The Assault on Intelligence | Michael V. Hayden

Summary of: The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies
By: Michael V. Hayden


In ‘The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies,’ author Michael V. Hayden delves into the turbulence of the post-truth era, marked by the rise of fake news, uninformed decision-making, and sophisticated disinformation tactics. Amidst this backdrop, the intelligence community is under increasing pressure from the Trump administration which, according to the book, is more focused on loyalty than evidence-based critical thinking. The book examines the interplay between America’s national security and the digital age, and discusses the challenges brought on by global powers like China and Russia.

America’s Post-Truth Era

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 plunged America into a post-truth era in which lies, hoaxes, and disinformation tactics undermine the country’s enlightenment age values. Trump capitalized on pre-existing cracks in Americans’ confidence in their leaders, government, economy, and exceptionalism, promising to make them winners again. Millions of Americans believed him, reducing their reliance on facts and evidence-based critical thinking. Today, Trump is as much a cause as an effect of this post-truth era, which poses a threat to American democracy and international security.

Speaking Truth to Power

Members of the CIA, NSA, and FBI expressed alarm as Donald Trump’s presidential campaign gained momentum in 2016. Many spoke out and questioned his suitability for office. Following his election, FBI director Jim Comey and NSA chief Admiral Mike Rogers testified before Congress, accusing the president of deceiving the American people during his campaign. This act took great courage as Trump highly values loyalty to him above everything else. This book highlights the importance of speaking the truth and standing up against those in power, no matter the cost.

Shifting Global Perils

Brent Scowcroft’s warning about the threat of the digital age has come to pass. It has made the world more complicated and interconnected. The dangers to national security and safety are clear and present, as seen in events like terror at the Brussels airport or missiles being tested in North Korea. Today, America faces more danger from failed or nonstates than from sovereign nations. Cyberattacks, for instance, have the potential to cause mass upheaval, even when they occur halfway around the world. While global perils may not have as many “see who blinks first” standoffs, the modern world is more susceptible to transnational crimes and is threatened by these new security issues.

The Rise of China and Putin’s Undermining of America

China’s continued rise to world power creates national security concerns, with the possibility of a global war with the United States and its allies. Meanwhile, Russia’s leader, Putin, has managed to undermine the US through old-school spycraft and modern digital tactics. Putin’s goal is to feed citizens’ longing for a revival of Russia’s past as a global power and weaken the US’s reputation as a beacon of freedom and opportunity. The Trump campaign’s collusion with Russians gave Putin the leverage he needed to further undermine US politics and disrupt fair elections.

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