- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2020

Michael Hayden, a former head of the CIA, contrasted himself with the agency’s current leader for attending and applauding President Trump’s latest State of the Union address.

Mr. Hayden commented on the actions of CIA Director Gina Haspel in light of her appearing in the audience and occasionally clapping during Mr. Trump’s speech Tuesday.

“I never did that,” Mr. Hayden said about Ms. Haspel applauding domestic policy issues mentioned by the president, Politico reported Wednesday. “That wouldn’t be right.”

“It’s not my job,” he said about attending the State of the Union while in office, Politico reported.

Mr. Hayden, who former President George W. Bush selected to helm the CIA in 2006, said he “never” attended the State of the Union while leading the agency, Politico reported.

Several other former CIA directors who preceded Ms. Haspel similarly sat out State of the Union addresses in the past, according to multiple news reports.

Individuals close to former CIA Directors John Brennan, David Petraeus and Leon Panetta said none of them have attended a State of the Union address, NBC News reported.

“I can’t remember this being regular practice in recent years,” George Little, a former CIA public affairs director, told Politico with respect to CIA directors attending the speech.

“Generally, CIA directors have felt awkward at these things and have not gone often,” added John McLaughlin, a former acting director of the agency under Mr. Bush.

The CIA declined through a spokesperson to comment, Politico and NBC each reported. An inquiry sent to the agency from The Washington Times was not immediately answered.

Mr. Hayden, a retired U.S. Air Force general, led the CIA for nearly three years during the administration of Mr. Bush and his successor, former President Barack Obama. He previously served as director of the National Security Agency under Mr. Bush and his predecessor, former President Bill Clinton.

Ms. Haspel, a veteran intelligence official, was picked by Mr. Trump to succeed Michael R. Pompeo, the president’s current secretary of state, as head of the CIA in 2018.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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