Gen. Michael Hayden



Former Director of the National Security Agency

and the Central Intelligence Agency


General Michael V. Hadyen, the only person ever to helm both CIA and NSA, offers an unapologetic insider’s look at America’s intelligence wars in his new book, PLAYING TO THE EDGE: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror. For ten years, Hayden participated in every major event in American national security, the fallout and consequences of which are still unfolding today.

General Michael V. Hayden was a four-star Air Force General who commanded the NSA from 1999 (under President Clinton) until 2005, when he was elevated to the Deputy Director of National Intelligence and eventually to CIA director from 2006 to 2009. He assumed the “field command” of the Directorship of the CIA to remedy the failures of the Agency pre and post 9/11 and to cope with the deficiencies of the administration of the Iraq War.

For General Hayden, playing to the edge means playing so close to the line that you get chalk dust on your cleats. Otherwise, by playing back, you may protect yourself, but you will be less successful in protecting America. “Play to the edge” was Hayden’s guiding principle when he ran the NSA, and it remained so when he ran CIA.  In his view, many shortsighted and uninformed people are quick to criticize, and this book will give them much to chew on but little easy comfort; it is an unapologetic insider’s look told from the perspective of the people who faced awesome responsibilities head on, in the moment.


·        Post-9/11 – he was the architect of the NSA domestic surveillance program – authorized under the Patriot Act – and made necessary to keep America safe from terrorism.

·        He is very self-critical and critical of others in the Bush administration for their handling of the NSA domestic surveillance program, but nonetheless concludes that it was and is necessary to protect America – and he can back it up with specific examples – including – as he notes – forging a strong relationship with Ray Kelly and the NYPD to thwart terrorist plots in NYC.

·        He is open and transparent about the perceived intelligence failures of the National Intelligence Estimate on the presence of WMD in Iraq – and debunks the myth that – “Cheney made him do it” – and he provides depth on how the intelligence estimate was arrived at and how US intelligence had to evolve to prepare for the Iraq war and the post-war instability of the country.

·        He provides in-depth analysis of the intelligence situation in Afghanistan (and Pakistan) – “AfPak” – and sheds light on the dangers posed by the Taliban and instability in the AfPak region to the U.S.

·        He shows how the NSA has been “modernized” with the use of cutting edge technology (used in both the domestic and foreign surveillance programs).

·        He is forthright in his discussion of the “balancing” of civil liberties vs. national security and comes up with a surprising conclusion for an “ex-military guy” in the post 9/11 world – that civil liberties and particularly the First Amendment matter.

·        He was “present at the creation” of the Snowden affair – sheds light on “how Snowden did it” (by purloining “metadata” and other so-called “encrypted files”) and what are the knock-on effects of Snowden’s actions and whether and how he should be brought to justice.

·        He provides all of the background and anecdotal stories about CIA black sites and rendition practices and how “targeted killings” by drones actually works.

·         Lastly, he gives us his view of the Iran nuclear treaty – “guess what” – “we could not have done any better than the Obama administration” given what we had at the time

About the Author:

Michael Hayden is a retired United States Air Force four-star general and former Director of the National Security Agency, Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He is currently a principal at the Chertoff Group, a security consultancy founded by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Hayden also serves as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at George Mason University School of Public Policy.

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