The former director of the CIA has come out swinging after a Senate report found he had repeatedly misled politicians about the extent of the agency's history of torturing detainees.
The newly released document tears apart the CIA's past claims that only a small number of detainees were subjected to the harsh interrogation techniques.
The agency has said it held fewer than 100 detainees and subjected fewer than one-third of those to controversial tactics such as waterboarding. But Senate investigators found that the CIA had actually kept 119 detainees in custody, 26 of whom were illegally held. And despite CIA insistence that the program was limited in scope, Senate investigators conclude that the use of torture was much more widespread than previously thought.
But in a piece for the Telegraph, former CIA director Michael Hayden insisted - despite ample evidence to the contrary - that just three detainees were actually waterboarded.
He called the report "exceedingly graphic in its description of several interrogations; it is designed to shock and it does".
Hayden also claimed "no one involved in the program was interviewed for a report that was in preparation for five years".
"If Democrat staffers had talked to any of us (probably hundreds), they would have had to deal with our absolute assurance that this program led to the capture of senior al-Qa’ida operatives (including helping to find Osama bin Laden); added enormously to what we knew about al-Qa’ida as an organization; and led to the disruption of terrorist plots, saving American and Allied lives."
But Hayden's reliability has been questioned by the report, which lists 17 different occasions where he is believed to have misled the Congress over the extent of the "enhanced interrogations".
In one case, Hayden said of the 'torture' programme: “The most serious injury that I’m aware of — and I’ll ask the experts to add any color they want, Senator — is bruising as a result of shackling."
The Senate report details a specific waterboarding session of Abu Zubaydah who “became completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.”
Hayden also said that evidence points to CIA torture having help to stop a UK terror attack by Dhiren Barot, aka Issa al Britani.
The report though says that representation is "inaccurate", finding the "thwarting of his plotting, resulted from the investigative activities of UK government authorities... nor are there records to support the CIA representation that reporting from CIA detainees subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques resulted in Dhiren Barot's arrest."
Predictably, Hayden has received the brunt of the backlash against the report:
10th December 2014 Former CIA Director Ret. Gen. Michael Hayden: "Legally, it wasn't torture."
What was it then?— Daniel DeLacy (@DanielDeLacy) December 10, 2014
Hayden statement about effectiveness of EIT in CIA briefing to Obama transition team "almost entirely inaccurate," p.197— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) December 9, 2014
I know it will come as a shock to everyone but it turns out the CIA and Hayden were lying about a lot of things.— John Sifton (@johnsifton) December 9, 2014
Hayden also spoke to NBC's Brian Williams, among numerous other outlets, and argued the US had showed far more concern for the welfare of detainees and other nations.
"As bad as some people think CIA behavior was, with regard to these 100-or-so detainees, if everyone on the planet used CIA behavior as the model, the overall treatment of detainees on earth would actually improve," Hayden said.
"Should that be the standard, however?" Williams asked.
"Well, Brian, the standard was, what is lawful, effective and appropriate at a time of great extremists in the United States, with 3,000 fellow citizens who've been murdered," Hayden said.
"I was in government for ten years after 9/11, and let me tell ya, a phrase I never heard from anybody in any position of authority: 'Whatever you guys do about this terrorism threat, please, please don't overreact.'" he said. "Never heard it."
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