Intelligence in the 21st Century

Article excerpt

An Interview with General Michael V. Hayden (Ret.)

GENERAL Michael V. Hayden (Ret) served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2006-2009), Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence (2005-2006), andas director of the National Security Agency and Chief of the Central Security Service (1999-2005). He retired as a Four-Star General from the U.S. Air Force in July 2008.

JPO: You have said before that the objective of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is to protect the American people, jet due to public and oversight pressures CIA is increasingly challenged by limitations on its operational space. Can you intelligence community faces?

General Hayden: CIA is an espionage service and we do secret things. Frankly, I think this is very compatible with democracies. Moreover, I personally think it is very necessary for democracies in order to protect themselves and to allow their citizens the greatest amount of personal freedom.

In the West, we now exist inside broader political cultures that demand greater transparency and accountability from all elements of society. However, we have not yet arrived at some sort of equilibrium as to how to meet this need for transparency and accountability while still maintaining the degree of secrecy needed for organizations like CIA to exist or to function at all. This is a new phenomenon for us and we have to come to what is, frankly, a new social contract.

One way to do this is through increased transparency to Congress and our oversight bodies. We have to deal with the question of legislative oversight as well as creating more transparency for the general public. Otherwise, we will be mistrusted. This is a work in progress. Putting aside their individual merits, some things that certain members of Congress have recently said are reflective of this more fundamental question of greater transparency inside our political culture as well as the reactions of secret intelligence services.

JlPO: What are the advantages and disadvantages of private contractor support for CIA and the intelligence community?

General Hayden: In this current political culture it is very fashionable - unfortunately in a far too simplistic way - to say, "Government good, contractor bad." All aspects of our society and all aspects of our government routinely go to the private sector for skills, services and products. It simply makes sense to go to the private sector. Why should we in the intelligence community deny ourselves the richness of capabilities that exist inside the private sector?

Too often though, this is viewed by some as CIA or other intelligence agencies avoiding responsibility - creating a carveout. I have said publicly that if anyone is acting as an agent of CIA, whether it is a government employee, a contractor or a foreign agent, the director of CIA is equally responsible for what that individual does on behalf of CIA. So there is no carveout there.

However, if you are continually going to contractors for particular functions, a fair question is, "Why are you not building that capacity inside the agency?" But, as far as the general proposition of going to contractors for particular activities - I think that is as natural, as American, as modern and as efficient as I can imagine. There should not be any natural pushback against contractors. Instead you should consider building up capabilities in your own organic workforce.

Many times when testifying to Congress, I would comment on or relate a particular narrative about something we were doing or about to do, and I would be asked if it was being carried out by contractors or by government employees. And very frequently I would have to say, "You know, I have no idea. I can tell you that we have the best human beings available doing that. But I never asked whether or not it was being done by a contractor." I think this is a healthier attitude than the current, prejudiced attitude that if you use contractors, whatever you are doing must not be good or you are doing it with an ulterior motive. …