 130,000 applications last year. We're growing at a tremendous rate. The numbers by which we grow and the overall size of the Agency are all classified, but I can tell you this -- one seventh of this Agency was hired in the last 12 months. That is tremendous growth. That is a tremendous opportunity to get the right kinds of folks in. But it also creates some tremendous torque and tremendous stress. One-seventh of your agency here with 12 months or less experience requires an awful lot of coaching and mentoring to go on. This is a tremendous opportunity, but there is some risk involved here as well. If we get it right, if we hire the right people, and Lord knows we have the pick of the nation because of the interest in security now -- and we do it well once they have arrived -- we have fixed, we have set the trajectory of the Agency at least for a decade, a healthy trajectory. But that is a challenges, and it has got to be done now. The current leadership has to do this right, otherwise the leadership in 5, 10, or 15 years from now will have to pay the price for it.
Green: So that means what you have just told me about that one-seventh number, that 40 percent of the CIA's workforce joined after 9/11.
General Hayden: That's right. About 40 percent after 9/11.
Green: How are they being prepared for their jobs, and does that training differ from previous training protocols -- training, say, from before 9/11?
General Hayden: It differs in a couple of ways, but, then again, there are some basic fundamentals, too. I know I overuse sports metaphors, but the best coaches have some training regimens that they rely on and they prove successful year after year after year. So do we. But there are other things, though, that we have to adjust. I mentioned earlier using non-traditional platforms, working in ways differently than we have in the past. Clearly our training has to accommodate that. In addition, this is a different kind of entering cohort than we had 20 years ago. We're living in a different kind of world. I can still remember, about a decade or so ago, visiting an ally and their analytic organization, and seeing someone literally go into his left-hand desk drawer, and pull out a shoebox of 3 x 5 cards with information on them. Clearly, we've got to take advantage of the cultural inclinations of our entering cohorts and the information technology available to us right now. So our training has to adjust to that as well. We have to build tools so that our analysts can deal with this flood of information. So, I guess my answer is, the core things -- traditional values, absolutely. But there are other things that have to be added as well for us to be successful.
Green: I should have asked this before, but I'll put it to you now. Specifically, since we're talking about training newbies, people who are just coming to the Agency, to deal with the age in which we live, and that age can't be mentioned without talking about a much more aggressive, a much more pervasive press, media, all over the place. Is there a protocol, is there some type of training that they can get to deal with this media, because I have to admit that we don't always make the best of decisions in terms of what we do. How are they schooled on that?
General Hayden: First of all, the first schooling, obviously, is that what is secret has to be secret. And you have to protect things. I know there are criticisms out there that things may be overclassified and so on, but the other side of the coin is also true. There are some things that are genuinely secret and they have to stay secret. We spend a lot of energy training our folks in the need to maintain that secrecy, maintain that security. We really do. We do it more here than any other agency in the American Intelligence Community, just because of the nature of our work. We don't really teach folks, "But if you are going to talk to the press let me tell you how to do that." What we try to do is to allow our Office of Public Affairs to have a robust interface with the press and then to facilitate that dialogue between us and the press. Let me make sure this is very clear. If you want to paint what I just said with a dark brush, you would accuse Mark Mansfield, our Director of Public Affairs, to be a gatekeeper. That's not what I mean. I really do mean facilitator. I said in my public testimony that we needed to be out of the news as source or subject. But I also recognize that we do have a responsibility to the American public to give them enough information to be aware of what it is we do, again I'm talking about information that can safely be put into the public domain, that doesn't help our enemies. We are not talking about "no comment" at any time on any story. In fact, quite the opposite. We want to have a rich relationship with the press, because we have found that if we have a rich relationship with the press, it is easier for folks in your profession to understand when we say, "That one can't go out there. That one can't be made public. Bad things will happen to Americans." If you have that relationship built up over a longer period of time, that conversation is a lot easier.
Green: General, a few more questions, and we'll be done. In any discussion about CIA, we have to talk about missteps. There have been some -- some before you got here -- that your critics hang on to, your critics still talk about some of the missteps that have taken place. I won't go into them, but everyone knows that there have been some situations that have come up within the last five years that people are questioning now. "Why did this happen" and, you know, people have questioned why certain people who were agents, or case officers, I think they are referred to, did this or that. So my question is, how do you address the critics of the Agency when they throw these things at you, when they say, "Well listen, you're talking about how you want to proceed in the future, but first you've got clean up some of your messes in the past? How do you address critics who bring that up?
