The Things We Need to Know

This book review originally appeared at Reason

Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror, by Michael V. Hayden, Penguin Press, 464 pages, $30

Though he's been out of government for more than seven years, it feels like Michael Hayden never left. He directed the National Security Agency for a six-year stretch, helming it during President George W. Bush's post-9/11 warrantless wiretapping program and spearheading its efforts to expand offensive uses of hacking and cyberwarfare. He ran the CIA for the three twilight years of the Bush administration, vocally and assuredly defending its past uses of torture as both effective and moral, and accelerating its use of drones to kill suspected terrorists in Pakistan. We are still arguing about all of these things today, and Hayden is still arguing about them with us. He is one of the most consequential actors of the National Security Era, and he has spent the bulk of his time since falling out of de jure power loudly and unflinchingly trying to tell us the things we need to know about the things we probably shouldn't.

That is his brand, of course. Hayden is a man who has seen things. He knows what is necessary to protect us, and he's not afraid to do it—indeed, he has done it. He communicates this brand not just with his words but also with his style, which is "candid" and "unapologetic" (in his telling), supremely confident, both folksy and military-clipped, practical, a bit squeaky. He is the closest thing we have to a real-life Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson's character in "A Few Good Men")—and he'd be the first to remind you that he's got Jessup outranked.

"Playing to the Edge" is Hayden's grand statement, the case for himself as a mover and shaker, a humble but aggressive visionary, a team player, an honorable man, and, most of all, right about everything. If we disagree with him, it's only because we don't know what he knows—and this is a problem. He's concerned, he says, that "critics, observers, and just average citizens don't know as much about intelligence as they want or should." (Intelligence, in this context, means just about everything the NSA and CIA do.) If the public misunderstands what intelligence does, we might not want intelligence to keep doing it. He wants to show us that we should.

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Years ago, the NSA's Chief FOIA officer confirmed that NSA officials have only one loyalty oath to work there - each official takes an oath of office to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

According to the NSA's own FOIA response, they take an "indirect" loyalty oath to the U.S. Constitution - which includes the 4th Amendment. They don't take an oath directly to the nation or the American people.

The Framers of the Constitution thought the nation and the American people were best served by an "indirect" loyalty oath to the U.S. Constitution and the constitutional "rule of law".

Hayden may have had good intentions, but during the Bush Administration a reporter once asked him if he could define what the 4th Amendment meant and he apparently had no idea what it meant.

Maybe we need "Oath of Office training" for all intelligence personnel with an annual refresher exam. Proper loyalty is the most important job requirement for those with power and extreme secrecy. It's self-evident this training is vitally necessary.


I sure hope that the writer of this article about Mr. Hayden, is being sarcastic, for if the author's applause to Mr. Hayden's assertions are meant to be literal, then I wholeheartedly disagree.

Mr. Hayden has no right dictating to the American people that he can do whatever he pleases to with our private information in the name of "National Security," a term of which, by the way, has led to the spawning of many misnomer's-------including that of purportedly requiring that we give up our privacy in order to maintain a reasonable level of security.

That is a bold-faced lie and it's obvious the government has found their guy to be that bold face!

You can't have security without privacy and as the leading security expert, Bruce Schneier, so eloquently pointed out in his May 18th, 2006 article entitled, "The Eternal Value of Privacy," he stated...

"Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we're doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance."

Mr. Schneier further expounded on this point by stating,

"We do nothing wrong when we make love or go to the bathroom. We are not deliberately hiding anything when we seek out private places for reflection or conversation. We keep private journals, sing in the privacy of the shower, and write letters to secret lovers and then burn them. Privacy is a basic human need."

"A future in which privacy would face constant assault was so alien to the framers of the Constitution that it never occurred to them to call out privacy as an explicit right. Privacy was inherent to the nobility of their being and their cause. Of course being watched in your own home was unreasonable. Watching at all was an act so unseemly as to be inconceivable among gentlemen in their day. You watched convicted criminals, not free citizens. You ruled your own home. It's intrinsic to the concept of liberty."

"For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that -- either now or in the uncertain future -- patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable..."

"...This is the loss of freedom we face when our privacy is taken from us. This is life in former East Germany, or life in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. And it's our future as we allow an ever-intrusive eye into our personal, private lives."

"Too many wrongly characterize the debate as 'security versus privacy.' The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that's why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide." ]

What Bruce is saying here about our innate right to privacy is absolutely correct. There is no justifiable reason whatsoever that our governments should be infringing on this right of ours-------period!



Money and Power- government and all the information they can gain access to ..... They should also be tracked ......checks and balances ......if you let public officials govern each other and all their officials all the way down to the person who don't get all the corruption because of lack of ............. Opportunity, lack of resources, lack of family, mental disabilitys .
Poverty and Wealth...... Making things so complicated , wording common everyday documents like we all graduated law school. It's cruel !!!! I have never in all my years observed such a sad unethical and unprofessional group .... Counties that get rid of Legal Aide because of lack of money in their budget because it's not as important as road construction or their raises !!!!
We need some people for people because it's sad really sad .


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