US-UK Intelligence Co-operation in the Age of Trump

Date: 12:00-13:00, 13th September 2017

Location: CR12, Houses of Parliament

Speaker: General Michael Hayden

Event Chair: Henry Smith MP

HJS Event Representation: Dr Alan Mendoza

Henry Smith MP

Good afternoon, my lords and ladies and gentlemen. It is a great pleasure to see you all here today. My name is Henry Smith, I am a member of parliament and it is my privilege to host this event, Henry Jackson Society event. We are also very honoured to have with us General Hayden who, you will of course know, needs little introduction. He has a long and distinguished career in the US air force and was formerly the director of both the NSA and the CIA and is here with us today to talk about US-UK intelligence cooperation in the age of the Trump presidency. So, what we will do is have some remarks, um, introductions from the general and there will be an opportunity for some questions and answers and if everyone could be as efficient as possible, please, because we have to conclude this meeting by one p.m. General Hayden, welcome and further to you.

General Hayden

Thank you, thank you very much.


As Mr Smith said, we need to be done by one, I will try to be very efficient in transmitting, thereby giving you an opportunity to comment, support, not support, questions, and challenges and so on. Uh, broad topic, first of all, I divide slightly differently: what’s going on with intelligence in America and how that affects our most important intelligence relations. So, let me just jump right in. Look, as a career intelligence officer, I can tell you our relationship with our president is always challenging. I use a silly cartoon to describe this but bear with me, it works. It’s as if there is a room in downtown Washington, just pick one, perhaps without any corners in it – oval shaped – and the purpose of the drill is for the intelligence officer and the policy maker, in this case the DNI, the DCIA, and the president, to get together in the middle of the room in order to exchange information. But they come in – remember this is a cartoon – they come in to the room through different doors. The door for the intelligence officer over here is labelled ‘facts’ [light laughter in the room] – I’ll get to that. The door over here, all the time, here I am trying, let’s just lay the base case. The door over here, all the time, says ‘vision’. You know, the thing you voted for, him or her for. ‘Fact’, ‘vision’.

The world as it is, [inaudible], the world as we want it to be, vision-based. Fact, vision, as is and want it to be. Inherently inductive, think of GCHQ, MI5, MI6, data, data, data and from it you draw a generalised conclusion with occasional predictions. Inherently inductive. Inherently deductive, how do I apply my principles to a specific situation or circumstance. From the general to the specific, fact, vision, as is, want to be, inductive, deductive. Inherently pessimistic, comes with the trade. Bob Gates, who held one of my old jobs, director of CIA, before he became secretary of defence, is famous for saying ‘when the CIA analysts stops to smell the flower, she then looks around for the hearse’. Inherently pessimistic – inherently optimistic, otherwise they would have never interviewed for the job. Okay? Fact, vision, as is, want to be, inductive, deductive, pessimistic, optimistic. Permanent condition. Now, it is more or less [inaudible], depending on the human beings so that, for example, I think this permanent, unavoidable bump, was as general as it could have ever have gotten when we gave our first briefing to Bush 41. You may recall, he used to come in the room through the other door. He used to be the head of the CIA.

If Secretary Clinton had been elected, I think this would have also been a slow speed bump given her record of briefing as secretary of state. I can imagine the first session going something like ‘So, where were we?’ We always knew, if Mr Trump was elected president, this would have been an above average speed bump in the relationship. This was going to be harder due simply because of the way the Creator decided to create this creature. He has an almost preternatural confidence in his pre-ordained, instinctively derived narrative of the world. And before I tell my countrymen, before anyone looks down their noses at that, remember those are the ones that got him elected president of the United States and all the experts over here told us that wasn’t going to happen. But what you have is a very instinctive, dare I say not always fact-based, alright, decision maker, if I might put it in a better way, who might have more confidence in what is being told to him based on who is telling him rather than what might be being told.

