(Posted with permission from Meet the Press)
March 30, 2008
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, General Mike Hayden, appeared on Meet the Press on March 30, 2008. Below is the transcript of the interview.
MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday, the CIA, the Central Intelligence Agency: its mission, its successes, its failures and its future challenges with Iraq, Iran, al-Qaeda and more. With us, a Sunday morning exclusive interview, the director of the CIA, General Michael Hayden, only on MEET THE PRESS.
Then, should Hillary Clinton consider ending her campaign? Yes, says New York Times columnist David Brooks. No, says The New Republic's editor at large, Peter Beinart. Brooks and Beinart square off on the race for the White House 2008.
But first, the CIA And here to talk about its role in a very difficult and complicated world is General Michael Hayden, his first Sunday morning interview as director of the CIA. General, welcome.
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Morning, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: This was the scene yesterday in Basra, Iraq. Shiite militiamen on the streets, holding their weapons. What is going on in Basra, Iraq?
GEN. HAYDEN: What we have is, is, is a very decisive act on the part of Prime Minister Maliki to get personally involved and commit his forces and his government to extending Iraqi government control over parts of Iraqi that, frankly, have not been under much central government control now for several years. It's a very decisive moment; it's a very challenging thing. I guess one would say that success is not guaranteed. But when I, when I talked to my analysts on Friday afternoon, they said that, based on this effort, they expect the situation in Iraq to be better at the end of what's going on now than it was at the beginning.
MR. RUSSERT: There are reports that the prime minister miscalculated the seriousness and the difficulty of rooting out these Shiite militiamen who had taken control of Basra.
GEN. HAYDEN: It, it, it's a very difficult challenge that he's strapped on. He's strapped it on largely with his own forces, the I.S.F., the Iraqi, Iraqi Security Forces. It has proven to be very, very difficult. But I think the, the real telling moment, the real crossover point in all this is the political decision to take action. I mean, I mean, a lot of people in this country have criticized the Iraqis for, for not stepping up, for, for not taking advantage of the breathing space that's been created by, frankly, coalition military activity. Here's a case of an Iraqi leader stepping up.
MR. RUSSERT: This is an article, Friday's paper: "[Iraqi] Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ... decided to launch the offensive without consulting his U.S. allies, according to administration officials. With little U.S. presence in the south, and British forces in Basra confined to an air base outside the city, one administration official said that, `we can't quite decipher' what is going on. It's a question, he said, of `who's got the best conspiracy' theory about why Maliki decided to act now." The United States was not informed by the Iraqis that we--he was going to do this?
GEN. HAYDEN: I, I don't know what on--what went on on the ground in Baghdad prior to the operation. I do know that this was a decision of the Iraqi government by the prime minister and personally by the prime minister, and that he's relying on Iraqi forces, by and large, to take this action.
MR. RUSSERT: Were you aware of it?
GEN. HAYDEN: I was--in terms of being prebriefed or, or having, you know, the, the normal planning process in which you build up to this days or weeks ahead of time, no. No, I was not.
MR. RUSSERT: You didn't know it was going to happen?
GEN. HAYDEN: No more so than Dave Petraeus or Ambassador Crocker did.
MR. RUSSERT: About 70 percent of the city of Basra controlled by Shiite militia. Is the goal to have that entire city controlled by the Iraqi government?
GEN. HAYDEN: Of course it is. But, but this is going to have to happen in stages. And, and you're right, about 70 percent of the city controlled by militia, armed gangs, criminal elements. It's, it's, it's a real stew down there, Tim, in terms of the different factions. And they were in a bit of an equilibrium between and among these armed factions over the past several months, and violence had been reduced. But I don't think anyone could think that that equilibrium was an acceptable long-term solution.
MR. RUSSERT: The prime minister said that the elements that were controlling Basra were "worse than al-Qaeda." Do you agree with that?
GEN. HAYDEN: Their activity has mirrored some of the atrocities of al-Qaeda. I don't know that I'd try to sit back here and put a moral calculus on, on either of them. But I do know this, all right? They were beyond the writ of the Iraqi government, they were exercising the attributes of sovereignty, I mean, exclusive use of violence, for example. It should be the province of the Iraqi state.
MR. RUSSERT: I want to go back to '07 when Bob Woodward wrote a piece in The Washington Post about comments you made to the Iraqi Study Group, and have a chance to talk about that regarding Iraq.
