Look, if there's an indefensible, unconstitutional, and needless government incursion into the rights of private citizens that took place during the Bush era, former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden's going to be there to defend it. When President Obama released the torture memos, Hayden insisted that he had put the country in danger because, maybe the warrantless wiretapping program had revealed that Osama bin Laden had let his New York Review of Books subscription die a couple months ago and there's no way he would have already known that the United States was torturing people cause it sure wasn't a big international news story or anything.

At any rate, after defending torture months ago, today Hayden takes to the pages of the New York Times to defend the warrantless surveillance program against the recent CIA Inspector General's report, which offered conclusions of the program's utility that sounded like this:

NCTC analysts involved in preparing the threat assessments told the ODNI OIG that only a portion of the PSP information was ever used in the ODNI threat assessments because other intelligence sources were available that provided more timely or detailed information about the al-Qa'ida threat to the United States.


DOJ OIG found it difficult to assess or quantify the overall effectiveness of the PSP program as it relates to the FBI's counterterrorism activities. However, based on the interviews conducted and documents reviewed, the DOJ OIG concluded that although PSP-derived information had value in some coutnerterrorism investigations, it generally played a limited role in the FBI's overall counterterrorism efforts.

As well as:

The CIA [inspector general] determined that the CIA did not implement procedures to assess the usefulness of the product of the PSP and did not routinely document whether PSP reporting had contributed to successful counterterrorism operations. CIA officials, including Hayden, told the CIA [inspector general] that PSP reporting was used in conjunction with reporting from other intelligence sources; consequently, it is difficult to attribute the success of particular counterterrorism case exclusively to the PSP.

This entire op-ed was essentially pre-fisked by Marcy Wheeler and Spencer Ackerman.

The report also concluded that the Bush administration misled Congress about the details of the program, which hadn't been carefully evaluated for legality because John Yoo was there with his giant rubber stamp. But hey, Hayden points out that Congress voted for it anyway, even if they didn't understand it, which proves that it was useful and important for stopping terrorism.

Some critics claim that Congress was not aware of the full extent of the program, but the ultimate judgment on the effectiveness of much of the program may actually have been the actions of Congress. In the 2008 amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Congress judged it appropriate not only to provide additional legal underpinnings for much of what the agency had been doing but also to recognize the value of its activities by providing additional critically needed capabilities.

Whaaaaaaaaaaat? That's like saying your spouse was okay with you cheating because you lied to him/her about what you were actually doing.

Look, who are you gonna believe? A painstakingly prepared Inspector General's report or a guy who has an interest in making sure he doesn't go down in history as being associated with illegal and unethical activity that also turned out to be pretty useless in fighting terrorism?

At any rate, the headline, "warrantless criticism," is genius, and I'd be kind of shocked if Hayden came up with it, since it seems like a subtle dig at his overall point. I'm guessing the term refers to the legal authorization American citizens might have had to get in order to express themselves freely had the Bush administration decided to follow Yoo's advice again and deploy the military domestically, suspending the Bill of Rights in order to defend our freedoms from Al Qaeda.

-- A. Serwer

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