So you have that – permanent condition, bigger bump than average. It is an American tragedy, an American tragedy, the first time the American intelligence community had to come up to this, unarguably a higher than average speedbump, it was on an issue, the Russian interference in the American election, that other Americans, listen carefully here, other Americans and not the intelligence community, were using to challenge his legitimacy to be president of the United States. That was a perfect storm. And took what was always going to be hard and frankly made somewhere between near impossible and incredibly hard. Now we are trying, the intelligence community, are working hard now to get up to a more normal relationship between the president and the intelligence community that exists only to serve him. John McLaughlin, whom some of you may know personally and certainly many may know by reputation, John was acting director of the CIA for an extended period of time, he was the head of our analytical workforce, still one of the best minds still talking about American intelligence.  John says that we are going through a four phase process with the president. Phase one was pre-campaign/campaign in which he knew almost nothing about us and in fact, that was really clear. He really didn’t understand this enterprise.

You may recall the line ‘I am sort of like a smart person, I don’t need them to say the same things, the same words everyday’, and that was his description of the president’s daily brief. That is really not hostility, it is rooted in absolute ignorance. So phase one was ignorance of the community. Phase two, phase two, was hostility, phase two comes out of the Russia investigation. Phase two comes out of Christopher Steele’s dodgy dossier and what American intelligence did or did not do with regard to the dossier. Stage two continues with the president, here we have a British touch on it, with the president waking up in Mar-a-lago on a Saturday morning in February having read something in an alt-right, alt-news, universe, about wiretapping in Trump Tower and immediately tweets out accusations that Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. And then that accusation spread to ‘oh we didn’t do it, we had our friends do it’ [inaudible] GCHQ. Um, that was one really low point in the hostility period. Another low point was, the day after the inauguration, going out to CIA, great idea because he knew he was in a hole and whoever said ‘Mr President, you need to go and talk to these folks’ had it just right, right idea, absolutely wrong speech. And if you’ve seen that performance in front of our stars, wall of honour for anonymous fallen, it could not have been a worse speech.

So, didn’t know, maybe was a bit suspicious – actively hostile, because of, by the way if there is a moment in American political culture, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, the GCHQ’s buddy, is in open session in front of the House intelligence committee and is asked point blank ‘did you, as the president has alleged, did you or your British counterparts wiretap Trump Tower?’ and Mike Rogers responds professionally and factually ‘No, we did not do that’ and then he slid over to the accusation of GCHQ and there is a marked change in the tone of voice, the pitch gets higher, the pace gets slower and there is an absolute denial. ‘Not only would we not ask it; they would never do it’. The short summary is that saying the NSA did is saying you did it and saying GCHQ did is saying your sister did it and that pulled out all the emotion you would expect in that kind of response. So that was the deepest of the deepest troughs.

We have been trying to dig out of it, remember intelligence is unknown, intelligence is hostile, now we are in the period where the president is saying ‘I gotta have some of that stuff’, alright? There are just concrete stuff that are going on in the world in which he, even with his all-priority narrative about how things go on, realises that at least in specific point, and here is one of the ‘watch this space’ ‘to be determined’ ‘not yet decided’, is trying to get the president out from dialoguing about the tactic and get intelligence to feed his mind about the broad strategic, about those preconceived notions he has about how the world works. The intel community was happy about his choices. Mike Pompeio as the director of the CIA. Mike is a Kansas Tea Party Republican elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010 and he did everything you would expect a Tea Party Republican from Kansas to do.

