In a conversation on the state of the American intelligence community, former CIA director Michael Hayden said Friday if Donald Trump wants to waterboard terrorists, he’ll have to do it himself, as the CIA will refuse to cooperate.
At an event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, Hayden said the GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s language on waterboarding is so toxic that it “actually gave waterboarding a bad name.”
Trump insisted several times of the last few months that torture works and renewed his pledge following the atrocities in Brussels that he will “go further” than waterboarding. The technique of waterboarding is apparently so noxious that the CIA only reluctantly engaged in the tactic.
“If a future president said that he was going to return to this, and he somehow creates the legal framework where it is no longer unlawful, I say quite specifically, he better bring his own bucket because the CIA is not going to do it again,” Hayden said.
Part of the reason the CIA is uninterested in readopting the technique is because of a clear sense of betrayal that isn’t about to evaporate any time soon.
“The people who did this in good faith, believing that they were covered by their government and by their government’s legal opinion, felt an undying sense of betrayal about what happened to them after the change of administrations,” Hayden said.
Interrogators, according to Hayden, went out on a limb and suffered vicious scapegoating all because of a single election cycle.
“We thought when we did this thing for you, the big you, 320 million you, we had a social contract in perpetuity that the Republic had our back. Turns out, in perpetuity is one off year election cycle, and the agency has taken a lesson from that.”
Institutional memory in the CIA is deep, and trust is unlikely to be afforded to the next administration on tactics as sensitive as waterboarding.
During his tenure at the CIA, Hayden justified the use of waterboarding, and in his new book, entitled “Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror,” he defended interrogators who used the tactic to extract information from terrorists and insisted the tactic led to valuable intelligence.
But for Hayden, there’s are key differences between the CIA’s use of waterboarding and what GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has in store for the enemy.
“He’s doing it with enthusiasm,” Hayden said. “We did it with regret. He’s doing it because they deserve it. We never did it because they deserved it.”
“We did it because we thought they knew something we thought we had a right to know in order to keep our citizens safe,” Hayden added. “He appears to want to do it frequently. We did it rarely.”
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