What Happens When the President Ignores — and Even Belittles — His Own Intelligence Community? - Only Hit Lyrics

What Happens When the President Ignores — and Even Belittles — His Own Intelligence Community?



Michael V. Hayden

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American National Security In An Age Of Lies
By Michael V. Hayden
257 pp. Penguin Press. $28.

Michael Hayden — the retired Air Force general who has directed both the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, now a principal in a Washington consulting group — went on a fact-finding mission in August 2017. The subject of his inquiry, however, was not a foreign espionage service. What Hayden was after were clues to why America had elected Donald Trump.

He began by talking to several dozen of his brother’s friends, all Trump supporters, over beers in a Pittsburgh bar. “I knew many of the participants, indeed had grown up with several,” Hayden writes. “But we could have been from different planets.”

While Hayden was curious about and civil to the men and women who voted for Trump, he is less kind to the president himself. Trump’s statements during the campaign drove Hayden to become more involved and outspoken than he anticipated in the months before the election. Indeed, it is something of an irony that this military and intelligence veteran — whose 2016 book, “Playing to the Edge,” defended controversial policies of surveillance, interrogation and targeted killing — is among Trump’s most prominent and incisive critics.

Hayden, a self-described “internationalist,” opposes Trump’s trade, immigration and foreign policies. He also blasts Trump’s record of exaggeration, falsehood, misstatement and conspiratorial thinking. “All candidates shape their message,” he writes, “but Trump just seemed to say whatever came into his head.” Having led one agency where some operatives wore T-shirts saying “Deny everything, admit nothing,” Hayden is nonetheless impassioned about the importance of empirical data to decision-making.


Hayden is an institutionalist. What concerns him is the degree to which policymakers operate according to established roles and norms. He sees the virtues of bureaucratic procedure. The “idea of this book,” he writes, “is not that civil war or societal collapse is necessarily imminent or inevitable here in America” — thank goodness — “but that the structures, processes, and attitudes we rely on to prevent those kinds of occurrences are under stress, and that many of the premises on which we have based our governance, policy and security are now challenged, eroded or simply gone.”

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