WASHINGTON -- Former CIA Director Michael Hayden still isn't pumped about last year's Senate report on the agency's torture program. It's slanted, it's one-sided, and it cherry-picks information, Hayden wrote in a new attack last week. The way the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee did their work, he said, they could've made it look like he helped put Jesus Christ on the cross.
Alas, despite Hayden's suggestion, the proverbial thorn in the side of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) doesn't appear to have played a role in perhaps history's most famous death.
"There are no CIA documents to indicate that Hayden killed Jesus," reads a surgically precise rebuke from Feinstein, former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and her staff. She quietly posted a detailed rebuttal to Hayden's assertions last week.
"There are more than 6.3 million pages of records that indicate the CIA's 'enhanced interrogation' program was ineffective and more brutal than previously known, as well as CIA records that show Hayden provided substantial amounts of inaccurate information to the Committee on the program," wrote Feinstein, referencing the report prepared under her watch. "The CIA -- in its official response -- agrees that Hayden provided inaccurate information."
Hayden and other former spy chiefs claim they've been unfairly villainized by the Intelligence Committee's damning, 6,700-page report on the agency's now-defunct torture program. That report, the executive summary of which was released last December, concludes that the CIA mismanaged and abused its interrogation powers in the wake of 9/11 and lied to Congress and the White House about the harsh techniques it used.
Onetime CIA leaders Hayden, George Tenet, Jose Rodriguez, Porter Goss and a handful of others are fighting back with Rebuttal: The CIA Responds to the Senate Intelligence Committee's Study of Its Detention and Interrogation Program, released this month by the Naval Institute. The book offers a collection of essays as well as the CIA's own formal response to the Senate report and a complimentary document from what was then the Intelligence Committee's Republican minority. In the essays, the former CIA officials present an unapologetic defense of the agency's use of torture and a searing indictment of the Senate study.
Hayden, who became director of the CIA in 2006 at the tail end of the torture program, has long been a vocal opponent of Feinstein's report. But his defenses have occasionally left his audience scratching their heads. In his most recent essay, his attempts to explain the CIA technique of "walling" fall short of the mark.
While Feinstein and her Senate colleagues said the agency had "slammed people's heads into walls," Hayden wrote that walling involved "pushing a detainee's shoulders into a false plywood wall, all the while protecting their necks with braces or at a minimum towels." According to the CIA's own documents, interrogators used the towels as a tool for propelling people's heads toward the wall.
As for Feinstein's most recent rebuke, the former Intelligence Committee chair leaves the ball in the retired CIA chief's court.
"Only Hayden can say if he intentionally misled policymakers," the response reads.