The Right Is Still Clutching Its Beloved Torture Policies

News & Politics

Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the man who served as George W. Bush’s CIA director from 2006 to 2009, presented an interesting theory Monday regarding Obama’s April decision to release DOJ torture opinions. In a guest column on, Hayden asserted that Obama’s move was “a political one, not a legal one -- a question of choice rather than necessity.”

The flaws with this argument reside on two levels. First of all, it’s somewhat absurd that Hayden would take such a strong stance against transparency, given his prominent involvement in the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping fiasco of 2005 -- arguably this decade’s most ruthless campaign to ascertain intelligence. Guess transparency only goes one way.

But what’s really frustrating about Hayden’s piece is its subtle attempt to relegate an inconvenient little thing called "public opinion" to a separate, de-politicized sphere in the broader discourse on torture. Obama did what he did only because he wanted to, Hayden argues; it was "a deliberate decision and, if it is to be defended, history (and journalism) should demand that it be defended on those grounds and not on some hapless "the judge was going to make me do it" argument."

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