In addition, by the way he had that Benghazi bone in his jaw for about three years and would not let it go. In addition, though, while he was doing that, there is no denying that he did that, he was quietly a serious student of the intelligence community, he went to school on it, he went to bases, he went to stations, he stayed late, he asked questions, he actually got good marks, knowing he has this political persona that he has got to live up to, beneath that he got good marks from the community. Mike talked to every living director, kinda our routine, just make the rounds and talk to the folks [inaudible] job is like, particularly for him: businessman, lawyer, army officer; no real intel experience until the intel committee. I talked to him from his office for about 90 minutes, I probably didn’t tell him anything he didn’t already know. But I did ask him, ‘You are coming at this from eight years in America’s army, you know commander spouses sometimes take on responsibilities that we have no right to ask of them. Does your wife envision a fairly active role looking after agency families?’ And he said ‘Absolutely’, I said ‘Well, here’s my wife’s card. She was very active, she may wanna talk’.  Mrs Pompeio was in my office that afternoon, which gives me a sense of the seriousness that the family approaches the job. He talks in a more political [inaudible] than preceding CIA directors, I would look for more evidence before I read too much into the rhythm of speech because I get no word from people in the agency that that has turned into pressure on the analysis.

Dan Coats, a former senator, he brought to the DNI job all this needed bravitas. Again, a choice that was well regarded. So I went through the periods here, unknown, a little hostile, actively hostile, gotta have; phase one, phase two, phase three. Let me tell you when phase four begins. I can’t tell you what phase four looks like but I can tell you when it begins. It will begin when Bob Muller releases his investigation on the Russian involvement in the American election. At that point, once again, we are going to have a massive reset in this relationship. The intelligence community, included President Trump’s intelligence community, has held the line on the original assessment that with high confidence, the Russians stole the data, weaponised the data, pushed the data, with some sophisticated technology, pushed the data into the American political system with the intent to mess with our heads (check), delegitimise our processes (check), undercut the expected President Hillary Clinton because he hates her, and then by August or September it becomes clear that this could go either way, and at this point it seems that intervention was redesigned, not only to punish her but to help him.

Now the mantra back home is, if you ask me, people like me, the community, did the Russians do that, for sure, high confidence. Why they do it, I told you. Were they successful? My answer, of course they were. They had an effect. The effect is impossible to measure, therefore we are done talking about the effect. That man from Manhattan is the legitimate president and that will never change. That is behind us, that is not in question. What is in question is, what did they do, how did they do it, what can we learn from it, how do we prepare ourselves and prevent it from happening in the future. Now they did some criminal things around the outer circle that will have to be decided. As for the intelligence community, as I have told you, what I have said is what you get and that will be finalised then.

The only piece missing is: was there any intentional or unintentional American cooperation/complicity with the Russian effort? That is the only remaining detail of discussion. And how that, in the criminal indictments come out will reset phase four for John in how they move forward in the relationship with the president.  I do think that we have been uneven but far better than I feared we would have been in terms of communicating with the president. Pompeio says that he gets at least 45 minutes at least a day with the president. Uh, the DNI is down there routinely, Pompeio is down there so often that there is an undercurrent that he needs to spend more time up the Potomac River rather than downtown in order to manage a large and complex organization.

To give you a sense of the ying and yang, and I will end it with this, alright, because I know everyone has questions, to give you a sense of the ying and yang, I think the best speech the president has given on foreign policy was the one gave on Afghanistan at Fort Meyr about two and a half weeks ago. Now, agree or disagree with the conclusions, it was a rational speech, it was a thought out speech that made points with supporting data, it was a position that was arrived at, by what we would call regular orbit.

The departments and agencies participated, they proposed options, the options were aggregated and sharpened, the options were briefed to the president and the president asked questions, the president made a decision, the president told us his decision, it took him 25 minutes, not 140 characters, normal orbit. Good. Less than 48 hours later at a press conference, the president is asked about the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, at which point he responds ‘I am well aware of what is going on in Venezuela, we are very concerned, all options are on the table, all options, including the military option, are on the table’. He then quickly went over to the department of defence and asked what options are there. They couldn’t say what was in their hearts, too few word, too few letters, they simply said ‘we will have to refer you back to the White House’.


So, the relationship between the president and the community is a work in progress. Thank you very much.


