Michael Hayden - "Playing to the Edge" to Fight Terrorism

February 25, 2016 - Michael Hayden 02/25/2016 Views: 1,204

Former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden talks about his book "Playing to the Edge," which examines the moral dilemmas he encountered while fighting terrorism. (5:55)

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My guest tonight isa former director

of the CIA and the NSA.

His new book is called Playing to the Edge.

Please welcome...

Michael Hayden.

-♪ -(cheering, applause)



Thank you for being here.

Thank you for the invitation.

You wearing a wire?


I have no views on that subject.


Thank you so muchfor being here.

-Uh, the book is fascinating.-Yeah.

Let's jump straight into it.

Playing to the Edge, it's called.

What exactly does that mean?

Yeah. First of all,there are edges,

there are lines, but when theAmerican democratic process says

here's the box you're supposedto be working in--

NSA or CIA-- when the nation isin an extreme circumstance,

I'm required-- I mean ethically,professionally--

to go to the edge,to use all the authorities

that the republic has given me.

Now, look,that might mean I'm gonna have

a very unpleasantcongressional hearing.

-Yeah.-It might mean there'll be

some unpleasant op-edswritten someday.

But if I playback from the edge, Trevor,

I may be protecting meor my agency,

but I'm not protecting you.

You are Mr. Drones.

That's essentially who you are.

You are a man who was in chargeof the CIA

at a timewhen the CIA transitioned

-from being the spy agency-Ah.

to the spy/killing agency.

Now, that's such a...

I'm even scaredasking you this. I mean...

-(laughter) -But it-it's sucha tough position.

How do you justifya drone strike

that kills...innocent civilians?

How do you... how do you goto bed thinking about that?

Sure. Now, number one, no onewants to kill the innocent.

And there was an-an op-ed

in The New York Times over this past weekend.

They put the title on it--I didn't--

but I thoughtit was a great title.

"Drone Strikes: Necessary,Precise, and Imperfect."

And I think that'sa very accurate description.

But isn't "precise"and "imperfect"... isn't that...

-Sure. No. No, no, no.-(laughter)

Not-not in the real world, okay?

Where you haveto make tough decisions.

-There's a story. There's a...-Now, okay, now-now,

-here's-here's a questionthat I have. -Okay.

If-if we're to go,working on that logic,

if someone wants to say it wouldhappen the opposite way...

God forbid it would happenthe opposite way.

So, we're saying we're fightinga war in that direction,

-fighting a war, and then...-Right. -Right.

-And we do say that.-Yes, fighting a war.

And if someone wereto do it the other way around,

so if, God forbid,a bomb was to be placed

in a vehicleof a enemy combatant,

-somebody who's fightingin that war, -Mm-hmm.

-and let's say a civiliangot killed by that, -Right.

would we still say, "Oh, yeah,that's-that's war. Th-They..."?

Or do we now say,"No, no, that's terror

when it's coming this way,but it's war going that way?"

-(cheering and applause)-Trevor, we're fighting...

We're fighting an enemythat-that denies

the-the very essenceof the Geneva Convention,

-which is fundamentallywhat you just described, -Yes.

the distinction betweencombatants and non-combatants.

They deny that distinctionfor their victims.

They even deny that distinctionfor themselves.

All true believersare-are fighters,

-are-are jihadists, all right?-That's true, yeah.

Now, look, war is ugly.It's always ugly.

There is... th-there's damage.

Innocents die.

My responsibilityin-in defending the nation

is to defend the nationto the best of my ability

and to minimize,with ev-every ounce of my being,

harming anyonewe're not truly mad at.

And there's-there's an incidentin the book.

We-we talk aboutthe United States taking a shot

-at a guy who workedfor al-Qaeda, -Mm-hmm.

Abu Khabab, who actually wastheir WMD expert.

We had moved heaven and earthto find out where he is.

People were at risk

trying to find outwhere he was, and we found him.

We knew where he was.

And, unfortunately,he was asleep,

outdoor,in that part of the world,

hot summer nights, on cots,and he had a grandson.

Very close to him.

And there is a...there is a moral dilemma.

There's somebodywith a garage full of stuff

that he wants to useto kill a lot of people

back here in North America.

We've got him.

There's a chancewe might kill his grandson.

We moved heaven and earthto weaponeer the target

so that we would spare the son.

We took the shot.

We killed him.

Unfortunately,we killed his son.

Now, that's a burden that the...Not just me.

That's a burden that the peoplewe have assigned

the responsibilityto defend us take with them

for the rest of their lives.

Where-where does that stop,though?

Because his sonand his son's son

and his cousin and his brothers,who may not have been extreme,

now go, "I now have a cause.I now..." -Okay.

So let's say I wasn't...I wasn't in the cause.

I go, "My brother's crazy.He wants to be a terrorist."

-I understand.-Then he gets killed

or his son gets killed, andI go, "Now my nephew has died."

-How... Do you not thinkthere's a... -Sure. Oh, look.

-Hey, look, we... -Do younot think there's a chance

you're creating moreof the enemy?

-Oh, that was a reality.-(applause)


We knew we had to do thisas perfectly as possible,

even though we knewit was going to be imperfect,

because there are alwayssecond and third order effects.

But-but if you take your logicto its extreme,

then we're not allowedto do anything

unless it's absolutelyguaranteed to be perfect,

and that would actually bea very dangerous world.

This isa fascinating conversation.

Unfortunately,TV has time limits.

We're gonna continue this,uh, on the Web.

But the book,really fascinating.

Playing to the Edge is in booksto-bookstores now.

More on the Web.Michael Hayden, everybody.

(cheering and applause)

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