Bush’s former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency says that President Barack Obama has closely followed the policy of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, when it comes to fighting the “war on terror” — from rendition, targeted killings, state secrets, Guantanamo Bay to domestic spying.
Hayden, who oversaw the CIA’s use of torture techniques against detainees and the expansion of the NSA to illegally spy on American citizens said he was initially skeptical of Obama. He also publicly criticized the administration for making the Bush-era legal memos that attempted to re-define torture as “enhanced interrogation techniques” available to the public.
In a nearly 80-minute lecture posted on C-Span, Hayden said Obama embraced Bush’s positions that the country was at war, the enemy was al-Qaida, the war was global in nature, and the United States would take the fight to the enemy, wherever it may be.
“And yet, you’ve had two presidents, the American Congress, and the American court system, in essence, sign up to all four of those sentences,” Hayden said.
Moments later, Hayden added:
“And so, we’ve seen all of these continuities between two very different human beings, President Bush and President Obama. We are at war, targeted killings have continued, in fact, if you look at the statistics, targeted killings have increased under Obama.”
A major difference though between Obama and Bush is that in 2009 Obama closed CIA “black sites” and ratcheted down on torturing detainees, but instead of capturing so-called “enemy combatants,” President Obama kills them.
Obama’s kill list has even included American citizens.
Hayden noted Obama campaigned on promises to close the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, and to bring more transparency to government, but has failed to close Gitmo and has continued to use the “state secrets” defense in court cases challenging the government’s policies on the war on terror.
“Despite a campaign that was based on a very powerful promise of transparency, President Obama, and again in my view quite correctly, has used the state secrets argument in a variety of courts, as much as President Bush,” Hayden said. He added that he appreciated Obama’s invocation of the state secrets privilege, as Hayden himself was named as a defendant in some of the cases.
Hayden also pointed out that in 08 as a State Senator, Obama voted to legalize President Bush’s once-secret warrantless spying program. The law authorizes the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls and e-mail without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is believed to be outside the United States. It also granted America’s telecoms immunity from lawsuits for their complicity in the spy program.
“The FISA Act not only legitimated almost every thing president Bush had told me to do under his Article II authorities as commander in chief, but in fact gave the National Security Agency a great deal more authority to do these kind of things,” Hayden said.
The law, now known as the FISA Amendments Act, expires at year’s end. The Obama administration said congressional reauthorization was the administration’s “top intelligence priority,” despite 2008 campaign promises to make the act more privacy-friendly.
Hayden, who said he was an adviser to the Romney presidential campaign, said Romney would largely follow Obama’s same path, too, if Romney was elected.
“If we’re looking forward,” Hayden said, “I actually suspect there is going to be some continuity between a President Romney and and his predecessor, too, if that came to pass.”