"On the morning of November 13, 2006, members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group gathered ... in the ... Roosevelt Room of the White House. CIA Director Michael Hayden ... said, `the inability of the [Iraqi] government to govern seems irreversible,' adding that he could not `point to any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around,' according to written records of his briefing and the recollections of six participants.
"`The government is unable to govern,' Hayden concluded. `We have spent a lot of energy and treasure creating a government that is balance, and it cannot function.'"
Is that an accurate assessment of what you said?
GEN. HAYDEN: It's an incomplete assessment of, of what I said. What, what I said was inability to govern or turn this around in the short term is, is what I precisely said. And then I, I tried to use a sports metaphor. I talked about running a marathon, and what I, what I said to the, to the group there is I'd run a marathon in Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh's pretty hilly, as you know, and at about mile 21 there's a two-mile downhill stretch. And as you get down to the bottom of that hill, it's only three miles to the finish and you run three miles before church on Sunday. So I knew if I got to mile 22, there was a natural break that would begin to turn things into my favor. What I was saying to the commission was, there were no longer any natural breaks lying ahead of us that would turn things in our favor. It had to be done with just slogging through hard work. There were no upcoming elections, for example, no upcoming changes in the political structure that would be natural breaks. That's what I was trying to say to the committee.
MR. RUSSERT: Was the surge a natural break?
GEN. HAYDEN: The surge created an opportunity. The surge, in its own way, was an artificial imposition of a break. It changed the equation. That's exactly what it did. And it allowed some space for the Iraqis to step up, and they've begun to do that.
MR. RUSSERT: Could Prime Minister Maliki have been successful in Basra if, in fact, he is without considerable U.S. air power and, and operational support on the ground?
GEN. HAYDEN: Well, we'll see. Only, only now do we begin to see perhaps an increased reliance on, on coalition fire power. You know, we've, we've made the point when people talk about the American troop presence in Iraq that it's not so much coalition power, coalition combat power that's the measure. What you need is combat power that is competent and evenhanded. And that, over time, we would expect more and more of that definition to be met by Iraqi security forces. Now you see Maliki trying to do this now, and, and, frankly, he may not have enough Iraqi competent and evenhanded combat power to pull this off. Hence, the need for some coalition support.
MR. RUSSERT: In fact, you said that two weeks ago that an abrupt pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq would remove needed competent and evenhanded combat power from the country. "We are not at the point where the Iraqis can provide all of that. And I don't think we'll be at that point for some time.'"
GEN. HAYDEN: That's correct.
MR. RUSSERT: What is "for some time"?
GEN. HAYDEN: I--the better experts on this are going to be coming into town next week. Dave Petraeus, the commander of multinational forces in Iraq, and Ambassador Crocker. I think they'll be able to, to give a better description of it. But what I was trying to express when I said that, you know, this is not something that's going to happen next week or next month. This is going to be a gradual slope as Iraqis, again, build this competence in terms of their combat power and apply it in a more evenhanded way.
MR. RUSSERT: It's going to take years.
GEN. HAYDEN: I think so.
MR. RUSSERT: The report from Iraq was supposed to be given to Congress, I believe on today. It's being delayed somewhat. Is that because of the situation in Basra?
GEN. HAYDEN: I'm sorry, what report?
MR. RUSSERT: From Iraq from General Petraeus.
GEN. HAYDEN: I, I, I'm just not aware of the precise timeline.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you think this military activity in Basra is a setback for political reconciliation in Iraq?
GEN. HAYDEN: You, you know, Tim, this was something that we all knew we had to go through. This was inevitable. This had to be resolved. You just can't have the second major city in the country--economically, the most important city in the country--beyond the control of the government. And so, although, you know, there, there's a certain sense of--what's the right word, Tim?--disappointment in, in that--the fact that violence is increasing, we knew we couldn't get to where we had to be for the Iraqi state, for a modern democratic Iraqi state, without going through this.
MR. RUSSERT: You were not at the CIA on September 11th, 2001 and the successive months after that. You were at the National Security Agency. But looking back at what the American people were told about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, was there a colossal intelligence failure?
GEN. HAYDEN: Yeah, we got it wrong. All right? And although I wasn't at the CIA, I was in the room when that National Intelligence Estimate was approved by the community--it wasn't just a CIA document--and frankly, Tim, I voted yes. It was my belief that what we were saying in that document was correct.
MR. RUSSERT: Why did you get it wrong?
