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Hayden Center for Intelligence aims to illuminate espionage

October 23, 2017   /   by Buzz McClain


Retired four-star Air Force General Michael V. Hayden has been director of the National Security Agency, the principal deputy director of National Intelligence and director of the CIA.

Now, after eight years as a distinguished visiting professor at George Mason University, he’s the founder of his own entity, the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy and International Security at George Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government.

“It’s a little embarrassing putting my name on it,” says one of the country’s best-known former spies. But Hayden understands that to accomplish the mission of the center, it’s important to know the depth and breadth of experience at the Arlington, Va., headquarters of the center, and his name brings that immediately.

The idea behind the center supports what Hayden has done for several years as a professor and a commentator: Help clarify the misconceptions about intelligence.

“Espionage in America is misunderstood,” he said. “My tribe is reluctant to talk to the outside world and very often does so only when it's trying to defend itself after some accusation. Far better to establish routine contact with the press and the American people. My phrase at NSA was, ‘Put a human face on our enterprise.’”

But Hayden knows that won’t always be easy: “There will still be issues. After all, we do some edgy work. But at least the American people will learn that in terms of values and character, we are not unlike them.”

Hayden was a history major at Duquesne University when he discovered that intelligence was a natural fit for him.

“Working in intelligence has allowed me to witness history as it was being made,” including tactical choices in operations and Oval Office decisions, he said.

“I never thought that I would see so much, and I am eternally grateful that I have.”  

The Hayden Center, he said, is designed to give people with different opinions a place to talk to each other “in a fact-based way.”

The center is supported at Mason’s Schar School with two advisory boards and directed by Larry Pfeiffer, a longtime associate of Hayden’s.

Former senior government officials, media and academic representatives, and executives from top corporations will make up an international advisory board, said Pfeiffer. A faculty advisory committee of top Mason administrators and professors will coordinate to make sure the center supports the school’s International Security Program and meets the school’s academic needs.

The center will host discussions and workshops throughout the year. As the center grows, its staff will work with professors and students to prepare white paper reports based on original research, among other projects.

Mason’s Schar School prepares students to assume leadership roles in tackling large problems on a global scale, from wars and terrorism to cybersecurity and foreign affairs and beyond. At the center of many of these issues is intelligence, which is why it was important for the Schar School to host a center for the study of intelligence, said Dean Mark J. Rozell.

“A center like this can play an important role in policy debates by engaging policymakers and opinion-makers,” he said, adding that the Schar School’s location near Washington, D.C.’s political heart makes it convenient for decision-makers to add their voices to the conversation.

The Hayden Center’s inaugural event takes place at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 30, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The discussion, moderated by Hayden, is called “Truth Tellers in the Bunker: Evidence-Based Institutions in a Post-Truth World” and will feature former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith, BBC journalist Katty Kay, former White House Communications Director Nicole Wallace and the Schar School’s Rozell.

The discussion, followed by a reception, is open to the public, but registration is required at this site.