Friday, May 19, 2006

Joe Conason on Hayden

I like Joe Conason, enough that after reading this I am trying to consider whether my reaction to Michael Hayden's nomination to head the CIA is a little knee-jerk. Conason thinks that while Hayden may have been in charge of the NSA wiretapping, it is the President who is responsible.
Yet while the president certainly deserves to be investigated (or worse) for his regime's apparent misconduct, the Hayden nomination is not the most appropriate forum for that reckoning. The nomination process is meant to determine whether
the general is qualified to serve as CIA director, whether he has been truthful
in his previous testimony before the Senate and how he intends to rebuild the

So the gist is that since Hayden was acting under orders from the president, he was just doing his job with the wire taps regardless of if they were legal or not. Conason goes on to explain that Hayden is extremely qualified and may be able to bring back former CIA employees who left because of Goss and his political cronyism and mismanagement.

If we applied this same kind of reasoning to say, the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghirab then Lindy England would never have been prosecuted. She was prosecuted even though evidence from Afghanistan and Guantanamo show that the exact same kinds of abuse were systemic instead of isolated incidences.

Maybe what Conason is hoping for is that instead of going for the soldier carrying out their orders we will go for the generals (or the president) responsible for issuing the orders. But that is just good German reasoning and for someone who will have the responsibility of rebuilding the CIA, I want more than just a good German. I want someone who will understand the fine line between intelligence gathering for national protection and intelligence gathering for power consolidation. Hayden's actions at the NSA don't show evidence of knowing where that line is.

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