GEN. HAYDEN: Lots of reasons. This, this has certainly been gone over by whole generation of American intelligence officers. There are a couple of narratives. I can suggest a few to you right now. Number one, maybe momentum in terms of what we knew about Iraq, what we had learned about Iraq. And even though our more recent reporting had been very thin, we still kind of carried the old conclusions forward without, frankly, holding them up enough to the light in order to see whether or not they were still valid. I, I'll tell you this. I've seen since then, I've seen estimates that we've had with high confidence turn to medium confidence. And I'd say to our analysts, "Why is that now medium confidence? Nothing's changed." And, and the answer is, "Yes, but the information on which it has been based has aged off, and therefore we're reducing our confidence level." So we've gone to school on this.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Pakistan. This was the article on Thursday in The Washington Post. "The United States has escalated its unilateral strikes against al-Qaeda members and fighters"--excuse me--"operating in Pakistan's tribal areas, partly because of anxieties that Pakistan's new leaders will insist on scaling back military operations in that country, according to U.S. officials.
"Washington is worried that pro-Western President Pervez Musharraf, who has generally supported the U.S. strikes, will almost certainly have reduced powers in the months ahead, and so it wants to inflict as much damage as it can to al-Qaeda's network now, the officials said."
Can you confirm that?
GEN. HAYDEN: No. I'm not--or I can't talk about--confirm or deny any, any operational activity by CIA or any other organ of the U.S. government. But, but what I can tell you about is the situation along the Af-Pak border, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which presents clear and present danger to Afghanistan, to Pakistan and to the West in general, and to the United States in particular.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that's where Osama bin Laden is?
GEN. HAYDEN: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, believes that there is--if there is another terrorist attack, it will originate there.
GEN. HAYDEN: We believe so, too. We, we, we can see what's going on. Our--you, you talked before about intelligence and how good or ill we have been in the past. We've gotten much better against al-Qaeda, and, of course, tomorrow we should be better than we are today. So, you know, that's not an absolute scale. We have to keep getting better. But it's very clear to us that al-Qaeda has been able, over the past 18 months or so, to establish a safe haven along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area that they have not enjoyed before, that they are bringing operatives into that region for training, operatives that, a phrase I would use, Tim, wouldn't attract your attention if they were going through the customs line at Dulles with you when you're coming back from overseas.
MR. RUSSERT: Look, look, look Western?
GEN. HAYDEN: Look Western, who, who, who would be able to come into this country with--again, without attracting the kind of attention that others might.
MR. RUSSERT: You're getting better local cooperation?
GEN. HAYDEN: We have good cooperation with a variety of allies, and, and I should add, maybe as a point to some of the things that were made in The Washington Post article, that--a counterpoint to it, that we have not had a better partner in the war against terrorism than the Pakistani government.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that President Musharraf will be there by June?
GEN. HAYDEN: I don't know. This is, this is going to be a product of the Pakistani political process.
MR. RUSSERT: You talked about some internal divisions within al-Qaeda, between Saudis and Egyptians. Do you believe that Osama bin Laden is simply a figurehead?
GEN. HAYDEN: A figurehead would, would not give him sufficient weight. Let me use iconic figure. It, it--his presence--and icon's the best word I can think of--gives certain punch, certain image to the, to the global movement. But he's not operationally involved. And an awful lot, an awful lot of the operational force of al-Qaeda--you know, the Arabic name is the name and then often finished by the country they're from--an awful lot of them are al-Masris, which means "the Egyptians."
MR. RUSSERT: In 2006, President Musharraf had an agreement with some of the tribal lords, saying that it would be hands off by the Pakistani army. The result of that seems to be this increased terrorist activity or at least organizational ability. Was that a mistake by Musharraf?
GEN. HAYDEN: Absolutely disastrous. All right? And then, and then, and, look, to be fair to President Musharraf, in different times and in different circumstances, all of us would think that what he had, what he had decided to do was wise, was patient, was, was what you need to do over the long term. The problem was what was happening over the short term. He, he was, in fact, pulling forces and the writ of the Pakistani government back from the tribal region, and al-Qaeda and the Taliban were having more and more free reign there. And so, again, the overall objective, you know, in the easier military hand--more economic, cultural, political integration, investment, worked for the long term, it's inarguable. But what it turned into since September of '06, when Governor Aurakzai signed that peace agreement in north Waziristan is what I referred to a minute ago. It created that safe haven.