Henry Smith MP

So, thank you for that fascinating introduction. So, uh, please be conscious of time and keep your questions as concise as possible and I’ll be grateful if you could introduce yourself when answering a question and whatever organisation, if any, you represent and again I remind everyone we need to finish in 35 minutes. Sir?

Question 1:

John Paulson from the Defence Intelligence [inaudible], could you please comment on any changes that you see as an impact of your four stage progression on the British intelligence community?

General Hayden

The question was, based on my four stage progression, what is the impact here. I guess my going in position would be that I would be surprised if there was anything significant, the (?) in this relationship is very, very deep, alright? So, despite what turbulence you might have on the surface running around the wheel house. I don’t know if it really moves the (?) all that much. So I honestly have trouble deciding, well maybe we could look for this or that, I just don’t even know what to suggest as that. Let me just parse it out slightly. The signals relationship is deeper, more permanent, more formalised than the other ones. Frankly, it is an integrated enterprise. Kinda hard to change that because operationally, it is a unit. The other relationships, not quite as integrated on the operational level. There could have been a policy decision, for example, back in the day on the New Zealanders with regards to imagery, a policy decision came up. I can’t imagine anything like that coming up under the current circumstances. I will tell you, however, you are now the third of the four other partners to come to me to ask ‘We’re okay, right?’

Henry Smith MP

Thank you. You sir, in the front.

Question 2:

John {inaudible]. Everyone agrees that there are no good options on North Korea. I think you agree that it is a difficult intelligence task as well. But on the basis of intelligence, a) saber rattling, how useful that is to threaten military action, is it in our interests and b) on talking, talking hasn’t been very successful, how would you actually make talking succeed? Again, based on intelligence.

General Hayden

Yeah, so to begin, there is a reason this thing is still hanging around. After five successive administrations, so if I got a complaint with the Trump guys, well back to director Pompeio, he was interviewed at the Aspen Security Forum back in July, think it was with Wolf Blitzer. It is a very good forum and is all online. His interview, the DNI’s interview, and so on. So, Wolf Blitzer hits him with ‘So, how about this Koreans?’ and he begins the commentary with ‘the previous administrations have been whistling past the graveyard too long on this question, we are going to take care of this’. I sat back in my chair and went ‘uh’. My sense is that they are going to hand this ugly baby to the next administration because it is hard to change the ugly baby. It is not because this administration is stupid or lazy or unintelligent, un-American, unimaginative. It is because it is a wicked problem.

So the American intelligence community has already concluded that these guys are never going to give this stuff up. People talk about them being irrational. They would actually have to be irrational to give it up. They have gone to the movie Iraq, they have gone to the movie Libya, they saw how the movie turned out. They won’t go to that movie. So, I think what constitutes success is a limited, less active, more controlled, more transparent but no doubt nuclear North Korea. Now my government has never said that, hasn’t said it recently. The North was moving in the direction, and in the premise they can hit Seattle, the premise was within our current definition of acceptable risk, comma [sic], in a few years the North Koreans will be able to hit Seattle. So then the question becomes, do you want to embrace some additional risk, and frankly that is what I think the Trump administration has decided to do. I think that is a coherent policy. Not sure it is mine. It is not crazy talk, it is a coherent policy, if we leave this situation stable, we know where it is going and it is going at an accelerated rate and it is bad so let’s leave it less stable. Now that is very dangerous, therefore the implementation, we are the destabilising power. China’s policy, pretty stable.

The North Koreans, they have been on this arch for decades. We are the ones that are tweaking it. Again, what I see is coherent, you could probably talk me into supporting it if done well, which means you have to be really careful with your language otherwise you could overexcite it and get something you really don’t want. So I think the tweets are an example of over (?) and I think the arms crossed, head mistress talking about things people have never seen before is bad. Mattis has been tough and precise and I think the Secretary is hitting the sweet spot. But all of this is meant to influence the Chinese, not the Koreans. Frankly, the North Korean nuclear test was designed to influence the Chinese. I think we both know the off-ramp solution to talk. We would like the structure of the talks to favour our view. So, we amp up the sanctions, we start spreading the rumours about secondary sanctions back home against the Chinese. They could cook off a nuclear bomb in order to influence the Chinese who will facilitate the talks and set up the talks so they would favour. I think that is where we are going. I get really scared when my government says ‘We will not tolerate the existence of…’, which is where the president is. It is not, if you check the fine print, where Mattis or Tillerson, not what they say. Back to the earlier question, it is unclear who speaks authoritatively these days for the American government.

