By Martin Rejman, WAC-DC Emerging Global Leaders Intern
On March 23, 2016 the World Affairs Council-Washington, DC hosted General Michael Hayden at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to discuss his book, "Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror."
Gen. Hayden currently is a Principal at the Chertoff Group and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at George Mason University. He is the only person who has served as both the head of the CIA and the NSA, positions which followed his nearly 40 year career in the United States Air Force.
President of the WAC-DC, Tony Culley-Foster briefly introduced his friend Gen. Hayden, highlighting his prestigious background and position at the forefront during the War on Terror and development of cyber security. The discussion began after a moment of silence for the victims of the recent terrorist attack in Brussels.
Gen. Hayden explained that the title of the book, Playing to the Edge represents the limits set by the American democracy which restrict what is acceptable by law. Gen. Hayden’s book focuses on using the entirety of space within the set limits, thus “Playing to the Edge,” he believes it is our responsibility to work within these constraints while also using all of the leeway available.
Gen. Hayden told the WAC-DC audience that he wrote the book in three sections: Why, What and How. The 'Why' was to explain that even people who work in espionage are people with moral boundaries just like everyone else and that they have to live with the decisions they make in the field. The 'What' is what “Playing to the Edge” means and why it is important. Lastly, the 'How' is about how he was allowed to share all this information with the general public, and what was ultimately censored from being published in the book.
Regarding espionage within democracy, General Hayden said he believes that it is a core part of the American culture and necessary to keeping our freedoms and liberties.
General Hayden wanted the guests to be clear that his book does not sugar-coat or justify any of the hard moral decisions that were made over the course of his tenure in the U.S. intelligence agencies. Rather, the purpose of the book is to give readers a rare look into the very secretive world of espionage.