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On February 8, 2023, the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government hosted its first-ever open forum-style event that allowed public questions to drive the discussion throughout the night. The evening began with remarks from Schar School Dean Mark Rozell and the event was moderated by the director of the Hayden Center, Larry Pfeiffer. The panel featured former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) General Michael Hayden, former Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Andrew McCabe, and publisher and chief operating officer of Lawfare David Priess. The latter serve as Hayden Center senior fellows and Schar School faculty.

The event covered a wide range of national security-related topics including questions regarding the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine and the recent Chinese spy balloon incident. Larry Pfeiffer started the discussion by asking the panel members what national security issue keeps them up at night. General Hayden quickly responded that China is the number one threat he is most concerned with. Audience questions followed this brief discussion starting off with a conversation directed at Andrew McCabe on interagency cooperation within the intelligence community, specifically between the CIA and the FBI. McCabe emphasized the need for continued collaboration on tasks between the two workforces, even when there are cultural clashes that sometimes make this difficult. Questions regarding Ukraine and Russia’s continued war were addressed next by General Hayden, saying that the US needs to do better and needs to do more to help the Ukrainians in their fight against Russia. The General added in his remarks, “I think the Ukrainians will win.” David Priess also addressed questions about Putin and his future, saying that these types of situations happen quickly, and we can’t count on Putin leaving office, as we really don’t know Putin’s future.

The conversation shifted to a more China-centric discussion, with questions regarding the recent China balloon incident being addressed by the panel. General Hayden stressed that this was “not that big of a deal,” and it may have been blown out of proportion by the public. He noted that we were able to learn more from the balloon and its technology than it was able to learn about us. General Hayden also stated that the government needs to do a better job informing the public when it comes to this kind of stuff, with McCabe also discussing the difficulties intelligence agencies face when trying to deal with the public. Questions regarding Taiwan and the likelihood of China invading the island today were also considered. General Hayden discussed the similarities and differences between the China-Taiwan case and the Russia-Ukraine case. He pointed out that while both China and Russia worry about these countries aligning with the West, China is willing to be more patient regarding Taiwan and is learning from Russia’s mistakes. The discussion closed with the panel answering questions about issues regarding drug trade in the US and Mexico, Chinese relations with South American drug cartels, Iran-Israel relations, and problems with former presidents and classified documents.