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Former CIA head Hayden denies lying to Congress about interrogations

WASHINGTON — The head of the CIA during President George W. Bush’s second term said Wednesday “I didn’t lie and I didn’t mislead Congress” about the brutal nature of the administration’s interrogations of terrorism-era detainees.

“I don’t know that the report that was released yesterday is that historically accurate,” Hayden said in a nationally broadcast interview. “It reads like a prosecutorial screed rather than a historical document.”

Regarding claims that the CIA’s interrogation techniques were harsher than previously disclosed, he said, “It may be more slightly layered in the details, but everyone knows what waterboarding does. It prompts the anti-drowning reflex in an individual.”

“I’m sure it’s horrible,” he said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show. “But it’s also horrible for tens of thousands of American airmen whom we used it against for training.”

“I disagree with the fact that you’re claiming it to be news,” he told interviewer Savannah Guthrie. “These topics and subjects were all out there.”

He said he advocated to the White House the notion that the administration had to keep key congressional figures informed of what the intelligence community was doing to repel another 9/11-style attack. Hayden said that “my purpose going down there was to put my arms around the other political branch and try to decide a way forward. I was straightforward and honest and gave information as I knew it to be and as the agency knew it to be.”

Asked if Americans have the right to be appalled by the revelations in the Senate Intelligence Committee report about brutal interrogation tactics like waterboarding, Hayden said he didn’t know. But Hayden added that “it’s probably a good thing” the public now knows what efforts the CIA was making on its behalf.

Questioned about whether he believed CIA officers thought they were carrying out the nation’s will, Hayden, who also formerly headed the National Security Agency and was director of national intelligence, replied, “What’s happening now, these folks having the rug pulled out from under them, people who thought they were doing what we wanted them to do. That’s unprecedented.”

In a separate appearance on MSNBC, Hayden said he was worried that the revelations would turn the CIA into a “timid” agency.