Michael V. Hayden, the North Side native who served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President George W. Bush, on Monday hailed the killing of Osama bin Laden as "good, good news" for all Americans.
"It's a very good day," said Mr. Hayden, a retired Air Force general who was CIA director from May 30, 2006, until he stepped down Feb. 12, 2009, three weeks into the term of President Barack Obama. "I've spoken with a few people [at the CIA], and everyone's in a good mood."
Mr. Hayden, a graduate of Duquesne University, rose through the ranks of the Air Force as an intelligence officer overseas. In 1999, he was named director of the National Security Agency under President Bill Clinton, a post he retained during Mr. Bush's first term.
Mr. Bush later appointed him to the new office of principal deputy Director of National Intelligence before naming him CIA director.
Throughout his years running intelligence operations for the Bush administration, Mr. Hayden said, his primary focus was keeping Americans safe. And that, he said, meant getting bin Laden.
"When I was director, I would go to the White House once a week to brief the president," he said. "And President Bush would start out every briefing with the same question. 'So, Mike, how are we doing?' And he was asking about bin Laden.
"I would always assure him that we were ... ."
Mr. Hayden said the leads that produced information about bin Laden's couriers -- the trail that eventually led to the terrorist leader -- were developed about halfway through Mr. Bush's second term.
"Four years ago we had some high-value detainees at some of the CIA program's detention sites, and we started to drill down on the best way to pinpoint where bin Laden was," Mr. Hayden said. "We drilled down and drilled down, working hard on it."
He said he could not discuss where those detention sites were or what methods were used to get information from the detainees.
"Honest men can differ on the best ways to go about protecting our country," he said. "But whatever was involved in getting this information, you can't say it didn't work."
Mr. Hayden said he and the people he worked with did experience "frustration" that bin Laden was not found during the Bush administration. Especially, he said, because of how hard the men and women of the agency worked.
He said that after he left the CIA, he had no inside information on the pursuit of bin Laden and knew nothing of the pending raid on the compound in Pakistan. He learned of developments, he said, Sunday night when his "email began to buzz and then [the television networks] announced the president's address to the nation. I found out with everyone else."
Though he learned details of the mission from the media, Mr. Hayden said the information made "a great deal of sense to me.
"The agency was involved all along, but it had to be a Navy SEAL team that carried it out," he said.
Mr. Hayden did not comment on what effect the killing of bin Laden might have on America's fight against terrorism, but he said he was confident that it was the right thing to do.
"I have to tell you, I was ecstatic," he said of the moment when he heard the news. "And it was so heartening to see the public reaction, the crowd gathered outside the White House."
Dan Majors: email@example.com or 4122-63-1456.