Ex-CIA Chief Says Military Would Have to Disobey President Trump

Michael Hayden notes that many of Donald Trump's foreign policy positions are illegal.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden notes that many of Donald Trump’s foreign policy positions are illegal. Salon‘s Brendan Gauthier:

“Real Time” host Bill Maher interviewed former NSA and CIA Director, General Michael Hayden.

Regarding his thoughts on a President Trump, Hayden said, “I would be incredibly concerned if a President Trump governed in a way that was consistent with the language that candidate Trump expressed during the campaign.”

Asked to elaborate on what he meant by “language,” Hayden cited Trump’s comments on “waterboarding and a whole lot more — because they deserve it” and killing the terrorists’ families.

“If he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act,” Hayden added. “That would be in violation of all international laws of armed combat.”

Again, because Trump is more carnival barker than serious politician, it’s easy to dismiss his bluster. He’s talking out of what graduates of the Airborne School know as his fourth point of contact, rather than making a reasoned policy stance. Presumably, an actual President Trump would listen to the Joint Chiefs and other advisors before issuing orders.

Still, pretty much every other thing that Trump says is of this sort: stupid, ill-advised, and completely out of step with legal and ethical norms. I keep hoping that this will catch up to him. Thus far, it seems to redound to his benefit.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Military Affairs, National Security, US Politics, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. MBunge says:

    Uhh…like the military refused to allow torture when ordered by a previous GOP administration? Torture that to this day is still defended and justified by almost every other leading Republican?

    I genuinely wish I could get more upset and angry with Trump, but garbage like this instead makes me want to cheer him on as he burns the whole place down.


  2. MBunge says:

    From Wikipedia.

    In 2007, Hayden lobbied to allow the CIA to conduct drone strikes purely on the behavior of ground vehicles, with no further evidence of connection to terrorism.

    I fail to see how killing the families of terrorists is worse than killing people for no other reason than “they drive funny.”


  3. JKB says:


    Or spying on Americans, inside America, as happened when he was the head of NSA.

    And he’s certainly not been a supporter of Snowden.

  4. Barry says:

    Seconding the others.

    I think that his statement is more of an inside-the-GOP move, against Trump.

  5. Andy says:

    @MBunge: When was the military ordered to torture? I think you’re confusing the military with the CIA.

  6. PJ says:

    Illegal or not, poll Republican Senators, Republican Representatives, and Republican voters, and you’ll would find out that way too many of them would approve of these things.

    @James Joyner:

    Presumably, an actual President Trump would listen to the Joint Chiefs and other advisors before issuing orders.

    Wishful thinking, but I assume that you’ll reach acceptance before November 8th.

  7. anjin-san says:

    @ James

    As others have pointed out, torture is pretty much an accepted policy in your party – a party you have chosen to remain associated with even as it spiraled downward twoards it’s present flirtation with fascism.

  8. Hal_10000 says:


    Abu Ghraib was military. So was Bagram. Both were alleged to have originated from the military hierarchy or to have migrated from the torture program authorized at Gitmo.

  9. Andy says:

    @Hal_10000: The people involved with Abu Ghraib were prosecuted or fired. It clearly wasn’t authorized, so the military wasn’t ordered to do it.

    AFAIK, there wasn’t torture at GITMO, that took place at the CIA black sites.

    Point being, if the military is ordered to “torture” it would be an unlawful order, particularly since passage of the Detainee Treatment Act.

  10. Mike says:

    I always love it when an intellectual like Hayden weighs in