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Hayden leads intelligence panel at Mason

September 14, 2018   /   by Mariam Aburdeineh

It’s not every day that you have the former head of the CIA and NSA on your campus.

When Michael Hayden is a member of your faculty, you get four of the leading experts in the intelligence community—from the Bush era to the present—all in a room debating the intelligence issues facing the current administration.

Hayden, distinguished visiting professor and head of the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy and International Security, was joined by the powerhouse panel during this first discussion of the Schar School of Policy and Government’s Accountability of Intelligence series on Sept. 11 at George Mason University’s Arlington Campus.

The event drew 500 Mason faculty members, staff and students, as well as media, community members and members of the intelligence community, some of whom spilled into overflow rooms.

Audience members heard from Hayden; former commander of U.S. Cyber Command and former NSA director Mike Rogers; former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former deputy director of the CIA Counterterrorism Center and FBI National Security Branch Philip Mudd.

They covered a variety of topics, including the president’s relationship with the intelligence community, free speech, if U.S. justice is truly impartial, how leaders can be held responsible for their actions and intelligence assessments and how American democracy should play out in these controversial situations.

“This is really the argument I have with myself,” Hayden said. “Am I normalizing, by my silence, something we should not consider to be normal? … I’ve made the calculation that silence is no longer acceptable.”

The conversation also steered toward the perception of how the intelligence community operates and how their goal is to act objectively, not siding with personal preferences or leaning toward a certain political party’s ideology.

“The power of the structure is the values of the institutions,” Rogers said. “We have got to uphold [these values] . . . even as others have different views and are engaged sometimes in behaviors that we don’t like, we don’t think represent norms and we think are working against the structure. We have got to make sure that in the face of that, we are maintaining our professionalism, our ethos, our integrity.”

Anna Ferri is a public policy graduate student at Mason who attended the event.

“It’s phenomenal that you get four of these leaders in a room together,” she said. “That’s the cool part about Mason—the ability to have all these resources at your fingertips.”

The panel discussion was Mason’s inaugural event for the academic year at the Hayden Center, a center of the Schar School that examines intelligence and its interplay with national security policy. 

Recently ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the No. 3 graduate program in the nation for Homeland/National Security and Emergency Management, Mason provides opportunities unique to the Washington, D.C., area, including access to distinguished leaders in the political scene.

“I hope today serves as a type of model of the important, enlightened, civil conversation that we [at Mason] think ought to be the norm in our society,” Mason President Ángel Cabrera said.