By Raymond Arke | The Duquesne Duke
Retired general, Duquesne graduate and former NSA and CIA chief Michael Hayden returned to his alma mater Tuesday afternoon for a talk about American intelligence, which was briefly disrupted by protesters, including one Duquesne student.
Nearly 500 people attended the free and open-to-the-public event, which was moderated by incoming Duquesne president Ken Gormley and included Washington Post reporter, and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Joby Warrick. The event became heated when four young male protesters, including one Duquesne student, stood up and accused Hayden of being a “war criminal” for his use of drones in military conflicts. Duquesne police quickly escorted the protesters out of the ballroom. According to Duquesne spokeswoman Karen Ferrick-Roman the police have not yet decided whether to press charges.
Hayden’s visit to Duquesne followed the publication of his new book, “Playing to the Edge,” which he said is meant to bring clarity to public perception of American intelligence work.
“I think espionage is misunderstood,” Hayden said in a meeting with the press before the event. “In my years in intelligence work I never met Jack Bauer, Jason Bourne, or Jack Ryan. [Intelligence officers] are regular people who share your values.”
Hayden answered questions about several controversial topics, including waterboarding, possible NSA privacy breaches, and even the candidacy of Donald Trump, whom Hayden has been quick to criticize. However, it was after Gormley asked a question about the use of drone attacks in the Middle East that the protesters stood and began to shout.
“Assassination is a war crime,” they chanted. “Michael Hayden is a war criminal. Arrest Michael Hayden.” Some held signs which read “Hayden is a war criminal.”
Duquesne Police responded quickly, ushering the four young men out of the Power Center Ballroom. Their removal was met with applause with the audience. Duquesne Public Affairs later identified one of the protestors as a Duquesne student, and at least two others as students from the University of Pittsburgh.
“Welcome home,” Hayden joked wryly as they were led away.
Hayden, who still has a strong connection to Pittsburgh, cited his Duquesne education as having an important impact on his career.
“The more senior I got, the more I had to rely on values I had learned at Duquesne,” said Hayden, who earned a Bachelor’s degree from the university in 1967.
One of the discussion topics during the event involved the 2016 presidential race. Hayden has been a vocal opponent of billionaire real estate mogul Donald J. Trump.
“[Trump’s] language gives waterboarding a bad name,” Hayden told press before his Tuesday talk.
The event confronted several controversial topics, including water boarding.
“We never did [waterboarding] because they deserved it…we did it reluctantly out of duty,” Hayden said.
Hayden faced questions about his time as the director of the NSA, during which the organization began its mass collection of Americans’ phone data, a program Hayden defended.
“We know the 4th Amendment,” he said. “Your privacy is a big deal. I was comfortable then and am comfortable now with the constitutionality of the program.”