This time, the ex-CIA/NSA director’s brief for torture in the Washington Post actually less of a brief for torture than a campaign narrative: Obama Versus The CIA. Because Barack Obama exposed the identity of an agent under non-official cover; dismissed its since-vindicated analysis on Iraq as “just guessing”; blamed an unnecessary war on it and pointed to its “failures” every time the decision to invade Iraq faced criticism; and ordered it to commit repeated felonious activity.

No, the problem for Hayden is that Obama has moved too far in the direction of the rule of law. This, of course, is a surprise for every civil libertarian who’s watching in disgust as Obama reaffirms indefinite detention without trial, for instance. But Hayden pulls together incidences in which Obama has allegedly sided against the CIA: canceling torture; releasing the OLC and CIA IG torture memos; and investigating agency interrogators for torture. “Intelligence officers need to know that someone has their back,” he writes. It’s funny. You’d think Hayden would consider the people who ordered the CIA to torture people to be the one who didn’t have their back.

In any case, the guy who has their back, according to Laura Rozen, is Leon Panetta, and the one who doesn’t is Dennis Blair. Yet Hayden is happy to venerate Blair’s big fuck-up on Abdulmutallab as brave truth-tellin’ when it suits his agenda. And you know what Hayden missed? An actual case where CIA lost out, institutionally, in the Obama era! That’s the creation of the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or the HIG, which takes away high-value detainee interrogations from the CIA’s exclusive purview. Why didn’t Hayden put that into his case? If he’s at all like me, it’s because he hasn’t heard any CIA officials lamenting the fact that they’re not interrogating detainees anymore.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman

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