This is what happens when you take monumentally un-serious men and make them think they are serious.
Over the weekend former CIA director Mike Morrell gave and interview at a security oriented blog called The Cipher. The interview is notable for two things. First, Morrell’s lack of introspection; and second, for a guy who claims to be careful with words he seems to advocate an attack on Russia.
How can they understand then, when someone who has led the Agency as you have, does make a political statement and a political decision, as you did, when you came out in The New York Times and decided to support Hillary Clinton? How should people be thinking about that as the separation between Michael Morell, private citizen speaking, which he’s now allowed to do because he’s out of government, versus the opinion of a person who spent their entire career in the Intelligence Community. How do you make that separation? How should people think about that?
I think that’s exactly what they have to do. This is Michael Morell, private citizen and this is Michael Hayden, private citizen who are talking about what we think is best for the country. It’s completely divorced from what the job of the CIA is, and it’s a pretty simple line: we don’t work there anymore, we don’t work for the government anymore. We’re not bound by that same responsibility that anybody who works for the Agency has, which is you gotta call it like you see it, irregardless of the politics or irregardless of the policy. Both what Mike did and what I did was calling it like we see it but from a much broader perspective than just saying what’s happening in the world. We’re talking about our own country for once in our lives. That’s the distinction, and people shouldn’t be confused by that.
The question is a good one and Morrell’s answer is patent nonsense. No official of an officially apolitical agency has any business endorsing any partisan political figure. Period. (I really don’t like the specter of retired generals speaking at political conventions.) You can’t endorse Hillary Clinton and base your endorsement upon your experience as a former CIA director and not have a lot of people believing that a) you held those same underlying beliefs while you were director, and b) that you let those views shape your worldview, and c) that by getting involved in the political scrum now you’ve opened to door to question if you did the same while you were the CIA director. Morrell asserts that the CIA is not political:
I do think, going back to what you said earlier, I do think it is really important for the Trump team to understand that the Intelligence Community and the Agency are not political. There is simply not a political bone in their body.
Except we know for a fact that is not true. As I posted a couple of days ago, there were at least two instances around the 2004 election where the CIA clearly did things to damage President Bush’s reelection chances.
Then he goes on to the election story:
The first is, we need to see this for what it is. It is an attack on our very democracy. It’s an attack on who we are as a people. A foreign government messing around in our elections is, I think, an existential threat to our way of life. To me, and this is to me not an overstatement, this is the political equivalent of 9/11. It is huge and the fact that it hasn’t gotten more attention from the Obama Administration, Congress, and the mainstream media, is just shocking to me.
The third implication is we need to respond to the Russian attack. We need to deter the Russians and anyone else who is watching this—and you can bet your bottom dollar that the Chinese, the North Koreans, the Iranians are all watching. We need to deter all of those folks from even thinking about doing something like this in the future.
I think that our response needs to have two key pieces to it. One is it’s got to be overt. It needs to be seen. A covert response would significantly limit the deterrence effect. If you can’t see it, its not going to deter the Chinese and North Koreans and Iranians and others, so it’s got to be seen.
The second, is that it’s got to be significant from Putin’s perspective. He has to feel some pain, he has to pay a price here or again, there will be no deterrence, and it has to be seen by the rest of the world as being significant to Mr. Putin so that it can be a deterrant.
I don’t even know what this means. We already have sanctions in place against a lot of Russians and Russian entities. Is he proposing double special sanctions? If he’s talking about more sanctions that is hardly going to deter anyone who watched Obama give Iran the go ahead to build a nuclear weapon while continuing as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. If he’s not talking about sanctions, what in the hell is he talking about? Because calling something the equivalent of 9/11 and demanding overt and painful consequences sounds both warlike and like irresponsible bluster. And has he thought through what Russia might do along NATO’s eastern frontier if we do try to publicly punish Russia for its actions?
How in the hell do guys like this rise to the top of an organization like the CIA?