In the News: Edgy History

9781594206566_44459Head of the National Security Agency and the CIA during some of the most tense and controversial years of American history, Michael V. Hayden surveys his tenure in the Bush administration, detailing what occurred and why from his point of view, in Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror (PRH/Penguin; Penguin Audio; BOT; OverDrive Sample – embargoed until yesterday’s pub date).

The book is currently #10 on Amazon’s Top Sellers. Library holds thus far are in keeping with fairly low level of ordering. Holds may still grow, as word about this embargoed title spreads.

Author Mark Bowden (Black Hawk Down) reviewing the book for The New York Times is not impressed:

“Mr. Hayden seems oblivious … He has written an occasionally engaging book about matters — moral, legal and technological — that are very complex, but he shows little interest in examining them. Throughout he is breezy and unapologetic. And why not? At the same time his efforts were being met by public criticism, they led to steady praise and promotion. He ended his Air Force career a four-star general.”

While not passing judgment on the book itself, NPR’s Robert Siegel conducted a probing interview with Hayden for All Things Considered earlier this week. In one key moment Siegel asks: “What did you tell Leon Panetta, your successor as CIA director, to say about waterboarding?”

Hayden replies:

“Do not use the word ‘torture’ and ‘CIA’ in the same sentence ever again. You can object to some of the enhanced interrogation techniques. You can, in your heart of hearts, believe they meet some legal definition of torture. But Leon, you’re taking over a workforce that did these things in good faith. They did these things with the assurance of the attorney general that they indeed were not torture. Do not accuse them of felonies.”

He also says that it was the US intelligence agencies that got the facts about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction wrong, not the Bush administration. “We were wrong. It was a clean swing and a miss. It was our fault.”

MSNBC’s Morning Joe featured Hayden in a long segment yesterday.


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