Hayden: The Intel Community and Presidents -- Facts vs. Vision


In the first video installment, Carl M. Cannon and Andrew Walworth press the intelligence expert on Donald Trump’s claims that the legitimacy of his presidency is being challenged by the “deep state.”

Watch the full interview.

More information on our Cybersecurity: The Next Great Battlefield series

CANNON: Is America already under cyber-attack from Russia? Our guest today will tell us. He's retired four star Air Force General Michael Hayden, and he's also a former CIA director, and Director of the National Security Agency. In a no-holds barred new book, he slams the Trump administration for contributing to a climate where he says intelligence and truth itself is under attack.

HAYDEN: I think Donald Trump, my view, is the most norm-busting president we have ever had.

CANNON: Also joining me with questions for today's guest is Andrew Walworth, Senior Fellow at the Murrow Center, at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, at Tufts University. I'm Carl Cannon, and this is Real Clear Cyber Today. Michael Hayden, welcome to the program.

HAYDEN: Thank you.

CANNON: And thank you for hosting us here at the Chertoff Group.

HAYDEN: Oh sure. Thank you very much for coming.

CANNON: Your new book, The Assault on Intelligence, American National Security in an Age of Lies, has gotten a lot of attention for its criticisms of President Trump. You say that when the intelligence community tried to warn the incoming president of Russian scheming he, quote, "rejected a fact-based intel assessment because it was inconsistent with a preexisting world view or because it was politically inconvenient, the stuff of ideological authoritarianism, not pragmatic democracy." Strong words.


CANNON: But let me try out an alternate, what's that phrase? Alternative facts?


CANNON: But it's a less nefarious explanation that Donald Trump came to the conclusion that this was a partisan effort to undermine his presidency before it even began. Why is that such an unreasonable for him to have?

HAYDEN: No, it's not, and I actually address it in the book. The outcome's still the same. It did happen and we're not doing enough. But I'm less interested-

CANNON: It did happen, you're talking about the Russian-

HAYDEN: The Russians, oh yeah.

CANNON: Influence.

HAYDEN: You bet. And we can go to the fine print-

CANNON: We will.

HAYDEN: To that directly. So let me give you a bit of a longish explanation, but it actually I think is the best one in fairness to everyone. I always describe the intelligence policy relationship as you've got to both get in the same room. Let's just say it's the room down the street here, it's the Oval Office. The President and the intel briefer gotta get together. It's the intel briefer's job to get inside the President's head but they come into the room, this is a metaphor now, they come into the room through different doors.

HAYDEN: The intel door is marked "facts". The policy maker's, the President's door is marked "vision". And that's okay, that's the one you voted for. Fact, vision. World as it is, world as we would like it to be. Common dynamic, every president. Fact, vision, as is, wannabe. Inherently inductive. Data, evidence, general conclusions. Inherently deductive. First principles. Again, the ones you voted for, how do I apply them to specifics? Fact, vision, as is, wannabe, inductive, deductive. We're generally pessimistic. Presidents are generally optimistic otherwise they don't interview with you for the job. Happens to all presidents. So we always know we've got this bump.

HAYDEN: I offer in the book that it would have been a fairly smoother bump with a Hilary Clinton. Not because of any judgment on her personality but because she's been doing it for four years, remember? As Secretary of State, so you've already established a rapport. The easiest bump for us was probably George H. W. Bush 'cause remember? He used to come into the room through our door.

CANNON: He had your job.

HAYDEN: That's right. We knew that if it were to be a President Trump this would be a big speed bump because these attributes I described over here, I think the creator gave him an extra measure. He is inherently instinctive, spontaneous, not very reflective, prone to action, has an almost preternatural view of his own preternatural confidence in his own a priori narrative of how things work. So we well, this one's gonna be tough.

HAYDEN: To your point, it is a national tragedy and a perfect storm that the first time we had to do that with the new president, we knew it's always tough but it was gonna be especially tough with this one, through no one's fault, it was on an issue as you described. An issue that other Americans, not the intel guys, other Americans were using to challenge his legitimacy of President of the United States. And that is national sadness. My call is for the intel guys, you gotta hold your ground. And for the President, you've got to look at this as something beyond yourself. This is a threat to the nation, whatever it is you may think about it in terms of your political enemies.

CANNON: You wrote in your first book, the one that came out two years ago, that if we were going to conduct espionage in the future we were going to have to make some changes in the relationship between the intelligence community and the public it serves.

HAYDEN: The public, yeah.

CANNON: It's almost like you saw this coming. I mean, I know when you wrote that book we didn't think Trump was gonna be president then so you didn't really see this coming. But I wonder if we've accomplished what you'd hoped. Are some of the failures, well-documented failures in the intelligence community, part of the problem between-

HAYDEN: Between what? The president and the-


HAYDEN: The public.

CANNON: The public's mistrust and the-

HAYDEN: So, fair enough. Doesn't help when you get things wrong and you get important things wrong but we admit we got them wrong. To your core point though, is we've got to explain ourselves more to the American people than we have in the past. That's just part of the whole swirl of distrust of government. So, as I said in the old book two years ago, you may not wanna show more ankle but if you don't you're not gonna get to do this in the first place. I tell my old tribe, "You have to be more forthcoming." Then I quickly add to everyone else, "And don't kid yourself. Their being more forthcoming is gonna shave points off of their effectiveness because this is best done in secrecy. But I get the deal. We don't get to do it at all unless you validate it and now you won't validate it unless you know more."

CANNON: You've got a lot of attention in other interviews for a statement in your book. It's well constructed. It's good writing. "There is no deep state," you say. "There is the state." But let me challenge that a little bit. You know what's meant. You know what, and I'm not just talking about the black helicopter crowd. Millions of Americans think that the unelected government officials, bureaucrats, whatever you wanna call them, not just in the NSA and CIA but in the Justice Department, IRS, are making policy instead of just carrying it out and that they feel it's tough to fight against. That's what they mean by that.

HAYDEN: Yeah. So there's a lot going on there. What you've got, and I get the deep state meme. My response is, "Oh, you mean the career professionals governed by the rule of law. Those people." So you do have things going on. You have a president who has gone in. I get the democracy reality here. We know how to count. We know how the electoral college works. Elections matter and therefore I say literally in the book, we have to accommodate all presidents. Now, we may have to do more accommodating here because this president is making far more dramatic changes in our direction. I get all that. So I tell folks in government, do your best. Make him succeed. Accommodate. We always do that. But you can only go so far.

HAYDEN: Number one, you've got a personal integrity question that you have to deal with. But beyond that, it's preserving the institutions. It is preserving the norms which are generally agreed should govern the institution.

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