Henry Smith MP

Gentleman in the back.

Question 3:

Thank you very much. [Inaudible, mentions of Iran]. So the issue is can you enforce the Iran agreement. So my question is,  is your intelligence good enough to enforce the Iran agreement when Iran clearly has an incentive to acquire a nuclear weapon?

General Hayden

So, there is a lot to unpack there but maybe not all of it consists with the premise of the question so just let me throw a stream of consciousness on you. So Iran is tied to North Korea. In one way it is tied, not suggested by the question, I will get to that, one way it is tied, not suggested by the question is that the president is threatening to rip up the agreement. He has signalled, very clearly, he will not certify compliance at the end of the next 90 days. Now dark side, issue one of the intel, the intel guys are telling us that there are no substantial breaches of the agreement so now you have the president saying that ‘this is not the answer I want, cook me up on the boiler plate’, which is a really awkward position for the intelligence to be in that form. More related to the North Korea issue, though, is ‘wait a minute, the off ramp they said they were offering me were to sit and talk and make a deal and this guy is ripping up the last deal they made after 2.5 years of existence, tell me again why I should listen to these guys to begin with?’

You see, it is disincentivising the other party to join you in what I think is the off ramp for this one. Now back to observing Iran. I have made it a matter of faith, as director, that we could not, to the degree that you want on a political level, we could not verify the Iranian nuclear agreement without an invasive inspection. We could not do it on a national, technical means. MI5, MI6, GCHQ kinda stuff. We could not do it without invasive technical inspection. I still hold that. As we got closer to the agreement, in the intelligence community, under President Obama, you know earlier questions about President Trump and how that political entity affect intel, is there a cascade that affects judgment. The intelligence community was a little less stark than I just was with regard to our ability to do this, or inability to do this, without invasive inspections as we got closer to the deal. And John Brennan, who was in my old chair, John got pretty close to saying that ‘no, we can do it’, with the antecedent of ‘we’ being [inaudible].

In my heart of hearts, I do think we can detect material and substantial breaches of the Iranian nuclear deal. In my heart of hearts, I don’t know why the Iranians would want to do that.  The head of Israeli Defence Force intelligence when I was director of CIA, I asked ‘With the deal now, what do the Iranians need for a nuclear device?’ and his answer was ‘Patience, wait ten years’. It is not so much the deal but that the deal goes away and that creates a great stress point. So they are really related and I fear that we are making this northeast Asia thing harder by some of the short term steps in southwest Asia.

Question 4:

General, you were at NSA when the intelligence was being pulled together to justify an attack on Iraq. I, by then, was actually First Chief of [inaudible] for over three years I had been CDI, the equivalent of DIA. We had been in close cahoots with the teams that were looking for weapons of mass destruction within Iraq and it was quite clear, really to folks like John Tolson (?), that there was nothing there at all to us, I have to say at the DIS, and maybe possible the old chemical shells because we couldn’t spot that. Do you feel within the NSA that you were finding evidence that made it necessary to pull together what was actually the stated reason, in intelligence terms, in relation to the start of the talk between the political and intelligence, fact and vision, and I would be very interested in how you saw that.

