Former CIA and National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden said Sunday that he'd be fine with having his security clearance revoked, as President Donald Trump threatened to do to him and other former intelligence officials who have been critical of the President.
Hayden made the comment on CNN's "State of the Union" when asked about a recent op-ed from retired Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden. In his piece, McRaven issued a stunning rebuke of Trump's decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, whom the former naval officer called "a man of unparalleled integrity." He added that he "would consider it an honor" if Trump also took away his clearance "so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency."
Asked by CNN's Jake Tapper if he too would be honored to lose his security clearance, Hayden said, "Well, to be included in that group? Sure."
"And frankly, if his not revoking my clearance gave the impression that I somehow moved my commentary in a direction more acceptable to the White House, I would find that very disappointing and frankly unacceptable," Hayden, a frequent critic of Trump, added.
Hayden, who served as NSA director mostly during President George W. Bush's tenure, as well as for a time during President Bill Clinton's second term, and as CIA director under both Bush and President Barack Obama, emphasized that McRaven's op-ed made "a larger, broader comment on why he's upset with the administration."
"John's situation is a proximate cause for all of us signing letters and protesting," he continued. "I think it's kind of one additional straw that's breaking the camel's back. Our complaint is not just about this. It's about the whole tone, tenor, and behavior of the administration."
The intelligence chiefs react
Trump said last week that he is considering revoking the security clearances of several others besides Brennan, including Hayden, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, former FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, and Bruce Ohr, a current Justice Department official.
Brennan and several other former intelligence chiefs have been outspoken in their criticism of the President. In July, Brennan called Trump's actions alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin in a news conference after their summit in Helsinki, Finland, "nothing short of treasonous."
Following his one-on-one meeting with Putin, Trump declined to endorse the US intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election over Putin's denial, saying the Russian President was "extremely strong and powerful" in his denial.
On Sunday, Brennan said in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he stood by his comments. He also said that he might escalate to legal action against the executive branch regarding the revocation of his security clearance.
"If my clearances and my reputation, as I'm being pulled through the mud now, if that's the price we're going to pay to prevent Donald Trump from doing this against other people, to me it's a small price to pay," Brennan said. "So I am going to do whatever I can personally to try to prevent these abuses in the future, and if it means going to court, I will do that."
White House national security adviser John Bolton defended Trump's decision to revoke Brennan's clearance.
"There is a line and somebody can cross it," Bolton told ABC's "This Week," later adding, "I think a number of people have commented that he couldn't be in the position he's in of criticizing President Trump and his so-called collusion with Russia unless he did use classified information. But I don't know the specifics. What I do know was when he was director of CIA, I was very troubled by his conduct, by statements he made in public and by what I thought was his politicization of the intelligence community."
Clapper said Sunday on "State of the Union" that he does see Brennan's hyperbole as part of the issue, but reemphasized a larger concern.
"I think it is," Clapper said when asked if Brennan's hyperbole was an issue. "I think John is sort of like a freight train, and he's going to say what's on his mind. I think, though, that the common denominator among all of us that have been speaking up, though, is a genuine concern about the jeopardy or threats to our institutions and values, and although we may express that in different ways. And I think that's what this really is about. But John and his rhetoric, I think, have become an issue in and of itself."