Hayden, Stiglitz, Tufekci speaking for Nobel Week Dialog 2017

I might be wrong about this, because I was listening in the background. It’s a live stream so I can’t play back. I hope I get a chance to review it later.

But Gen. Michael Hayden was asked what responsibility the intelligence community has in the case of American presidential leadership deviating so far from legal norms. And he said something along the lines of “in case of emergency – break glass – go public with what you know”.

Which would be pretty astounding given his statements about the Snowden revelations. Views evolve.

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At 31:00

MODERATOR: So we have the macro fundamentals which doesn’t look so good especially in the US; we have this new layer of technology that is not making things better, to say the least; and we have this moment. So I’m interested in the question, how we should act. What’s the responsibility of civil servants, of us as citizens, and General Hayden, with your background and thinking about the community that you have been a part of, what can the intelligence community for example do if your country has a leader that won’t accept facts, for example, what is your responsibility, will you should you continue working and delivering facts or should you give facts to the public, should you deliver the facts to the public, what do you do in this extraordinary situation?

HAYDEN: It’s a wonderful question, so if you recall what i said this morning, I mean rarely do we go in there with a syllogism, and where the outcome is obvious, and preordained. You set the left- and the right-hand boundaries. So, to a first order, there’s space here, in which other legitimate factors can play, value, ideology, priority, and so on. But you do have an ethical obligation to say something to somebody when the policy is outside the bounds, [when] in effect you’ve either divided by zero over here, and this can’t work, or you’ve made the assumption you can make water go uphill over here, and that’s not gonna work either; you know this is a failing policy. So you hold the debate within the executive branch. I have never personally had to go ahead and push the plunger, so to speak, and blow something up. The closest I came was the um, was President Bush’s decision for the surge, in 2006, early 2007, and in which we sent five combat brigades to make right what had gone badly wrong in Baghdad. Our assumption was, you put those five professional, non-sectarian brigades of combat power in the city, you’re gonna push the violence down, you gonna achieve that objective, but we actually said to the President, but that’s not your big plan. Your big plan is to create space for the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al Malaki, to actually become the Prime Minister of [gesturing broadly] Iraq, rather than of the Dalwa party and of the Shiia, and we made it very clear, that is not a high-probability shot, alright. He will have to govern beyond his life experience, and for lots of reasons and we articulated it. So there we are, and the President says, got it, send the five brigades. And so that decision to my mind was about here [gesturing toward an extreme end of the range of workability]. Now, the President insisted on having a personal video teleconference with the Prime Minister of Iraq every week for the rest of his administration, in which he was trying to coach and mentor. So that’s been my experience, alright. You don’t determine – you do effect. If you’re out here [gestures beyond the range of workability], and you know it’s going to fail, it’s really hard. One path forward is to talk to the other political branch of government. We’re also beholden, and in our system far more so than a parliamentary system, you can make things known to another coequal, competing branch of government. So that’s one. And then, you know, in an emergency, break glass, it’s going public. Which again, as I tried to suggest earlier today, breaks the norms of the profession, by saying things publicly that are genuinely and correctly classified. And so it creates a horrific dilemma. One other point, I know I’m going too long here. Traditionally, presidents run the things they say by the intel community. You get a look at certainly prepared remarks, and you get to say “you may say that if you want but if asked we can’t back it up”, which for most presidents is plenty of reason enough to drop it out of the speech. I see so many things in President Trump’s commentary that I cant’ believe that that process is on-going. And so I think the leadership is just doing the best they can within the circumstances they find themselves [in], and are not ready to break glass, because they haven’t gotten to that position.

Thing is, I wouldn’t trust Admiral Hayden any further than I could throw his liver.

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