General Hayden

Sure, so I was director of the NSA at the time, so I would have been in the room – I was in the room – when we voted on the National Intelligence assessment that said Iraq had five programmes underway. Nuke, chem, bio, missile, and UAV, all in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. I take responsibility, I believed this, my agency believed this. There is an urban legend back home that Dick Cheney took his shotgun that he went hunting, took it to the agency and held it to the heads of his analysts. He did not. To be fair, he did not have to. Our analysts believed in what we wrote. Now, the fact that it was embraced so quickly by the administration, clearly it was a welcomed message but it wasn’t a made up message. It was an incorrect message but it wasn’t made up to meet some political need at the moment, which taught us a lot of stuff. So I am just going to unpack that point. So, Condi Rice was a friend of mine, I was a lieutenant colonel and she was an intern at the joint staff when we first met.

So she was a National Security advisor and she grabbed me by the arm in the margins of a meeting somewhere downtown, pre-war, and says ‘Mike, in your heart, does he got this stuff?’ I said ‘Condi, I got a room full of evidence he got this stuff – it is all circumstantial, but I got a room full’. Now, fast forward. So, we got this tall guy, walking around a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and my whole community is trying to make the decision, the president is trying to make the decision, to launch the star fleet, at great political and operational risk, to go after this guy. He is getting a really squishy answer from the intel guys whether or not that tall guy is Osama bin Laden. So he pulls Michael Morrell back, I think Michael was Leon’s number two – Michael is my number three – ‘Michael, in our heart of hearts, what are the people at the agency saying? Is that the guy?’ and Michael responds ‘well, Mr President, the views at the agency ranges from 50/50 to 90/10’, of course the President understands this and says ‘This isn’t helping me, Mike’.

Michael then goes on to say that ‘All the 50/50 guys did the NIA stuff, all the 90/10 guys have done nothing besides bin Laden and they are all highly confident that that is bin Laden’ and then the light comes on and the president says ‘Ah! Why didn’t you say that in the first place?’ and the president is now inching in the direction of a decision and then Michael, out of duty, says ‘Mr President, all that stuff that we have there that that guy is Osama bin Laden is circumstantial and we had more circumstantial evidence that that guy over there, Saddam Hussein had a nuclear weapons programme, and we have circumstantial evidence that that is Osama bin Laden’. I am not, I feel badly about the report being wrong but what I am shattered by is the language of the NIA. I actually do this in my class at university, if you pull up the report, it is not just that it is wrong, intel gets asked tough questions, it is that the language presents a sense of confidence that even the authors of the assessment did not have. This was written for the Senate, they were going to vote ‘war’ or ‘no war’, and if you were a senator going in for a casual read and you read that, it was as if you were touching scriptures. So, no, no political pressure. Two, bad tradecraft on our part. Three, no lying. Four, the big mistake was not expressing the ambiguity we had to the people reading the document.

Henry Smith MP

Sir, gentleman sitting in the back there.

Question 5:

My question is, what impact do you see of tariff and trade barriers on your intel and the behaviour of traditional powers. I come from the position that I know that Taiwan and China are one nation, Korea is one nation, that is an assumption built in tradition and that they broke from that to build economic relations with the United States. Take away economic benefit or change the pattern/behaviour [inaudible].

General Hayden

We are Mahan kind of people. Uh, yes.


So, if you are scoring at home, the worst decision by the administration in my view was the decision made the day after the inauguration, when the president announced he was going to rip up the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was a security agreement masquerading as a trade deal among twelve nations that touch the Pacific Ocean, none of them being China. Aligning them in a rules based, international order facing the United States and we ripped that up based on nothing by red meat, campaign rhetoric, without any logic whatsoever, caused great harm and will cause greater harm going forward. I think it was bad economics but let me concede the economic argument, the detachment of the economic considerations from the broader strategic considerations, which is what you are suggesting, yes, absolutely. And you know, when they are leaning on the Koreans who, after all, will be the people who die if we get this pressure from the North Koreans wrong and in the midst of that trying to get President Moon to put a couple of more THAAD missiles on the golf course down in southwestern Korea, the president resurfaces the Korean-American free trade agreement that needs to be renegotiated. Again, what are you thinking?

