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Former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden should not throw any more stones, lest his own glass house be shattered. His barrage Friday against truth-teller Edward Snowden and London Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald invited a return rain of boulders for Hayden committing the same violations of constitutional protections that he is now excusing.
Writing as "CNN Terrorism Analyst," Hayden read from the unctuous script previously used by "Meet the Press" host David Gregory on June 23 when he questioned Greenwald's status as a journalist. Hayden claimed Greenwald deserves "the Justice Department's characterization of a co-conspirator."
But it is Michael Hayden who is in a class by himself. He was the first NSA director to betray the country's trust by ordering wholesale violation of what was once the First Commandment at NSA: "Thou Shalt Not Eavesdrop on Americans Without a Court Warrant." Not to mention playing fast and loose with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
While Hayden has implicitly offered a second-grader kind of excuse, that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney "made me do it," that does not let Hayden off the hook.
I have found it helpful lately to read the one-sentence Fourth Amendment during TV and radio interviews in order to provide necessary context and a backdrop against which viewers/listeners can gauge how the recent revelations about NSA operations comport, or do not, with the strictures in the amendment. Thankfully, the language is pretty straightforward and specific:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Former NSA directors are not normally given to criticizing the performance of their successors. We know, however, about the passionate disapproval with which two of Hayden's predecessors reacted to the revelations in the Dec. 16, 2005 New York Times article, "Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts," by journalists James Risen and Eric Lichtblau.
Risen had ferreted out explosive information on eavesdropping (and other highly questionable operations) several months before the 2004 presidential election, disclosures that would have given American voters some important information regarding whether Bush deserved reelection or not.
But the Times, in its wisdom, acquiesced to the Bush administration's demands that the story be spiked -- not because the article was inaccurate, but precisely because it was so accurate, and embarrassing. The White House gave the Times the familiar warning that disclosure would "damage national security."
But as 2005 drew to an end, the newspaper could wait no longer, since Risen's book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, was already in galley and about to be published. The book contained, literally, chapter and verse on the illegal activity authorized by NSA Director Michael Hayden at the behest of Bush and Cheney. (And given the way court decisions are going these days, it is seeming more and more likely that James Risen is headed for jail if he insists on the First Amendment rights of a journalist and continues to refuse to divulge his sources.)
When the Times finally published the story in December 2005, the Bush administration scrambled to defend the warrantless eavesdropping, a demonstrably gross violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) expressly forbidding eavesdropping on Americans without a court warrant. The White House immediately asked Hayden, then Deputy Director of National Intelligence, to play point man with the media, helping hapless Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defend the indefensible.
Hayden's perfidy was too much for Gen. Bill Odom, who had been NSA Director from 1985 to 1988. Odom was seething as he prepared to be interviewed on Jan. 4, 2006, by George Kenney, a former Foreign Service officer and now producer of "Electronic Politics." Odom blurted out, "Hayden should have been court martialed." And President Bush "should be impeached," added the general with equal fury.
Odom ruled out discussing, during the interview itself, the warrantless eavesdropping revealed by the New York Times three weeks earlier. In a memorandum about the conversation, Kenney opined that Odom appeared so angry that he realized that if he started discussing the still-classified issue, he would not be able to control himself.
Why was Gen. Odom so angry? Because he, like all uniformed officers (as well as many civilian officials), took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; because he took that oath seriously; and because he had done his damndest to ensure that all NSA employees strictly observed the prohibition against eavesdropping on Americans without a warrant.
Also deeply disappointed was former NSA Director Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, who led NSA from 1977 to 1981 and actually played a key role in helping shape the FISA law of 1978. (Before he retired, Inman had achieved virtual sainthood in Official Washington as one of the country's most respected intelligence managers, although he was known for looking the other way -- or as he put it, "pulling up his socks" -- when the powers-that-be were spinning the facts or exceeding their legal powers.)