The former CIA director and former NSA director under the Bush administration claimed Wednesday that the modern GOP is the most treacherous political force he has encountered in his lifetime.
General Michael Hayden concurred with the inflammatory comments of Edward Luce, associate editor at the Financial Times, who tweeted: “I’ve covered extremism and violent ideologies around the world over my career. Have never come across a political force more nihilistic, dangerous & contemptible than today’s Republicans. Nothing close.”
“I agree. And I was the CIA Director,” Hayden wrote in a quote tweet.
I agree. And I was the CIA Director https://t.co/LRAHDDyy4n
— Gen Michael Hayden (@GenMhayden) August 17, 2022
Their exchange comes amid a national reckoning on the integrity of the U.S. intelligence apparatus, prompted by the FBI’s recent surprise raid of former president Trump’s private Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago. The search was conducted on the grounds that he mishandled classified documents from the White House.
Hayden responded to a tweet by presidential historian Michael Beschloss, who noted that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Americans who were found guilty for spying on behalf of the USSR, were “convicted for giving U.S. nuclear secrets to Moscow, and were executed June 1953.” He replied, “Sounds about right.”
Many figures in the GOP increasingly believe that U.S. intelligence agencies have been captured and weaponized by Democratic operatives to target their political opponents. Some concerned Republicans pointed to Hayden’s statement as evidence that the FBI, CIA, and the NSA, are vessels of a vast progressive-dominated bureaucracy conspiring against half of the American people.
As head of the CIA, Hayden confronted a number of serious and formidable foreign threats and enemies, such as the Taliban, the Iranian Ayatollahs, the Islamic State, and the North Korean regime. None of which, according to Hayden, compares to the danger posed by “today’s Republicans.” Critics rushed to Twitter to note that Hayden’s words had the effect of either conflating Republicans with extremist terrorists or dampening the horrors inflicted by the latter.
Hayden was part of the Bush executive branch that presided over what many Republicans consider to be grave military and foreign-policy failures in American history, including the Iraq War and the Egyptian Crisis.
At the time of Hayden’s confirmation hearings in 2009, many lawmakers objected to his nomination, questioning the idea of an Air Force general heading the civilian spy agency. They also found his record troublesome. Hayden oversaw the NSA’s secret domestic wiretapping program, executed without a warrant, implemented after the September 11, 2001, attacks.