MR. RUSSERT: Did you tell Musharraf when you met with him in January about that?
GEN. HAYDEN: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: And he's changed?
GEN. HAYDEN: He, he--yes. He's--he, he understands.
MR. RUSSERT: One last question on that. Could we apprehend bin Laden, but are we concerned if we did it would jeopardize our ability to monitor what al-Qaeda's doing?
GEN. HAYDEN: No. Bin Laden, Zawahiri, the other leadership of al-Qaeda, I suppose one could make an argument on the one hand, on the other hand. But I can tell you, operationally, we, we are turning every effort to kill or capture that leadership from the top to the bottom.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the whole issue of the apprehension of a terrorist--or alleged terrorists and how they're treated. The--as you know, several years ago the Army, in its manual, rewrote the sections about torture and interrogation. "A new U.S. Army manual bans torture and degrading treatment of prisoners, for the first time specifically mentioning forced nakedness, hooding and other procedures that have become infamous since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. ...
"It also explicitly bans beating prisoners, sexually humiliating them, threatening them with dogs, depriving them of food or water, performing mock executions, shocking them with electricity, burning them, causing other pain and a technique called water torturing--or `waterboarding' that simulates drowning, said Lieutenant General John Kimmons, Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence. Officials said the revisions are based on lessons learned since the U.S. began taking prisoners in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the" U.S.
Now, that's the Army.
GEN. HAYDEN: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: Does not apply to the Central Intelligence Agency.
GEN. HAYDEN: Correct.
MR. RUSSERT: But John McCain, who will be the Republican nominee for president, a former POW, said this: "All I can say is that" waterboarding "was used in the Spanish Inquisition, it was used in Pol Pot's genocide in Cambodia, and there are reports that it is being used against Buddhist monks today. ... It is torture."
Do you believe that waterboarding's torture?
GEN. HAYDEN: What's more important is what the Department of Justice believes, and, frankly, the question of waterboarding, I've, I tried to point this out in as many ways as I can publicly, is an uninteresting question for the Central Intelligence Agency. We have not--and I, I made this public last month--we have not waterboarded anyone in now over five years, and only three people have been waterboarded in in the life of the CIA's interrogation program.
The issue with the Army Field Manual is not the false dichotomy that, that some people want to create, that on the one hand you've got the Army field manual and on the other hand you've got the licensing of torture. That, that's not the choice at all. The Army has listed--and by the way, the real debate, the real impact for us isn't on the list of things you've forbidden. That's fairly uninteresting to us. What's critical for the Army Field Manual, were it to be applied to CIA, is what's authorized and limiting the CIA only to what's authorized. No one claims that that list of authorized techniques in the Army Field Manual exhausts the universe of lawful interrogation techniques that the republic can draw on to defend itself. And so the issue for us is, is, is not torture or licensing torture or licensing waterboarding. And to the best of my ability I've made it very clear that we don't do that. But to limit us to what America's Army thinks they can train young soldiers to do under minimal supervision against lawful combatants in a transient battlefield situation, when our circumstances are completely different, means we're undercutting our ability to defend the nation.
MR. RUSSERT: As you know, many in Congress disagree. They think the CIA should abide by...
GEN. HAYDEN: I know.
MR. RUSSERT: ...what's in the Army Field Manual.
GEN. HAYDEN: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: Because they don't want U.S. servicemen who are taken in captivity by others to be tortured.
GEN. HAYDEN: Right. Well, first of all, we're not talking about torture, all right? I mean, torture is a legal term. Now, there are some things that are illegal that are not, that are not torture. And so we cloud the debate when, when we throw the word torture out there, I think, in a far too casual way. But, but I understand the concerns of members of Congress. And I've said this to them personally, I've said it to them publicly and I've said it to them in closed hearing sessions, that if you want to limit what CIA does, we'll live inside whatever box you create. But to simply arbitrarily take a manual created for one population and one purpose and to just drop it on another organization with a different population of interrogators, a different population of detainees in completely different purposes flies in the face of logic.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe now that the Justice Department allows the CIA to engage in waterboarding?
GEN. HAYDEN: I don't--the real answer is--I'm going to be very candid--I have no idea. And do you know why? Because I've not asked. And, and I know that previous opinions may no longer be extant because there have been a series of changes in American law since those opinions were issued.
MR. RUSSERT: So anything the CIA would do would be approved and signed off by the Justice Department?