Let me turn that around to an intel point, okay? It has been pretty easy for American intel to work for the last 75 years because we have always knew our boss was an American internationalist, alright? He could have been a Wilsonian leaning internationalist, a Hamiltonian leaning internationalist, but he was an American internationalist. Comfortable with American involvement abroad. Comfortable with American use of power when appropriate, certainly comfortable with alliances with strategic purposes. This president does not embrace any of those things I just said. So now you are back here three decks below rowing creating something that will eventually be in front of the president. It is easier to do when you believe that you have a president, broadly, have an agreed worldview. That is not shaving points or forming a message, it is just ‘You know what is important’ because you share this broad worldview. That doesn’t exist now. To the degree that the president has a view, he is a Jacksonian, which is kind of ‘America first’, nativist, inward turning. Jacksonians go abroad, but only if you piss them off. Read Walter Russell Mead, he talks about Jacksonian foreign policy is ‘No, no, no’, that is my summary of it. Jacksonian foreign policy is immortalised in Robert De Niro’s line in Taxi Driver, ‘You talkin’ to me?’ and then we go.

Other than that, there is Jeffersonian, which was Barack Obama, that we’ve got to do nation building at home. So, we’ve never had this, let me be careful with this, in the Oval because the team that he has selected consists of traditional American internationalists. So I can only imagine how you put intelligence together, for the most part you write the data, present the conclusion, and up it goes. I think you understand it becomes more difficult when there is not this agreed worldview. I mean, for example, writing about Brexit.  To a president who is enthusiastic about it and obviously has little interest in Europe preserving the Union or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, might affect whether or not an analysts thinks that this is an important thing to get to the president or not. Again, I am going to stop but we are habituated to know broadly the worldview and the worldview up here is very much in question.

Henry Smith MP

I am going to go over to you, sir. I will try to get, I am conscious that we only have ten minutes so if we could try-

General Hayden

I’ll try to be brief.

Henry Smith MP

No, not you General.

Question 6:

So to take it back to the very particular, what impact do you think the leak to the Russians at that famous interview at the White House, of Israeli intelligence, will make to foreign powers that are much more cautious?

General Hayden

That is actually one of the subtexts that the Henry Jackson Society asked me to touch on, I am sorry that I did not do that. I will use the word ‘manageable’ for our part and for some of our remote partners, I am going to be very candid, a lot of people get a lot of stuff from America. Our intel complex is a 110,000 people and 53 billion dollars a year, we turn out stuff. We are deeply grateful for the stuff Her Majesty’s government gives us but in terms of raw data going this way or that way, you get an idea of what the flow is. That is not a complaint, it’s a good partnership. Now imagine, I’ll just stick with GCHQ.

GCHQ is one fifth the size of NSA. ASD, in Canberra, is one fifth of the size of GCHQ, the Kiwis and the Canadians are one fifth the size of the Aussies. So there will be incentive for American partners to accept the missteps, to accept the insults, to swallow hard and smile back at their American compatriot, ‘Don’t worry, don’t worry, we can make this work’. Now, we’ve had to put up with this. We had a Canadian naval lieutenant who dumped a fairly good chunk of NSA secrets four, five years ago. There have been example of this going on. In an imperfect world, we will all make unforced errors, we can’t let it affect the core of the relationship. I think this will carry on kind of thing, alright? At the political level, internally within the United States, it was just another straw on the pile of not knowing how this kind of thing is done. But I think that we can keep the relationships going.

Question 7:


General Hayden

No relation either! So, when I do this in a more formal setting and I get in what I call ‘tectonic shifts’, pre-tectonic, I put 3 bumper stickers so let me just tell you about those. I have lived in a world more dangerous than today. Cuban Missile Crisis, Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie, Defcon 3 1973, Middle East War. I have never lived in a world more complicated, and there I pull out Syria and all the warring factions. And I have never lived in a world more immediate. Something goes bump over there, I feel it substantially over here. So I have lived in a world more dangerous, never this complicated, never this immediate. The more complicated world, the more immediate stirs the water in such a way that it might feel more dangerous than it actually is. But I started that thing, I got 3 points for you , about 3 years ago, amongst friends, I am less confident about point one than I was in the past.

