The Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security at the Schar School of Policy and Government presented its first event of the 2019-2020 academic year on September 16 at George Mason University’s Arlington campus auditorium. Some 270 audience members attended “Intelligence MattersLIVE,” a live recording of the weekly podcast of former acting CIA director Michael Morell, now a senior fellow at the Hayden Center.
Morell was interviewed on stage by CBS News correspondent Olivia Gazis. Gazis challenged Morell with questions that covered both his career at CIA and pressing issues of the moment before opening things up to questions from the audience. Morell provided frank insights on topics ranging from analysis objectives within the intelligence community to the need for intelligence secrecy to striking a balance between security and transparency. He also addressed which historical figure from the past he would like to interview on his podcast (Saddam Hussein!) and provided tips to students in the audience on how to start a career in intelligence.
In response to a question from Gazis, Morell opened up about one of the fascinating elements of his career when he discussed being present with both President George W. Bush during the September 11th attacks and then with President Barack Obama during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. He felt a mixture of intense pressure and surrealness after 9/11 and relief and closure after he person responsible for the terrorist attack that shook the nation was brought to justice, he said.
One of the more fascinating parts of the discussion came in response to a question that Gazis asked about a recent story on the exfiltration of a CIA asset from Russia. Morell suggested he needed to clear up some of the misinformation put out by the media by noting when CNN broke the news, they used the word “extracted,” rather than “exfiltrated”—suggesting to him that the story was poorly sourced. Morell specified that what struck him most was that CNN’s contention that the CIA did removed the sources because they could not trust the president. CNN still published the story despite the agency’s denial that this was the case.
A video of the event is available here.
Zeqine Korreshi is second-year master’s student in the Biodefense program at Schar School.