General Hayden: Number one, we do have aggressive oversight inside the Agency. We have an empowered Inspector General who is confirmed by the Congress and has a reporting function to the Congress as well, and so that kind of oversight is embedded in our very structure. We need to go further though. I can't remember the exact words I used, I was kind of adlibbing them, but we had a graduating class of case officers several weeks ago, and I talked to them. And one of the things I mentioned to them was this question of ethics. I said the nation is going to ask you to go out and do things, to paraphrase it, to do things in the shadows, do things that if they weren't being done by you, other people might have real questions with regard to their lawfulness and morality and so on. And I said to the new graduates, "Do you understand the moral burden that puts on you? Do you understand the ethical standards by which you must now be held?" When you work with human sources, as sources of intelligence, just think about the multiple dimensions that brings into that venue, into that dialogue, because of the very nature of your work. I have found in my six months here that this is the most ethical organization I have ever had the opportunity to be a part of. And it almost just comes with the territory. You can't do this kind of work without the highest ethical standards and the highest expectations for yourself and for the people with whom you work.
Green: General, you said recently, and I'm going to quote this accurately, it is often said that intelligence is the tip of the spear, true enough, but in today's world, intelligence is even more than that. It is the single most effective weapon in our national security arsenal. Explain why that is, and, if it is, how important is it for intelligence to always be correct?
General Hayden: "Always be correct" is a very high bar. I recall in another commentary, at another time, I said something along the lines of, "If we were sure, it wouldn't be intelligence." ((laughter)) It is just the nature of it. There is always some degree of ambiguity, Now that doesn't relieve us of our responsibility to get it right as many times as we can possibly get it right. We just need to put that marker down. Let me show you the difference, and now I'm focusing on the global war on terrorism. As I've said, defense of the homeland and terror are the number one and number two priorities of the Agency.
I'm old enough to remember that other war, that Cold War thing. There, we had an enemy who was easy to find -- you knew where those Echelon tank armies were in Eastern Europe -- he was hard to kill. You had to bring an awful lot of firepower to bear against that kind of enemy. Now, think of what we have today.
Green: The reverse.
General Hayden: It's just the reverse. Easy to kill, and I'm using "kill" here a bit metaphorically -- kill, capture, disable, disrupt, and so on. Hard to find. That describes our enemy in the war on terrorism. So now you can understand why so much emphasis in the last five years has been placed on intelligence. It is locating that threat, it is identifying where, precisely, that threat is, so that you can use the tools of the nation in a precise way -- remember the war of ideas we talked about earlier -- to defend ourselves and to do it in a way that the entire planet understands, "That was a legitimate use of force," or a legitimate use of the sovereign power of the United States. This is an intelligence war. And we are going to win it or lose it based upon our intelligence.
Green: Two more questions, General. What would you say is the biggest threat to the nation's security at this point in time, here in the States or anywhere in the world. What is the biggest threat?
General Hayden: It is the threat posed by global terrorism, clearly. As I said earlier, in a way we haven't experienced for more than a century. It is a very real, not theoretical threat, to the safety of every American. I undertand that during the Cold War we had mutually assured destruction, nuclear weapons, and so on, and the danger there was catastrophic, but the probability was quite low. This is different. Anybody getting on an airplane, anybody traveling overseas, anybody visiting at an embassy overseas -- that threat is more real than anything our citizens have experienced since, as I said earlier, probably our Civil War.
Green: Is there anything you want to add, General, that I haven't asked you, that you think is important, that you would like to talk about?
General Hayden: I would like to thank the folks who work for the Central Intelligence Agency. We're in a Holiday Season here, we are trying to give as much of our workforce some time off as possible, but we won't get the same time off that some other professions get. I know an awful lot of listeners actually work here. And I want to take this opportunity to say "thanks" to our officers who work here, and I really want to say thanks to their families. I don't think the American public appreciates enough the peculiar and special burdens that working for an organization like CIA places on our members and on our families. One of the most touching moments I had during our Family Day here in September: Two groups of people, one were those new cohorts, the 20-somethings, coming up and introducing me to Mom and Dad who had just driven in from Memphis or Toledo or wherever. And the other group, who were people in their 40s, who were introducing me to their teenaged children, and Mom and Dad were telling me that the teenagers just learned where Mom and Dad worked. That's a burden we put on our officers, on their spouses, and on their immediate families that no other profession does. So I just want to say "thanks."
Green: Well, General, with that, you've actually brought up another question that I need to ask you, and I can't leave without doing it. How has this job changed your life?
General Hayden: The operational tempo here is pretty high. ((laughter)) And one has to work pretty hard to stay ahead of the things that the job and the nation require, so that has been one aspect of it. The other aspect has been the degree to which the workforce has been very welcoming of me and the leadership team, and we've tried to bring our spouses into this as well, in order to take care of families, to show interest in families. So I've been pleased with the way they have welcomed the new leadership team and their spouses to Langley and the other parts of CIA.
Green: And your family has been able to manage this well, as well?
General Hayden: The family has been making those kinds of sacrifices I just described...they are making it in this job, too.
Green: General Michael Hayden, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, thank you for taking the time to sit down and talk with us, and to demystify for us the CIA, but also to give us a bit of a roadmap, to the degree you could, for where intelligence in the Agency and, indeed, for this country, is going in the future.
General Hayden: Thanks J.J. Thanks for coming by.