Former Central Intelligence Agency director Michael Hayden on Sunday rejected suggestions that the CIA lied about its use of enhanced interrogation techniques, as Senate Democrats are said to allege in a report expected for release this week.

“To say that we relentlessly, over an expanded period of time, lied to everyone about a program that wasn’t doing any good, that beggars the imagination,” Hayden said on CBS's "Face the Nation."


Gen. Michael Hayden, who led the CIA during the last years of the George W. Bush administration, said Senate Democrats should not release a scathing report on the CIA's interrogation program. (Jeffrey MacMillan for The Washington Post)

The former CIA chief and retired Air Force general, who headed the CIA during the final years of the George W. Bush administration, said that waterboarding was no longer in practice once his tenure began and that he recommended scaling back the enhanced-interrogation program in the summer of 2006.

"The program had been so valuable that we couldn’t stop it altogether," he said. "In conscience, I couldn’t take it off the table."

The Senate Intelligence Committee review reportedly concludes that the CIA routinely went beyond legal techniques and systematically lied to itself, the White House, Congress and the Justice Department about the effectiveness of the enhanced-interrogation program.

The CIA and Republicans on the committee have disputed the Democrats’ findings. Then-Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) was the only Republican who approved the report, which was completed during the 112th Congress.

Secretary of State John Kerry last week urged the Senate panel to hold off on releasing the review, which is expected to be unveiled by Tuesday. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told the Los Angeles Times that "we have to get this report out."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said he opposes releasing the Democratic analysis.

"Our foreign partners are telling us this will cause violence and deaths," the lawmaker said. "Our own intelligence community has assessed that this will cause violence and deaths. ... We have seen what happens when other incidents are used in the propaganda terrorist machine to incite violence."

Hayden said releasing the report would make the CIA workforce "feel as if it has been tried and convicted in absentia, since the Senate Democrats and their staff didn’t talk to anyone actively involved in the program."

He also said the conclusions could "be used by our enemies to motivate people to attack Americans and American facilities overseas," in addition to causing political damage for governments that cooperated with the United States in the war on terror.

“I can’t imagine anyone out there going forward in the future who would be willing to do anything with us that even smacks of political danger," Hayden said.

Hayden also credited President Bush for ending the practice of waterboarding.

“A popular story is that President Obama had done that," he said. "Actually, it was long gone before he became president. And the last person waterboarded, of a total of three, was in March of 2003.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that no Republicans approved the intelligence committee's report. It has been updated to show that one Republican approved it.