- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Michael V. Hayden, the former head of the CIA and National Security Agency, said he regrets not paying closer attention to the Russian government’s activities in the years before Moscow meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

Mr. Hayden, the director of the CIA from 2006 through 2009, reflected on his handling of Russia atop the intelligence agency during a recent interview published Tuesday by The New York Times.

“You write that you never visited Russia when you were head of the C.I.A., saying it wasn’t even on the radar. Do you have regrets about that now?” journalist Audie Cornish asked Mr. Hayden, 73, a retired four-star Air Force general.

“Of course. We took our eye off the ball during that period, while the Russians began to master this new approach to international conflict based on information dominance. They want to get into the American information space to divide and distract us,” Mr. Hayden responded.

Mr. Hayden was appointed NSA director during the Clinton administration in 1999, and he was later picked by former President George W. Bush to serve as CIA chief starting in 2006. He was succeeded in early 2009 by the Obama administration’s first CIA director, Leon Panetta, and has served as a national security analyst for CNN since 2017.

Intelligence officials concluded near the end of the Obama administration that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential race in hopes of hurting the campaign of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The Department of Justice subsequently appointed special counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, to investigate allegations involving Moscow’s election meddling and related matters.

Kremlin-linked operatives conducted “information warfare” against the U.S. during the 2016 race in part by weaponizing social media platforms and propaganda outlets to spread disinformation and sow distrust of the U.S. political system, according to the Justice Department.

Mr. Hayden previously described Russia’s alleged activities as the “most successful covert influence campaign in the history of covert influence campaigns.”

Russia has denied meddling in the 2016 race.

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