Michael Hayden, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), really doesn’t care for the work of a Senate committee that has been investigating the CIA’s presumably now-defunct torture program, and whose chair has accused the CIA of illegally spying on the committee. Lacking an adequate defense for his aversion to scrutiny, Hayden went sexist. When questioned about the investigation during his appearance on the April 6 edition of Fox News Sunday, he dismissed it as the imaginings of an “emotional” woman.
The woman is Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, long known as a champion of the national security establishment and hardly a progressive. At issue: a 6,000-page report by Feinstein’s committee on the post-9/11 CIA program of “enhanced interrogation”—which includes methods that human rights advocates describe as torture. Feinstein, as reported by The Guardian, “called its findings ‘shocking’ and the CIA’s behavior ‘in stark contrast to our values as a nation.’” She is calling for the public release of a 400-page summary of the report’s findings, and on April 3 her committee voted to do just that, by a vote of 11 to 3. (Eight of the 11 committee members who voted for the summary’s release are men.)
The gendered cast of Hayden’s comment seemed to surprise even Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, whose show every week promotes the latest right-wing attack on anything smacking of liberalism.
From the show’s transcript:
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HAYDEN: [Washington Post columnist David Ignatius] said that Senator Feinstein wanted a report so scathing that it would ensure that an un-American brutal program of detention interrogation would never again be considered or permitted.
Now, that sentence, that motivation for the report, Chris, may show deep emotional feeling on part of the senator. But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.
WALLACE: I mean, forgive me, because you and I both know Senator Feinstein. I have the highest regard for her. You’re saying you think she was emotional in these conclusions?
HAYDEN: What I’m saying is — first of all, Chris, you’re asking me about a report. I have no idea of its content…
In the meantime, Feinstein has also been staring down current CIA Director John Brennan, accusing the agency of breaking into the computers used by her committee in order to spy on its doings.
Brennan has all but called Feinstein a liar (you can’t trust women to tell the truth!), so safely ensconced in his maleness that he rightly expects to brush off the obvious hypocrisy of his judgment of the chair’s truthfulness, given the fact that he appears to have lied outright to Congress, without consequence, when questioned about the killing of civilians by CIA drones. He denied that it ever happened, despite ample evidence to the contrary.
As for Feinstein’s alleged emotionalism, the charge is almost laughable, given the senator’s typically steely delivery in the face of crisis, and her nearly flat affect in conversation.
Take, for example, Feinstein’s appearance before the television cameras, during her term on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, immediately following the 1978 murders of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.
You’d never know by her announcement that it was Feinstein who found Milk dead. Here’s how she recounted it, 30 years later, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle:
“I went down the hall. I opened the wrong door. I opened (Milk’s) door. I found Harvey on his stomach. I tried to get a pulse and put my finger through a bullet hole. He was clearly dead.
“I remember it, actually, as if it was yesterday. And it was one of the hardest moments, if not the hardest moment, of my life,” Feinstein said Tuesday. “It was a devastating moment. For San Francisco, it was a day of infamy.”
She put her finger through a bullet hole, and then went out to face the cameras, dropping nary a tear.
Now, here’s Hayden’s justification for the U.S. government’s legally questionable program of scooping up so-called enemy combatants and detaining them indefinitely at Guantanamo, during a 2010 panel discussion:
[M]y epiphany that we are a nation at war took place about 10 minutes after 10:00, September 11th, 2001. It became clear to me at that point and I believe in few things more firmly than I believe in the fact that we are a nation at war.
For Hayden, that’s enough cause for defying international norms.
Who’s the emotional one?
In fact, Hayden’s inability to contain his ego—often the source of emotional behavior—became apparent when former MoveOn.org Director Tom Matzzie, in a famous Twitter scoop, sat behind Hayden on an Amtrak Acela train while the former CIA director “bragged” while talking on his cell phone, Matzzie reported, “about rendition and black sites.”
“Rendition” refers to the practice of moving a detainee to a country in which torture is not forbidden; “black sites” are the secret locations in which the torture takes place.
Hayden was apparently talking to a reporter “on background” while traveling in a vehicle of public transport, not worrying his pretty little head about any consequences to national security.
Apparently, Hayden hasn’t forgotten that, as a U.S. senator, Obama voted against Hayden’s nomination to the post of CIA director (ironically, for Hayden’s role in a controversial NSA spying program). And did I mention that Obama recently voiced support for making Feinstein’s report public?
How much easier it is to implicitly dismiss a powerful and inconvenient woman for her gender than to complain of the wounding of one’s ego at the hands of the man who is now the president of the United States.
Sounds kind of emotional to me.