GEN. HAYDEN: It would have to be approved and signed off as lawful, consistent with our Constitution and our international obligations.
MR. RUSSERT: Dick, Dick Cheney, the vice president, was on MEET THE PRESS five days after September 11th, and we had a conversation about intelligence operations, and he offered this assessment. Let's listen.
(Videotape, September 16, 2001)
VICE PRES. DICK CHENEY: We also have to work, though, sort of the, the dark side, if you will. We've got to spend time in the shadows in, in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies if we're going to be successful. That's the world these folks operate in. And so it's going to be vital for us to, to use any means at our disposable--disposal, basically, to, to achieve our objective.
MR. RUSSERT: "The dark side," "the shadows," "use any means at our disposal"--has the CIA changed since September 11th, 2001, in the way it conducts itself?
GEN. HAYDEN: Sure. We've learned a great deal. You know, we're, we're a learning organization. And I should add, you know, within the confines of American law, obviously. But, Tim, we're America's secret intelligence service, and the wisdom of the republic for the last 60 years is that's a good thing for this nation to have. Right? So we are different. You, you come into our, you come into our main lobby, and off to the left is the gospel of John, "You should know the truth and it shall make you free." But if you walk up the stairs and you look to the left down towards our museum--which some folks say it's the best museum you'll probably never see, right?--there's a quote on the wall that says, "We are the nation's first line of defense. We go where others cannot go, and we accomplish what others cannot accomplish." This is a special and a unique rule--role that is performed by the good men and women, law-abiding men and women, your friends and neighbors, but operating somewhat in that space that the vice president described.
MR. RUSSERT: "In the dark side, in the shadows."
GEN. HAYDEN: "In the shadows."
MR. RUSSERT: After September 11th, the NSA began to eavesdrop, wiretap Americans without court approval. That has now stopped, you need approval by the FISA courts, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Administrative courts. How many Americans were eavesdropped on after September 11th?
GEN. HAYDEN: I can't get into, into the specific numbers, but I can tell you that every aspect of that program has now been briefed to every member of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee and the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. And, and to make sure everyone understands precisely what we're talking about here because, again, this kind of casual use of language--you didn't use it, and I appreciate it--but, but a lot of folks have called it "domestic spying, domestic eavesdropping." In every case these were international calls.
MR. RUSSERT: Was it hundreds or thousands?
GEN. HAYDEN: No, I, I, I won't get into the numbers, Tim. But I think if I, if I were able to, I, I, I'd think the numbers would, would cause you less alarm.
MR. RUSSERT: Were any mistakes made?
GEN. HAYDEN: How do you mean?
MR. RUSSERT: Did you go too far? Did--were, were innocent people targeted?
GEN. HAYDEN: That's, that's a great question, and it brings up the whole purpose of, of intelligence, all right? Intelligence isn't about guilt or innocence. Intelligence is about learning things that can protect the American people. So that, for example, if you're to go up on, on an intercept, on a communications path, on, on a communicant, and, and you cover that communicant, and after 30 or 45 days you haven't found anything of interest, OK, that doesn't say anything about the innocence of anybody. It may say an awful lot about their operational security.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Iran. In 2007, November, the National Intelligence Estimate came out, and this is what, what, what it concluded: "We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons. We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. ... We assess with moderate confidence Tehran has not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons." Is that still operative?
GEN. HAYDEN: Yeah, it is. I mean, we, we stand by the judgment. It's a very difficult judgment. It was made--complex judgment, too, and it, it's one that, unfortunately, tends to get oversimplified in public discourse. I mean, another part of the report that we emphasized is that program that stopped in 2003. It was clearly they were weaponizing, building the actual device. It remains a program that the Iranians continue to deny ever existed. And the other aspects of the Iranian nuclear effort beyond the weaponization--the development of fissile material, the development of delivery systems--all continue apace.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe the Iranians are trying to develop a nuclear program?
GEN. HAYDEN: I--personal...
MR. RUSSERT: Yes.
