Thursday, June 30, 2011


"No, I'm not all pleased. When my gatekeeper shoots a fox, he doesn't go and hang it up outside the Master of Foxhounds' drawing room; he buries it out of sight. But you just can't shoot a spy as you did in the war. You have to try him....better to discover him, and then control him, but never catch him."

Then British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan on being informed of the capture of the Russian spy, W. John Vassall in September 1962. See: Alistair Horne, Harold MacMillan, Volume II: 1957-1986. (1989). pp. 460-461.

On Tuesday 28 June, former Central Intelligence Director (CIA) & National Security Agency Director (NSA), as well as Deputy-Director of National Intelligence under John Negroponte, General Michael Hayden spoke before a packed room, to members of the Oxonian Society here in Manhattan at the Russian Tea Room. General Hayden who was CIA director from early 2006 to February 2009, had operated at the summit of American intelligence and foreign policy for upwards of a decade, had the following insights which I believe to be of value: i) that due to the changes instituted by the current American Administration, that American policy no longer aimed to 'capture' potential terrorist and other operatives, merely 'kill them'. A policy which the General thought mistaken in view of the valuable intelligence which was regularly provided in the past by captured operatives; ii) that Chinese intelligence was as intelligence agencies go, 'particularly aggressive', and in fact the General told the audience that he was 'in awe' of the PRC's intelligence operations. Noting however that Chinese intelligence behavior was very much par for the course, and 'nothing was out of the ordinary'; iii) being a former head of the NSA, General Hayden had strong views on the secure basis of the Internet. As per the General, 'the Internet that we have built is inherently indefensible'; iv) concerning the recent upheavals in the Near and Middle East, General Hayden noted that the country by country differences are of much greater importance than the more ephemeral similarities. He also cautioned the audience with the sensible comment that Americans should be very leery indeed about 'reading' events in foreign countries through the prism of American narrative discourse. Something which he sees as being very much the case with the semi-intervention in Libya by the USA and its NATO allies. Indeed one sensed that the General if asked his opinion by the current American Administration, would have demurred from intervening in the Libyan conflict; v) Going further afield, General Hayden foresaw the possibility of Persian intervention in the ongoing troubles in Syria. Especially if the regime of Assad Fils were to become seriously at risk of collapsing. Similarly, the General suggested that such Persian intervention might in turn cause Saudi Arabian intervention on the opposing (Sunni) side. Stating that there was a possibility of a proxi-war between these two sides `a la the Lebanon in the 1970's and 1980's. The General expressed a mild surprise that the demonstrations in Syria have lasted as long as they have. He stated that he did not anticipate anything of the kind. Adding that he: 'fears what comes next [aka after the current regime] in Syria'; vi) Staying in the region, General Hayden stated that he found the monarchies of the Near and Middle East, much more stable both in the short term and in the long term, than what he labeled as 'faux republics' `a la Syria, Libya, Egypt, et cetera. Staying on the Persian versus Sunni-Arab divide, General Hayden recalled for the audience that in his experience, most of the Sunni elites were five percent concerned with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and ninety-five percent obsessed with the threat coming from Persia and its local allies; vii) touching base on relations with Pakistan and especially Pakistani intelligence (the ISI), the General stated that the current American-Pakistan relationship was a very troubled one, and that in essence that there was going to be in the near future, a 'parting of the ways', between the two powers, unless Pakistani elites, especially in the military, no longer indulged in their 'obsession' with the alleged threat from India.

Summing up, the General Hayden, noted for the audience that as CIA Director, he never met his Russian counter-part, while he did in his time, meet with as many as fifty other intelligence heads around the world. Of the other intelligence agencies around the world, he in particular expressed admiration for the Israel's Mossad, while noting that it was merely 'a regional player', and not a global one, AKA `a la the CIA. Similarly, while MI-6 was also the recipient of the General's admiration, he once again noted that it was no longer, a global player. The difference between the former and the latter, as per the General, was the a 'regional player', was able to develop a high-level of expertise on very minute and intricate matters, whereas a 'global player', by definition could not indulge to quite the same extent in such minutiae and specifics. Indeed, as per General Hayden, one of the key aspects of the CIA directorships is maintaining functioning relationships with many of the regional players who in essence provide the CIA with local expertise and deep background knowledge. That concluded the General's talk to a very pleased and grateful audience. One might conclude that General Hayden was a natural and one is tempted to say, gifted speaker, who possessed a natural air of command (par for the course in view of his military rank). Speaking with a mild, but noticeable provincial accent, employing the usual demotic and banal metaphors from American sports or television, that many in American officialdom tend to use when speaking to either their fellows or to the general public.


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