My confidence in ‘you know I’ve actually lived in a more dangerous world’, I think that is still true but it is not as true as when I first said it thirty months ago, twenty four months ago, eighteen months ago, twelve months ago. And, there are lots of reasons, but it would be unfair for me to not say that one reason is my country. We are a destabilising force in the world right now. I was up, I’ll be quick, I was up in Baltimore a winter ago, February, uh 18 months ago. Republicans are at their off-season, getting together, the Republicans in Congress (Senate, House), they get together and bring their families up, come back from their constituent weekends and come to Baltimore, somewhere in the East Coast, easy to get to. Put the kids up in a hotel, see the national aquarium, the members get together and have meetings are trying to find agreement on core issues, the common Republican position on entitlements, the common Republican position on immigration, you follow American politics, none of that is possible. I was there to get a common Republican position on national security.

I was there with the former secretary of Homeland Security. the former chief of staff of the army, Ryan Crocker, US ambassador to just about everywhere – Baghdad, Islamabad, Kabul – Bob Kagan, from Brookings, me. Alright, chit chat, chit chat. First of all, five people on a panel, too big. Then, the audience starts asking question, cutting through the moderator. Then, the audience, being members of Congress, start punching back and forth at each other. So, we’re not quite chaotic but it is getting pretty loud, at which point Kagan, the Brookings guy, Bob sort of gets out of his chair and puts his arms as if he is Moses and says ‘Look, what is going on is the breaking down of the post WWII, American liberal, World Bank, IMF order, eh!’ He is right, so the security structure that has given us in the past 70 years and frankly, in the deep scope of history this will look like a pretty good 75 years when it comes to health, trade, commerce, life expectancy and so on.

The force that managed to create that, created after WWII with a large American hand, their relevance as a natural order of things is going away and the big question is ‘What do the Americans think their role is in 2.0?’ and simultaneously with that, sometimes parallel sometimes interactive, simultaneously with that, we have elected our first nativist, isolationist president in well over a century so the rest of the world is concerned that American behaviour as these structures begin to lose their relevance and frankly we aren’t giving answers yet, we aren’t giving answers yet. True to his word, the president seems to be approaching each of the manifestations of the melting down on a transactional, one-off basis, back to ‘I don’t know the big plan is’, ‘I don’t know who I am writing for’ and that is causing a great deal of concern, a great deal of unease. So what does it mean? It means Xi Jinping gives the American speech at Davos. It means that Angela Merkel takes the American leadership role on the continent of Europe. It means the Saudis take care of their defensive measures and go ahead and invade Yemen. And I can go on with examples.

I think that our role in 2.0 will never be what it was in 1.0 due to relative power changes but we are still big and powerful and I think until we decide on 2.0, the odds that you asked me to handicap they become worse simply because we are not doings things that we are suppose to. By the way, there is a little bit of Obama there too. The backing away from Syria led to the destabilisation of your continent, right? There were no good choices. I have to admit, skip the language part, the policy differences between 44 and 45 weren’t that great when it came to the willingness of America to engage. So you got the melting down of the order that is causing things to spark. You got the lack of American willingness to shape events, to participate in the shaping of events early, which is always wiser than late. Then finally you got the Americans being the strain on themselves, the president folding his arms and saying ‘the likes of which the world has never seen’ so, anyway, that is the best I can hint at anyway.

Henry Smith MP

Well, I am sorry, we have run out of time but I am extremely grateful for the very engaging presentation and the answers to the questions, that we have been privileged to have General Hayden, again, sincere thanks for your presence today and please, show your appreciation.



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