GEN. HAYDEN: Personal belief? Yes. It's hard for me to explain. And, you know, this is not court of law stuff. This is, this is, you know, in terms of beyond all reasonable doubt, this is, this is Mike Hayden looking at the body of evidence. OK. Why would the Iranians be willing to pay the international tariff they appear willing to pay for what they're doing now if they did not have, at a minimum, at a minimum, if they did not have the desire to keep the option open to, to develop a nuclear weapon and perhaps even more so, that they've already decided to do that? It's very difficult for us to judge intent, and so we have to work back from actions. Why the continuing production of fissile material, and Natanz? They say it's for civilian purposes, and yet the, the planet, the globe, states around the world have offered them fissile material under controls so they can have their, their, their civilian nuclear program. But the Iranians have rejected that. I mean, when you start looking at that, and you get, not just the United States, but you get the U.N. Security Council imposing sanctions on them, why would they go through that if it were not to develop the technology that would allow them to create fissile material not under international control?
MR. RUSSERT: I can hear a lot of listeners, viewers asking, "Well, then why did Saddam Hussein not cooperate more fully if he, in fact, did not have weapons of mass destruction?" Sometimes, people behave in strange ways that we don't understand.
GEN. HAYDEN: Oh, yeah, I understand. But, but, again, you've asked me for an assessment, you've asked me--and I can only work from the facts that I see. In Saddam's case, he had a nuclear weapon program, he had a weapons of mass destruction program. He stopped it, but in--almost in a deathbed confession, he tells us that he maintained, he continued to maintain the illusion because he wanted the world, or at least the neighborhood, to think that he still had these, these weapons.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that the world and many in the United States would be suspect if the United States government came forward and said, "We now believe Iran has a nuclear program, based on our experience with mass destruction in Iraq"?
GEN. HAYDEN: My community--and, and that judgment would be based on the work of my community, has additional burdens to carry because of the Iraq NIE in which we got so much of that estimate wrong.
MR. RUSSERT: Fifty percent of the analysts at the CIA have been hired since September 11th.
GEN. HAYDEN: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: That's extraordinary turnover.
GEN. HAYDEN: It's not turnover, it's addition.
MR. RUSSERT: Addition.
GEN. HAYDEN: It's expansion, all right? In 2007, and we've got--we, we chart this because this is a very important matter for us, just in the management of the agency, not just for today but over the long term, and the portion of our work force that has five or fewer years of experience has been growing through 2007. In 2008, it will be the first year in which it will not be growing. And the, and the portion of our work force that now we begin to expand is now the five to 15 year group, which is actually the group you really want to have strength in. Those are your shop stewards and floor bosses.
MR. RUSSERT: You also made a decision a few weeks ago to provide insurance to about two-thirds of your employees.
GEN. HAYDEN: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: Explain that.
GEN. HAYDEN: Yeah. This is liability insurance. It's, it's not all that expensive, but the private providers do pay for lawyers and damage claims against our officers who perform--who are, who are called into court because of questions about what they've done in performance of their duties. I felt that was absolutely essential to do. And let me make a point here, Tim, because I think it's very important as to what this is not and what it is. What it is not is looking backwards, as some people have suggested, in trying, trying to cover alleged sins or crimes in 2003, 2004. Like an insurance policy, you can't buy it in 2008 and have it cover things that went on before.
MR. RUSSERT: It's not retroactive?
GEN. HAYDEN: It's not. It's looking forward. And, and here's, and here's the issue. And actually, it's one of the reasons I'm here, is that the public discourse about CIA and CIA activities has become incredibly caustic, and there are real people, as I said before, friends and neighbors, very patriotic people who comprise the work for us of the Central Intelligence Agency. And activities of the agency have been subject to, I think, some, some, some unfair, unbalanced criticisms even though the activities of the agency have been lawful and have been based on opinions coming out of the Department of Justice. The last thing I need as director is to have a CIA officer, when I go and tell him to do something in the shadows and point out to him it is perfectly lawful, that the Department of Justice has reviewed it, our lawyers have reviewed it, it's lawful, justice says it's OK and it's clear on its face that will help protect the nation, I do not need that officer handicapping what he thinks the next set of election results might be. I need him to have confidence in that DOJ opinion. I can't have that officer weighing in his mind, "This could become an issue later" and beginning to balance his kids' college tuition account with his doing his lawful duty to defend the republic. So I'm taking that off the table. We're going to pay for that. We're going to give people this insurance policy so that they can focus on doing their lawful duty.
MR. RUSSERT: General Michael Hayden, we thank you very much for coming and sharing your views on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency.
GEN. HAYDEN: Thanks.
MR. RUSSERT: We hope you'll come back.
GEN. HAYDEN: Thanks very much.
MR. RUSSERT: Thanks, General.